Foods to Boost a Bad Mood!

We all have days when we get hit with a bad mood.  Whether it’s stress over work, anxiety over finances, anger about a disagreement with a partner, or feeling blue about a recent disappointment, it’s normal to look for comfort in an effort to soothe ourselves.  The problem is that so many of us reach for our favourite comfort foods like cookies, potato chips and ice cream when we’re feeling down.  While such foods may provide a temporary balm to your bad mood, chances are that when the sugar high is over, you will crash and end up feeling even worse.  Then there’s the guilt you might feel for eating unhealthy foods and any comfort you might have gained is out the window!

But take heart!  There is good news on the horizon!  Combined with other healthy lifestyle practices such as relaxation techniques and exercise, there are a variety of healthy foods out there that will help you “eat your way” to a better mood!  Because, let’s face it, starving yourself is definitely not going to improve your mood!  Here are some suggestions to help you bust out of any bad mood:

When You’re Feeling Angry….

Make yourself a cup of green tea!  Not only is the process of making and sipping tea soothing, but green tea contains theanine which is a chemical that calms you and helps to maintain clear concentration.  The modest amount of caffeine contained in green tea won’t up your irritability either – so go ahead,  have two!

When You’re Anxious….

Eat salmon!  Wild salmon is one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids, a nutrient that has been shown in studies to calm anxiety and is also useful in the prevention and treatment of clinical depression.  Although there are many plant sources of omega-3, the compounds which are helpful for boosting mood are more abundant and easier for your body to assimilate in fish sources.  Coldwater fish such as salmon, herring, sardines, and mackerel are all excellent sources.

If You’re Feeling Sluggish…..

Enjoy a spinach salad!  The folic acid in spinach helps your body to lower homocysteine levels which are associated with damage to blood flow and interfering with the flow of blood and nutrients to the brain.  This can leave you feeling sluggish or slow to process information.  If you really want a boost, add mushrooms, beans, or peas to your salad for even more folic acid.

When you’re feeling sad….

Have a bowl of cereal with milk!  While sadness may be caused by external factors in your life, it can also be related to deficiencies of vitamin D, especially during a Canadian winter when we can be  deprived of sunshine for much of the year. Vitamin D helps in the production of serotonin a neurotransmitter  that can help you to feel calm, relaxed, and happy.  Fortified whole grain cereals and milk are one way to increase your vitamin D levels and so are mushrooms.  (You may want to ask your doctor about a vitamin D supplement if your sad feelings are persistent).

If you are feeling cranky….

Eat an apple with peanut butter!  Crankiness is often a sign that your blood sugar is low and you need to refuel.  But reaching for refined carbohydrates like chips or candy bars will simply spike your blood sugar and then send it plummeting, leaving you feeling worse.  The key to sustaining stable blood sugar levels is to eat a snack that combines a complex carbohydrate (like an apple) with protein or a healthy fat (like the peanut butter)!  Combining these healthy superstars is delicious and will give you a stable boost of energy that lasts for hours!

If you’re stressed…

Eat chocolate!  Talk about excellent news!  Permission to eat chocolate to alleviate stress!  But before you break out the Snickers bars, I’m talking about dark chocolate and you only need a little.  According to recent studies, eating just 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate (72% cocoa or greater) has the power to lower the stress hormones cortisol and catecholamines in the body, reducing your anxiety and allowing you to focus on what needs to get done.

And finally, if it’s that time of the month….

Eat an egg salad sandwich!  It’s normal to crave carbohydrates during the days leading up to your period, but rather than indulging in refined carbs that will spike your blood sugar and then leave you sluggish after the crash, indulge in whole grain carbs which will help to boost serotonin levels in a sustained way, without the crash.  Eggs, turkey and sunflower seeds are rich in tryptophan a precursor to the release of serotonin, so an egg salad sandwich on a good whole wheat bread (maybe with sunflower seeds to boot) is the perfect combination  of carbs and tryptophan to pull you through the PMS blues!

 

So there you go, seven healthy ways to eat yourself out of a bad mood! Happy snacking!

Cathy Lewis is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist in Oakville, Ontario who believes in “Better Health through Better Nutrition.”  For more information, or to book an appointment please contact Cathy through her website  www.goodforyou.co

 

Are You at Risk?

One of the fastest growing chronic diseases afflicting our society today is Type II Diabetes, a condition in which the body cannot properly metabolize the energy from food.  Currently this disease affects 2 million Canadians.  In addition to necessitating pharmaceutical intervention and strict dietary changes,   it further increases the risks of developing cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease as well as a range of undesirable side effects including necrosis of the extremities and blindness.  While in previous generations, this illness was referred to as “Adult Onset Diabetes,” the name has been changed to reflect the fact that more and more young people, very young children are now being diagnosed with the disease.

“Why,” you ask, “are the numbers of Canadian being affected by this disease growing at such an alarming rate?  Why are cases being seen in such young children?” The answer, for once, is actually pretty clear.  Although genetic factors certainly have a role, the fault lies mainly in the changes in our food supply over the past couple of generations.  As our lives have gotten busier and busier with more women working outside the home, our food industry has responded with “help” in the form of an overwhelming variety of convenience, packaged, and processed foods.  These meet our desire for a “quick and easy” way to feed our families but we are only now starting to understand how these overly refined foods are affecting our bodies.  One of the consequences is an increase in refined sugars and a decrease in fibre in the foods we consume.  This  leads to hormone imbalances including insulin sensitivity which can develop into type II Diabetes.

What are the Signs and Symptoms?

  • Unusual thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue or lack of energy
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent or recurring infections
  • Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet

If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, I urge you to consult your physician to be tested for type II Diabetes.  Even before these symptoms manifest, however, there are thousands of people living with insulin sensitivity, metabolic syndrome and other pre-diabetic conditions and most of them don’t even know it!

How Can I Assess My Risk?

To find out, answer the following 10 questions, developed by the Annals of Internal Medicine:

1.  Do you have a Mother with Diabetes?  13 points if yes.

2.  Do you have a Father with Diabetes? 8 points, if yes.

3.  Do you have hypertension?  11 points if yes.

4. Are you African/Canadian? 6 points if yes.

5.  Are you age 55 to 64? 5 points if yes.

6.  Were you ever a smoker?  4 points if yes.

7.  What is your waist circumference in inches?

Less than 32 inches = 0 points

32 to less than 35 inches = 10 points

35 to less than 38 inches = 20 points

38 to less than 41 inches = 26 points

41 inches or greater = 35 points

8.  What is your height in inches?

Less than 62 inches = 8 points

62 to less than 63 inches = 6 points

63 to less than 64.5 inches = 3 points

64.5 inches or more = 0 points

9.  What is your resting pulse rate in beats per minute? (To find out, count the        beats while sitting quietly for 60 seconds).

72 bpm or more = 5 points

Less than 72 bpm = 0 points

10. What is your weight in pounds?

Less than 160 = 0 points

Greater than 160 = 5 points

Add up your total score:

20 points or less:  You have about a 5 percent risk of acquiring type II diabetes in the next 10 years.

21-32 points:  You have about a 9 percent risk of acquiring type II diabetes in the next 10 years.

33-42 points:  You have about a 16 percent risk of acquiring type II diabetes in the next 10 years.

43-54 points:  You have about a 25 percent risk of acquiring type II diabetes in the next 10 years.

Greater than 55 points:  You have about a 33 percent risk of acquiring type II diabetes in the next 10 years.

So Now What?

Don’t despair!  Just as our diet and lifestyles have contributed to the increased risks of developing type II diabetes, changes to the same can actually reverse the risks.  So if your results to the quiz above have caused you to be concerned, that’s great!  It might be just the incentive you need to make a few changes to “diabetes-proof” your life.

Try these tips to take control of your health and reduce the risk:

1.  Lose a little weight.  

That’s right, even extremely obese people who lost just 5% of their total body weight  were 70% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

2.  Start with a Salad

Starting your meal with a mixed green salad dressed with a vinaigrette before a starchy entree may help control blood sugar levels.  Both the greens and the vinegar play a role.  (Whisk 3 Tbsp. vinegar, 2 Tbsp. flaxseed oil, 1 clove crushed garlic, 1/4 tsp. honey, 3 Tbsp. plain greek yogurt, and salt and pepper to taste.  Makes 4 servings of about 2 Tbsp. each).

3.  Ditch the car

Walk as much as you can every day.  Exercise helps to increase the number of insulin receptors on your cells.  Even if you don’t lose weight, studies have shown that exercising more than once a week can decrease your risk of type diabetes by 30 – 80%

4.  Go For the Grains

Whole grains that is.   Look for products containing more than 4 grams of fibre per serving and low in all types of sugar.  Increasing the fibre in your diet has been linked to reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer.  Watch out for hidden sugars such as brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, corn sweetener, dextrose, fructose, invert sugar, maltose, malt syrup, molasses, sugar and sucrose.

5.  Ditch the Drive Thru

Fast food meals are a huge risk factor for type II diabetes.  The portions tend to be far too large and are loaded with refined carbohydrates and unhealthy trans fats.  Researchers discovered that those who ate more than 2 fast food meals per week  compared to cohorts who ate fast food only once per week, gained ten more pounds and developed twice the levels of insulin resistance; two of the biggest risk factors!

6.  Eat More Veggies!

I know, I say this all the time, but it simply cannot be said enough. Eating meat five times a week or more increases your risk by 43%  So consider meat a treat, and explore the incredible variety of plant-based foods out there.  Your body will thank you!

7.  Put a Little Spice in your Life!

Recent studies have suggested that consuming cinnamon may help to control blood sugar.  Study participants who consumed 1 gram of cinnamon 3 times daily improved their blood sugar by 10%  It is thought that the cinnamon helps to increase the number of insulin receptors in cells and may also help to lower cholesterol and triglycerides which also affect the risks of type II diabetes.

8.  Take Time to Unwind

Simple relaxation exercises such as deep breathing, yoga, or mediation can help control blood sugar levels by reducing the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in your system.  When we are living with chronic stress, as so many of us are these days, our bodies go into “fight or flight” mode and get stuck there.  In this mode, our blood sugar soars to provide us with the energy we need in a crisis.  But, since most of us aren’t dealing with an actual need to engage in physical fight or flight, that glucose stays in our blood and overwhelms our ability to absorb it into our cells.  So it’s important to carve out time for relaxing activities every day to get “unstuck” from this vicious cycle.

9.  Go to Bed! But not for too Long…..

People who regularly get fewer than 6 hours of sleep per night double their risk of type II diabetes.  But those who get more than 8 hours of sleep per night, tripled their risk!  So the sweet spot for sleep seems to be between 6 and 8 hours every night.

10. Enlist an Expert!

If you’re overwhelmed and confused about the best ways to reduce your type II diabetes risk,  enlist the help of an expert.  Holistic Nutritionists are trained to analyse your diet and lifestyle and to educate you as to how to incorporate simple changes that can make all the difference to your health.  For more information, you can contact me via email at  cathy@goodforyou.co to book a free needs assessment.

Don’t Follow the Crowd! Join The Veggie Revolution!

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More and more lately I have been noticing a strange and disturbing trend among the people I meet. It’s  their response to any mention of vegetables.  First of all, it probably won’t surprise you to know that I am always the one who brings them up first.  And when I do, people are invariably confused, annoyed, or flat out apprehensive about their existence.  What’s that all about?

A few weeks ago, my son asked me if two of his buddies could stay for dinner.  

“Sure.” I replied.  “I’m making a zucchini lasagna.”  

” Zucchini lasagna?” my boy asked.

“It’s just like a regular lasagna except I use sliced zucchini instead of pasta,” I began…

Shhhh!  That’s fine.  Just don’t tell them,” he whispered urgently.

Another day as I was preparing dinner for yet another of his friends, I asked her what vegetable she might like with dinner.  She looked perplexed.  Some time passed, then her brow cleared and she said hesitantly,

“Celery?”  

“Oh,” I replied, “I was thinking more of a cooked vegetable.  What kind of vegetables do you like?”

“Uhmm….celery?” she repeated. A bit desperately, I thought.

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As it turned out, she never ate any vegetables except raw celery, carrots and iceberg lettuce.  Another of his friends wouldn’t stay for dinner because she refused to eat any vegetables and she had heard that I was vegetarian.  (For the record, I am flexitarian; eating mostly plant foods but occasionally eating meat, fish, and dairy in moderation).

Okay, so these examples are all teenagers, you might argue.  True, but who is feeding these teenagers?  Who is planning their meals and buying their groceries?  Who created the environment of fear and suspicion surrounding an entire food group?  

Most of the adult men in my neighbourhood skip right past the vegetable dishes at our frequent barbecues and fill their plates with mounds of meat and potatoes.  In fact, when planning a barbecue for my husband’s work colleagues (all men), my suggestion of a variety of shish kebabs was voted down in favour of steaks.  They actually voted out the vegetables!  

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The women of course, ever weight conscious, eat lots of salads.  In fact, we eat salad morning, noon and night, it seems!  But even we get stuck in our well worn ruts.  The same lettuce and tomatoes.  Maybe some sliced cucumber or peppers.  Our salads have become a habit, something we eat because it’s good for us and fills us up. When someone does make a new salad and throws in some unusual ingredients, its amazing how the group lights up and actually seems to relish the dish, coming back for more and asking for the recipe.  But usually, the salad is kind of an afterthought.  By social convention, someone has to bring the salad and we all have to put a little on our plate.  The real star of the barbecue is the hunks of meat over on the grill.

Try this little exercise.  Ask a friend what they’re planning to make for dinner tonight.  Chances are the answer will be something like hamburgers, spaghetti, tacos, or chicken.  Because that’s how we plan our meals. First and foremost, we decide what protein we will make.  Then we add a starch like rice, potatoes, or pasta.  Finally, we throw in a vegetable.  As an afterthought.  Because we’re supposed to.  Right?

And this is exactly why so many of us are wandering around feeling sluggish, lethargic, and unwell.  It is why we are steadily gaining weight and losing our health. Vegetables are the most abundant source of the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients our bodies need to maintain good health and we are shunting them off to the side like an unwanted relative at the Thanksgiving table!

Where is the veggie love, people?  Even the arguably flawed Canadian Food Guide recommends 7-10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day for healthy adults.  And I would argue that very few of the people I come into contact with are meeting this guideline.  I say we need a vegetable revolution.  We need to embrace the veggies and make them the star of the show!  When you make an effort to include a variety of vegetables in your diet every day and experiment with different ways to prepare them, you might just surprise yourself with how flavourful and filling they can be.

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So, in the interests of helping you launch your very own Veggie Revolution, here are ten tips for incorporating more vegetables into your diet.  Try them all and watch your health increase while your weight decreases!

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  • Sneak vegetables into your breakfast. Make egg scrambles a regular breakfast, using a scrambled egg to hold together sauteed vegetables such as peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, asparagus or onions. Or eat last night’s leftover veggies with your breakfast.  Try warming them in a pita with a little full flavoured cheese.
  • Serve raw vegetables at every meal.  Nearly everyone likes carrot sticks, celery sticks, cucumber slices, string beans, cherry tomatoes and/or pepper strips.  They’re healthy, they have virtually no calories and they have a satisfying crunch.  They can substantially cut your consumption of the more calorie-dense main course at lunch or dinner.  And if you’re short on time, you can buy them already prepared at any grocery store.  So make it a practise:  a plate of raw vegetables in the centre of the table at every lunch and dinner.
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  • Start each dinner with a mixed green salad before you serve the main course.  Vary the greens you use experiementing with spinach, romaine, arugula, leaf, kale, etc… Try adding slivered carrots, purple cabbage, turnips or rutabaga for a sweet crunch and added nutrients.  
  • Once a week have an entree salad.  A salad nicoise is a good example: mixed greens, steamed green beans, boiled potatoes, sliced hard boiled egg, tomatoes, and tuna drizzled with a vinaigrette.  Serve with crusty whole grain bread.  Enjoy!
  • Follow the golden rule: half of your dinner plate should be vegetables.  That leaves a quarter of the plate for a healthy starch (try sweet potatoes, winter squash, or brown rice) and a quarter for lean meat, fish, or legumes.
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  • Puree into soup.  Potatoes, carrots, winter squash, cauliflower and broccoli – just about any cooked (or leftover) vegetable can be made into a creamy, comforting soup.  Here’s a simple recipe:  In a medium saucepan, saute 1 cup finely chopped onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil until tender.  Combine the onion in a blender or food processor with cooked vegetables and puree until smooth.  Return puree to saucepan and thin with chicken or vegetable broth.  Simmer and season to  taste.
  • Roast your vegetables.  Here is one of the great side dishes, easy to make, delicious to eat, and amazingly healthy.  Plus it tastes surprisingly sweet, and lasts well as a leftover, meaning you can make large batches and serve throughout the week.  Cut hearty root vegetables like parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, carrots, and onions into inch thick chunks and arrange in a single layer on  a cookie sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and fresh or dried herbs.  Roast in a 450 degree oven until soft, about 45 minutes, turning once.  That’s it!
  • Grill your vegetables.  If you only use your grill for meats, you’ve been missing out!  Peppers, zucchini, asparagus, onions, eggplant, even tomatoes, all taste amazingly good when grilled.  Generally, all you need to do is coat them with olive oil and then on.  turn every few miinutes and remove when they start to soften.  Invest in a grilling basket to make the process simpler and keep your veggies from falling through the grill.
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  • Use vegetables as sauces.  How about pureed roasted red peppers, seasoned with herbs and a bit of lemon juice, drizzled over fish or poultry?  Or puree butternut or acorn squash with carrots, grated ginger and a bit of maple syrup for a yummy topping for chicken or pasta.  Cooked vegetables are easily converted into sauces.  It just takes a little ingenuity and a blender.
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  • Turn canned pumpkin into a simple and delicious dessert!  Just sprinkle it with cinnamon and add a little stevia or agave to taste.  Even if you eat the whole can, this dessert is only 140 calories and packs a healthy 9 grams of fibre.  For 1/2 cup you get 40 calories for 3.5 grams of fibre, not to mention tons of beta carotene!

So now you have ten new ways to truly celebrate vegetables at every meal of the day. If you have more great ideas about how to incorporate vegetables into your diet, I’d love to hear from you.  Please feel free to share your tips through the comments section!

And, as always, if you would like more information, or would like to book an appointment to learn more about how dietary changes can impact you, please contact me through my website  www.goodforyou.co

Inflammation – The 21st Century Plague

It seems like everywhere we turn these days someone is talking about inflammation.  More specifically, claims for anti-inflammatory foods, supplements and products abound.  Dimly, most of us have made the connection that inflammation is bad and therefore, we accept that all of these anti-inflammatory things must be good.  Right?

Well, yes.  But….  sometimes, no.  Don’t you just hate that? The real key lies in understanding what causes inflammation, when it is bad for you, and then what you can do to heal it.  So what the heck is inflammation, anyway?

Inflammation is a response by your immune system to injury, toxins, allergy, or infection.  It can cause pain, redness, heat and swelling in the affected area.  In the short-term, it is a very good thing.  This is your body’s initial approach to healing whatever has gone wrong at the cellular level.  But please note that it is intended to be a short-term solution.  Healing occurs and inflammation ceases until the next time it is required.

When the assault by toxins, injury, allergy or infection continues repeatedly over a long period of time, inflammation becomes chronic and here’s when it stops being such a good thing.  Chronic inflammation can lead to cell injury or death which, in turn leads to organ injury and disease.  In fact, chronic inflammation plays a key role in the development of heart disease, diabetes, depression, arthritis, cancer, dementia, and many more of the illnesses which afflict our modern society.

So how does the good inflammation turn bad?  Sometimes, the inflammation is occurring at a level that we can’t see or necessarily feel, because it is so deeply internal.  And so we keep on doing exactly what we’ve been doing.  Sometimes, we don’t recognize the symptoms and so we don’t realize that damage is occurring.  For example, indigestion and bloating are signs of inflammation, but many of us just assume that this is normal after a heavy meal.  And we keep on doing exactly what we’ve been doing.  Other times, we recognize that we have an injury, such as pain in a joint but we’ve been conditioned to pop an over the counter pain remedy and …keep on doing exactly what we’ve been doing.  Get the picture?

When we are unaware of or suppress the symptoms that signal inflammation, and continue the activities that are causing it, we develop chronic inflammation and set the stage for serious illness or disease.

So why, as a nutritionist, am I so concerned with this topic?  Because 70% of our immune system is located in the lining of our digestive tract and our immune response is hugely affected by the foods that interact with our gut. 

So what do we need to do to eliminate all this inflammation?

Unfortunately the specific answer is unique to every individual.  If the inflammation is due to an injury, we need to heed our body’s cues and allow it to heal rather than suppressing symptoms and further aggravating the injury.

If the inflammation is due to infection, again, we need to follow the signals, and allow our body to heal.  If the infection requires the use of antibiotics, it is extremely important to follow your course of antibiotics with a course of a high quality probiotic supplement in order to re-populate your intestinal tract with the good bacteria that aid in digestion, vitamin formation, and immune system function.  Look for a product that contains 50 billion live cells after antibiotics.

In the case of toxins, unfortunately we are all affected. The level to which we are “toxic” depends upon our age, our environment, and our lifestyle.  Toxins are cumulative, so the older we get, the more toxins we have collected and stored in the tissues of our bodies.  If we are surrounded by toxic chemicals in the workplace, again, we are likely to have accumulated a lot of toxins.  But even the use of scented home cleaning products, eating inorganic foods, having mercury dental fillings and spraying air fresheners around our houses are all contributing to the toxic load we carry.  We can’t eliminate every source of contamination, but we can choose to eliminate as many sources as possible that are within our control.

Allergy is another insidious cause of inflammation that can be tough to pinpoint. Changes to our methods of food production and processing, genetic modification of foods, chemical additives, and even overeating particular foods can lead to food sensitivities and allergies.  The symptoms can be so widespread (indigestion, bloating, cramps, diarrhea, constipation, skin rashes, headaches, irritability, joint pain, and fatigue, among others) that many of us don’t connect the symptoms to the food that is triggering it.  Many of my clients don’t even realize that these things are signs of something gone wrong.  They believe that everybody experiences these symptoms and that it is just a sign of aging, or “overdoing” it.  They take an over the counter remedy and …you guessed it…. keep on doing the same thing they’ve always done.

Eating an anti-inflammatory diet is a great start to eliminating inflammation in your body and allowing it to heal.  A qualified holistic nutritionist can help you get started by identifying foods you are sensitive to and developing an eating plan that promotes optimal health and healing.  In the meantime, here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Start each day by squeezing 1/4 of a fresh lemon into 8 oz of room temperature water and drinking it.  This provides gentle detoxification for your liver, whose job it is to filter all the toxins in your body.
  2. Fresh, whole, organic fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are generally good anti-inflammatory diet choices.  Try to make them the bulk of your diet.
  3. Take a 1000 mg  Omega 3  supplement every day.  Preferably derived from fish oil as it is easier for your body to utilize, but if you are vegetarian you can find Omega 3 supplements derived from flax seeds and other plant sources.
  4. Pay attention to your body’s signals.  Keep a food/symptom journal to try to identify any food sensitivities you might have.
  5. Enlist the help of a holistic nutritionist or naturopath.  That’s what we’re here for!

And because I know everybody loves the recipes, I’ll leave you with this super tasty smoothie to try in your battle against chronic inflammation!

Anti-inflammatory Papaya Pineapple Smoothie

1 cup of soy or nut milk (sweetened or unsweetened)

1/2 cup cubed papaya

1/2 cup cubed pineapple

1 small or medium banana, peeled and sliced

1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds

1 tablespoon of ground sesame seeds

2 thin slices of fresh ginger, coarsely chopped

Enjoy!

If you would like to know more about how to heal inflammation in your body,  how to identify food allergies, or how to incorporate an anti-inflammatory diet, please contact me through my website  www.goodforyou.co

An Ode to Kale – Nature’s Best Deal!

Okay.  I know what you’re thinking.  You think you hate kale.  You’re tempted to not even read this blog post because, really, …kale?  But before you skip out, I want you to know two things.  First, that kale is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet and secondly, I’m sure that I can make you love it.  That’s right… love it! That’s how confident I am in the four recipes that I am going to share with you at the end of this post.  We’re skipping right over “like” and going straight to “love.”

Want to know why kale is so good for you?  One cup of cooked kale contains 1327.6% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin K, 354.1%  of the DV of Vitamin A, 88.8% of the DV of Vitamin C,and  27% of the DV of fibre.  In addition to that, it contains significant percentages of your DV of Manganese, Tryptophan, Calcium, Vitamins B1, B2, B3,and B6, Potassium, Iron, Magnesium, Vitamin E, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Protein, Folate, and Phosphorus.  All for only 36 calories!

And that’s not all…..

Kale contains over 45 different antioxidant flavanoids and 4 glucosinates.  These compounds protect you from oxidative stress which offers defense against cataracts, atherosclerosis, COPD, and cancer.

The Vitamin K and Omega 3 Fatty Acids in kale work against inflammation in your body which, unchecked leads to a variety of chronic diseases including arthritis, heart disease, type II diabetes, and cancer.

Are you starting to warm up to kale yet?  Wait, I’ve got more!

New studies have shown that eating kale actually lowers your cholesterol.  It does this by binding with bile acids in your intestines which are then eliminated as waste.  Bile acids are made by the liver using cholesterol, and they are necessary for the digestion of fats.  So when you lose bile acids through waste, the liver needs to replace them and pulls cholesterol from your blood in order to do so.  This lowers your serum cholesterol and your risk of cardiovascular disease.

You’re starting to think this is a pretty good deal right?

But wait!  If you act now,  the high level of isothiocyanates in kale will also provide comprehensive support for level I detoxification processes in your body.  Heck, it you eat some right now, it’ll even support level II detoxification processes in your body.  What a bargain!

So let’s recap:  a ridiculously high assortment of key nutrients, major antioxidant presence, anti-inflammatory properties, cholesterol lowering effect, and the support of detoxification in your body all for only 36 calories!

Truly, kale is nature’s best deal!

Caution!!!:  for those of you with existing kidney or gall bladder issues.  Kale does contain a high level of oxalates which can crystallize and lead to stone formation in those who are prone to them.  If you fall into this category, this bargain probably isn’t for you.

And now, to make you truly love kale, I’m going to share my four best recipes with you.  I have fed all of these recipes to my pickiest, trash talkin’, kale hatin’ friends and family (you know who you are) and even they had to admit that they loved these recipes.  So go on.  I dare you….try one today!

Crispy Kale Chips

1 bunch curly kale, preferably organic

2 Tbsp. pure virgin olive oil

Celtic Sea Salt

Fresh Cracked Black Pepper

Optional Toppings:  Lemon Pepper, Sweet Chili Seasoning, Curry Powder, Nutritional Yeast

First wash your kale and dry it really well.  I use a salad spinner and then dab it with paper towel to get it really dry.  Remove the tough stalks from each leaf and tear into bite size pieces.  Combine the kale with olive oil and salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Use your hands to make sure everything is well coated.  Add your optional seasoning now to taste and combine well.  Spread the kale out in a single layer on baking sheet.  It is important not to overcrowd the pieces because they won’t crisp if you do.  Bake at 350 degress for 10-15 minutes.  Keep a close eye on them and pull them out right away if they are starting to get brown.  Let cool for about ten minutes before removing from the sheet.  Enjoy!

Fried Rice with Kale 

1/2 pound kale, preferably organic

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

3 green onion, sliced

3 cups cooked brown rice

1-1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce

Remove the stems from the kale and cut into tiny ribbons.  Steam for 7 minutes. Meanwhile heat the oil in a large pan over medium-low heat.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes being careful not to brown the garlic.  Raise the heat to medium and add the kale and green onions.  Cook for 2 minutes, then add the rice and cook for 2 minutes more, stirring.  Add the soy sauce and cook for a final 30 seconds.  Delicious!

White Bean Soup with Kale

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 fennel bulb, stems removed, thinly sliced

1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

Pinch red chile flakes

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper

2-14 oz. cans white beans

8 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 bunch kale, preferably organic, stems removed and torn into bite sized pieces

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat and cook the fennel for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the onion and garlic, turn the heat as low as it will go and cook for 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally.  When the vegetables are soft and sweet, add the spices and cook for a minute.  Add the beans and stock and bring to a boil.  Lower to a simmer, salt to taste and let cook on low heat for one hour.  Stir in the kale leaves and allow to cook for another 7 minutes.  Enjoy!

Raw Kale Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette

2 bunches of kale, preferably organic, stems removed, sliced into ribbons

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

2 carrots, peeled and grated

1 white turnip, peeled and grated

1/2 rutabaga, peeled and grated

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

3 green onions, sliced

1 cup pecan halves

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp. maple syrup

1/4 tsp. sweet chile seasoning

salt to taste

2 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp. honey

1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Celtic sea salt. to taste

Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

To tenderize the kale, massage it with 1 Tbsp. olive oil and apple cider vinegar using your hands for about five minutes, then allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Toss pecans with 2 Tbsp. olive oil, maple syrup, salt and chile seasoning.  Spread out in single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Combine balsamic vinegar, honey, lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper in a small glass jar and shake well to combine.

Combine the shredded vegetables in a large salad bowl and dress with the vinaigrette.  (You will have dressing left over).  Garnish with green onions and candied pecans.  Serve immediately.

Bon Appetit!

If you would like more information about how a nutritionist can help you in your health and weight loss goals, please contact me through my website  www.goodforyou.co  I’d love to hear from you!

Stop! Rethinking the School Lunch Box

It’s that time of year again.  Time to figure out which school clothes still fit and which need to be replaced.  Time to purchase new backpacks, lunch boxes and school equipment.  Every fall, it’s the same routine.  Throwing out what no longer serves and replacing it with the latest and best new supplies to help our kids succeed in the new school year.  But wait!  What about what goes inside that shiny new lunch box or bag? I would argue that, even more that any piece of school equipment, the contents of the lunch box are the most important consideration for helping your child achieve their very best every day at school.

Why is my Child’s Lunch so Important?

Research tells us that adequate nutrition in children has been shown to improve learning skills, especially memory work. Inadequate nutrition contributes to lower test scores, irritability and poor concentration. Improvements in learning and behaviour are significant when kids are well nourished. Further, optimal nutrition helps to promote healthy weight gain and prevent obesity.  It optimizes bone strength and height and it helps to prevent the development of food allergies.  It may even play a role in preventing childhood cancers.

But a look inside the average school lunch box indicates that the majority of our children are not well nourished.  The staples in most lunches packed for school are  white bread and cheese.  These are often supplemented with packaged and processed foods which are high in refined sugars, hydrogenated fats, and artificial flavours, colouring and preservatives.  These are what nutritionists refer to as “non foods”  because in addition to having no nutritive value, they also work against the body’s natural processes and can lead to obesity and ill-health.

It can be a huge challenge to prepare lunches for children that are both balanced and nutritious as well as being appealing and delicious.  But the effort is well worth it!  One of the biggest gifts we can give our children is not only to ensure that they receive the full variety of nutrients that they require to grow and develop properly but also to teach them to enjoy a variety good foods.

My Child Eats Healthy, He’s Fine….

Believe me, I understand the struggle.  As a young Mother, I firmly believed in the strategy that I decided “what” my son could eat, but he could decide “how much.”  I thought that I was providing healthy choices and was proud that my son was willing to try different foods and enjoyed a variety of fruits and vegetables.  His favourite snack was yogurt.  Healthy, right?  Not so much, as it turned out.  He also loved milk and cheese and he consumed up to four servings of yogurt every day.  He was consuming far too many dairy foods at the expense of other nutritious foods. Without my realizing it, the variety in his diet had shrunk alarmingly and as a result, he developed a severe intolerance to lactose.  When you consume too much of a particular food,  you run the risk of depleting your body’s supply of the enzymes required to digest it. Hence, an intolerance.  Even the slightest hint of dairy resulted in excruciating bloating and pain for my son, followed by violent diarrhea.  And he’s not alone.

The most common issue by far that I encounter among children and teens in my practice is lactose intolerance.  Followed by wheat and gluten sensitivities.   It is alarming to me, the extent to which our children’s’ diets have become so dominated by white bread and cheese.  Many of the children and teens I have worked with refuse to eat vegetables beyond carrots and potatoes.  They are addicted to fast food, and packaged convenience foods and all forms of refined sugar.  Many of them are suffering the symptoms food sensitivities without even knowing it.   Chronic ear infections, rashes, excessive gas, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, headaches, bloating, muscle and joint pain, nausea, sore throats, asthma, bed-wetting and more can all be symptoms of a food sensitivity or allergy.

So What’s the Solution?

The solution is to get tough on the foods that are ruining our children’s’ health and setting them up for poor eating habits throughout their entire lifetimes.  We need to STOP what we’re doing and make some changes.  We can start by limiting or even eliminating the following harmful foods for our children:

  • refined sugar and sugar products
  • white flour products
  • packaged or processed foods
  • foods that contain hydrogenated oils
  • dairy products, especially those from cow’s milk
  • red meat
  • juice, tea, or soft drinks with added corn syrup, sugar, glucose or colourings.

And then  we need to replace them with healthier alternatives; the kinds of foods our grandparents consumed long before processed food was available.  Things like:

  • fresh vegetables and fruit: sources of fibre, essential fatty acids, vitamins,minerals and antioxidants.
  • whole gluten-free grains like brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa and yeast-free breads: a source of complex carbohydrates required for sharp mental performance
  • legumes:  a source of fibre, protein, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.
  • nuts and seeds (avoid peanuts, soy nuts and cashews as they are highly allergenic): high in vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids.
  • fresh lean poultry: a source of protein and iron.
  • Cold water fish: high in essential fatty acids essential for brain development and cognitive function.
  • Eggs: high in choline which supports memory.
  • Pure filtered water or pure unsweetened fruit juice (avoid orange juice as it is highly allergenic) diluted 50% with water.

Variety is the key.  A child who is eating the same foods day and in and day out is at risk for developing food allergies and nutritional deficiencies leading to illness.  But a child who is eating small amounts of a large variety of healthful, nutritious foods is on the path to optimal mental performance at school and a lifetime of good health.

So What Should I Pack for Lunch?

Here is a list of ideas to get you started on packing a better lunch for your child:

  • Wraps made with lean turkey or chicken, romaine lettuce, sliced tomatoes, avocados on a gluten-free brown rice wrap.
  • Wraps made with hummus, lettuce, and raw vegetables.
  • Hard Boiled Egg or a vegetable omelette cut into “fingers” with a gluten-free bagel.
  • Home-made vegetable soup, or broccoli and cheese soup made with organic chicken stock, broccoli and Daiya non-dairy cheese shreds.
  • Raw vegetables with hummus or yogurt dip.
  • Home-made chili with gluten-free corn bread.
  • Leftovers from last night’s dinner – try making kebabs out of leftover poultry or salmon with raw or grilled veggies.
  • Fresh fruit, or home-made applesauce.
  • Home-made granola with raisins or dates.
  • Smoothies made with fresh fruit, almond milk, ground flax-seed packed in a thermos.
  • Healthy home-made treats like the two recipes below!

Healthy Chocolate Almond Crisp Squares

3 cups Nature’s Path Crispy Brown Rice Cereal

1/2 cup Almond Butter

1/4 cup Brown Rice Syrup

1/4 cup Dark Chocolate Chips

2 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Melt the almond butter, brown rice syrup,  and chocolate chips over medium heat, stirring until smooth.  Stir in vanilla and blend well.  Stir in brown rice cereal and stir to combine.  Press mixture into a greased 9×9 square baking pan and allow to cool.  Makes 16 squares.

Sticky Caramel Popcorn

4 cups Air-popped Popcorn

2 Tbsp. Coconut Oil

2 tsp. Vanilla Extract

2-3 Tbsp. Maple Syrup

1 Tbsp. Molasses

1 Tbsp. Cinnamon

In a saucepan over low heat, stir together coconut oil, vanilla, syrup and molasses until completely melted.  Add cinnamon.  Pour over popcorn, tossing to cover kernels.

Once you get the hang of it, packing healthy lunches is not that hard.  Try to get your children involved in preparing their lunches with you after dinner for the following day.  Children are more likely to eat something new if they have had a hand in the preparation.  And be patient.  Don’t be upset if your child initially refuses a new food or flavour.  Calmly remove it and try again in a few weeks.  It can take up to ten tastings to develop a taste for something new and we are all capable of learning to like new things!  Even if our school days are behind us!

If you would like more information about nutrition for kids you can schedule a free 20 minute needs assessment through my website  www.goodforyou.co  Click on the link at the right and select “contact us” from the menu board.

The Woes of Wheat

The Canada Food Guide suggests that Canadian adults should be consuming 6-8 servings of whole grains every day.  And because we’re Canadian, we want to follow the rules and in Canada, whole grain translates primarily to wheat and its many products. Most of us have happily filled our cupboards with whole wheat pastas, breads, and crackers.  We bake our blueberry muffins with whole wheat flour instead of white and sleep soundly at night knowing that we’re doing the right thing.   Except….  despite following the rules, we’re still gaining  weight, sleeping poorly, feeling fatigued, and suffering from intestinal issues like diarrhea, constipation, bloating and pain.  As a country, our rates of type II Diabetes, Heart Disease, Arthritis and Osteoporosis continue to soar.  And strangely enough, all of these issues have increased the most dramatically since the mid eighties when the Canadian government began telling us to eat more “healthy whole grains.”  So, could wheat actually be making us unhealthy?

New and Improved

The first thing we need to realize about wheat is that the wheat we are consuming today is a far cry from the wheat that our grandparents were eating.  In an effort to combat World hunger and increase the yields of wheat crops, scientists in the 1960’s began experimenting with genetically modified forms of wheat and they were spectacularly successful.  Nobel Prize successful.  The dwarf wheat that dominates our food supply these days not only produces a higher yield in a shorter time, the structural changes have made it  a “super carbohydrate” leading to a vast array of health issues for those who eat it.  Like what?  Well….

Ever Expanding Waistlines

70% of the new wheat is composed of a uniquely digestible carbohydrate called Amylopectin-A.  Our bodies are so efficient at digesting this and converting it to sugar in our bloodstreams that even a slice of whole wheat bread will increase blood sugar more than ice cream, a snickers bar, or even two teaspoons of straight table sugar.  Surges in blood sugar lead to surges in the hormone insulin which is the hormone which tells our bodies to store fat.  So guess what happens next?  Right, we store the sugar as fat.  Then the surge is followed by a steep drop in blood sugar which causes us to feel desperately hungry and makes us crave more carbohydrate rich foods.  Usually within about two hours.  This sets up a vicious cycle which leads to overeating, weight gain, obesity and, ultimately, metabolic disorders such as type II Diabetes.

More Triglycerides Means More Heart Disease

The low-fat craze of eighties has been well indoctrinated in us all.    We are terrified of saturated fats and cholesterol from meat, butter and eggs.  We faithfully buy any product on the grocery shelf that has a yellow banner screaming “low-fat!”  The truth however, is that dietary fat is well metabolized by our bodies and impacts our blood so little that our livers are able to adjust production of cholesterol and fatty acids to balance intake very well.  However, the consumption of carbohydrates, especially the super carb wheat, causes insulin to surge which triggers an overwhelming production of fatty acids by the liver and causes the triglycerides in our blood to rocket.  Our bodies have no hope of balancing this influx and high blood triglycerides are the first step in cardiovascular disease, triggering in turn, more cholesterol production and clogging of the arteries.  Simply put:  more wheat consumption leads to greater risk of heart attacks and stroke.

Our Poor Aching Bones

Although our modern lifestyles have little in common with our ancient ancestors, the evolution of our physical bodies has not kept pace with all this progress.  Our forebears were nomadic and ate very little grain because they didn’t stay in one place long enough to cultivate it.  They ate the meat from animals they hunted and plants they could gather along the way.  In chemical terms, this provided a good balance.  Our bodies ideally need to be a slightly alkaline environment.  In general, meat creates an acidic environment and plants provide the alkaline which balances and corrects for this.  Grain, however creates acidity in the body too.  Our modern diets, rich in meat and grain, aren’t rich enough in fruits and vegetables to create the alkaline state our bodies require.  So, our clever bodies react by leaching alkaline minerals from storage to get everything back to normal.  Except, those minerals are stored in our bones. And without adequate mineral content, osteopoenia, osteoporosis, and osteoarthritis develop. Not such a good balance after all.

Intestinal Disaster

Do your clothes get tighter after a meal rich in  wheat products?  Do you get abdominal cramps, gas, and diarrhea?  These are all symptoms that you are not digesting something you ate properly.  It’s usually a protein and statistically, the protein in wheat called “gluten” is a major offender. There are two reasons for this.

First, we eat breakfast cereals, bagels, or toast for breakfast.  We eat sandwiches for lunch.  For dinner, we have pasta, couscous, and dinner rolls.  Every time we eat wheat, very specific enzymes are required to break down the proteins into smaller units for our bodies to absorb.  If we are eating gluten every day, we use up the available supply of enzymes and we can no longer break the gluten down and our intestines revolt.

Second, the genetic modification of wheat over the past 60 years has changed the chemical structure of the gluten and increased the numbers and varieties to the point that our enzymes simply can’t do their job on these new and unfamiliar compounds.  And again, our intestines revolt.

The Ultimate Intolerance:  Celiac’s Disease

For people with Celiac’s Disease, the problem is intensified.   Celiac’s Disease is a genetic, auto-immune disorder.  The consumption of even the smallest trace of gluten causes their immune systems to attack and destroy their intestinal linings.  This results in the loss of ability to absorb nutrients and can lead to malnutrition and even death.  The symptoms are usually bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea but it is possible to have Celiac;s Disease with no intestinal symptoms at all depending on how long you have had it.  Migraines and fatigue can also be linked to the disease.  As horrible as the symptoms are, the disease can be controlled  simply by eliminating all gluten from the diet.  The intestines will heal in the absence of the irritant and a perfectly normal life is possible.  If you suspect you have Celiac’s Disease, it is very important to see a Doctor for testing before discontinuing wheat consumption.  The blood tests to diagnose the disease rely on the presence of specific antibodies in the blood which will only be present for a day or two after eating the offending food.

If not Wheat, then What?

It is possible to remove wheat from your diet, but it takes a strong will and vigilance.  Wheat is so prevalent in our foods that you may not even know you’re eating it sometimes.  Products like beer, soy sauce, and prepared foods are all made with wheat.  And in order to avoid gluten, you also need to avoid barley, rye, spelt and kamut.  Oats are technically gluten-free, but are often contaminated by processing so check to see if they are from a gluten-free facility.  Processed gluten-free products are often full of things like potato starch, tapioca and rice flours which can be equally disastrous to blood sugar regulation, so you’ll want to avoid those too.

You may initially experience some feelings of withdrawal.  Studies have shown that gluten breaks down into polypeptides that can cross the blood brain barrier and bind to opiate receptor sites.  This not only gives you a carb “high” but it contributes to actual addiction to wheat products!  So prepare for a few days of feeling tired, headachey and a little foggy while you work through it.  The results are worth it – you’ll feel lighter, leaner, healthier and more energetic without wheat slowing you down!  Plus, you will notice that you are losing that resistant belly fat.  Excellent!

So what can you eat?  Plenty!  Enjoy nuts, seeds, lean proteins such as fish, chicken, eggs, and trimmed red meat.  Eat unlimited vegetables in all their glorious varieties.  Enjoy healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, walnut oil and avocados.  And eat moderate amounts of legumes, gluten-free grains like brown rice and quinoa, and fruit.

The book Wheat Belly by William Davis, M.D. is a terrific resource for those of you wanting more information about the effects of wheat and how to eliminate it from your diet.  Here is a recipe from the book for a flaxseed wrap you can enjoy when you’re craving a  quick sandwich:

Flaxseed Wrap

3 Tbsp. ground flaxseeds

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. onion powder

1/4 tsp. paprika

Pinch of sea salt

1 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted plus more for greasing the pan

1 Tbsp. water

1 large egg

Mix together the ground flaxseeds, baking powder, onion powder, paprika, and salt in a small bowl.  Stir in the 1 Tbsp. coconut oil.  Beat in the egg and 1 Tbsp. water until blended.

Grease a microwave safe glass pie pan with coconut oil.  Pour in the batter and spread evenly over the bottom.  Microwave on high 2-3 minutes until cooked.  Let cool about 5 minutes.  (I prefer to bake mine for about ten minutes in a 350 degree oven).  Let cool about five minutes.

To remove, lift up an edge with a spatula.  If it sticks, use a pancake turner to gently loosen from the pan.  Flip the wrap over and top with desired ingredients.

My best advice is to keep it simple while you’re making these changes.  Avoid complicated dishes with sauces and lots of ingredients.  Slow down and take your time when you eat your meals so that you can truly savour your food and learn to enjoy the new tastes you are experiencing!  Before you know it, you won’t miss wheat products at all and you’ll have created a whole new list of favourite foods to enjoy!