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All About Digestive Enzymes

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

As a practitioner, 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 possiblity, 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

Foods to Reduce Night Time Hot Flashes

Do you get hot flashes?

Are they mostly at night?

Do they set the bed on fire (but not in that way)?

Let’s get you some solutions!

Before we do that, just some quick info on why hot flashes occur so we can try to effect the root cause of these hormonal symptoms.

 

What causes hot flashes?

 

As you can imagine it’s all about hormonal balance (or imbalance).

 

During the menstruating years your estrogen allows for your ovaries to respond when “luteinizing hormone” (LH) says to release those eggs every month.

 

When it gets to the point where your estrogen levels start dropping (i.e. perimenopause) those ovaries start to simply ignore the LH.

 

And guess what your body’s response to this is?

 

It releases adrenaline!

 

This causes your body to heat up for a few minutes until it cools itself back down.

 

What triggers hot flashes?

 

You may have already identified some of the triggers of your hot flashes. Perhaps they’re related to the food and drinks you consume (e.g. coffee, spicy foods, sugar, citrus fruit, large meals).

 

Maybe they’re related to lifestyle factors (e.g. stress, alcohol, smoking, certain medications or intense exercise).

 

Or maybe they get worse as your weight slowly climbs (higher BMI)? Did you know that some menopausal women who lost weight were able to eliminate their hot flashes? Win-win!

 

Let’s reduce those hot flash triggers naturally, shall we?

 

Food #1 – Flax

 

Flax contains a “phytoestrogen” named “lignan”. Phyto (plant) estrogens are thought to help our bodies better balance hormones by mimicking them and binding to certain hormone receptors.

 

Flax also contains fibre and omega-3 essential fatty acids. Both are powerhouses for better gut and heart health, additional benefit!

 

But here’s where it gets interesting.

 

One study looked at thousands of women who experienced at least 14 hot flashes per week. Researchers had them add four tablespoons of flax meal to their day.

 

Yes, just four tablespoons.

 

After 6 weeks the number of hot flashes they had dropped in half and the intensity of those hot flashes dropped by more than half!

 

Scientists think that’s due mostly to the lignan content of flax seeds.

 

That’s some super-food!

 

It’s also pretty easy to increase your intake of flax. You can add one or two tablespoons into your smoothie or sprinkle it on just about anything (breakfast, salad, nut butters, etc.). Not to mention how easy it is to add to your baking. (Hint, see recipe below).

 

Pro Tip: Flax seeds should be ground up in order to get most of their benefits because much of the healthy compounds in them are securely stored beneath the hard outer shell.

 

Food #2 – Water

 

OK, maybe this is more of a “drink” than a food but hear me out.

 

When you get hot flashes you’re losing more water than you normally would. Similarly to when you exercise.

 

Make sure you replace those critical fluids by drinking enough water. A good habit is to make sure that you don’t get to the point of feeling overly thirsty by keeping a bottle, glass, or cup beside you all day long for frequent sips.

 

Water is definitely something to add (or increase) to your daily intake when you’re experiencing hot flashes.

 

Conclusion:

 

There are two critical things you should do if you experience hot flashes: increase your intake of both flax and water.

 

Recipe (flax): Gluten-Free Oatmeal Muffins

 

Serves 6

 

1 banana (very ripe)

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 egg

¼ cup coconut sugar (optional)

½ cup flax meal*

¼ cup oat flour* or other gluten-free flour

½ cup oats (gluten-free)

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ cup nuts or dark chocolate chips (optional)

 

Preheat oven to 350 F and line 6 muffin tins.

 

Add banana, oil, egg, and sugar (if using) into your blender and blend until smooth.

 

In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (oats, flax meal, gluten-free flour, and baking soda).

 

Add wet ingredients into dry and stir. Do not over mix.

 

Add nuts or dark chocolate chips, if using.

 

Spoon into muffin tins. Bake for 15-20 min.

 

Serve & Enjoy!

 

*Tip: You can blend flax and/or oats to make your own freshly ground flax meal or oat flour.

 

References:

 

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

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

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/incorporating-flax-into-diet

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

 

Posted by Greg | No Comments

Three Must Eat Breakfast Foods

 

Do you love your breakfast? Do you have a short list of “go-to” recipes? Do you need a bit of inspiration to start eating breakfast again?

Getting some protein at each meal can help with blood sugar management, metabolism and weight loss. This is because protein helps you feel fuller longer and uses up a bunch of calories to absorb and metabolise it. So I’m going to show you how to get the protein, as well as some veggies and healthy fats for your soon-to-be favourite new “go-to” breakfasts.

Breakfast Food #1: Eggs

 

Yes, eggs are the “quintessential” breakfast food. And for good reason!

 

No, I’m not talking about processed egg whites in a carton. I mean actual whole “eggs”.

 

Egg whites are mostly protein while the yolks are the real nutritional powerhouses. Those yolks contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats.

 

Eggs have been shown to help you feel full, keep you feeling fuller longer, and help to stabilize blood sugar and insulin.

 

Not to mention how easy it is to boil a bunch of eggs and keep them in the fridge for a “grab and go” breakfast when you’re running short on time.

 

And…nope the cholesterol in eggs is not associated with an increased risk of arterial or heart diseases.

 

One thing to consider is to try to prevent cooking the yolks at too high of a temperature because that can cause some of the cholesterol to become oxidized. It’s the oxidized cholesterol that’s heart unhealthy.

 

Breakfast Food #2: Nuts and/or Seeds

 

Nuts and seeds contain protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Nuts and/or seeds would make a great contribution to breakfast.

 

You won’t be fooled by “candied” nuts, sweetened nut/seed butters, or chia “cereals” with added sugars – you know I’m talking about the real, whole, unsweetened food here.

 

Nuts and seeds are also the ultimate fast food if you’re running late in the mornings. Grab a small handful of almonds, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds as you’re running out the door; you can nosh on them while you’re commuting.

 

Not to mention how easy it is to add a spoonful of nut/seed butter into your morning breakfast smoothie.

 

Hint: If you like a creamy latte in the mornings try making one with nut or seed butter. Just add your regular hot tea and a tablespoon or two of a creamy nut or seed butter into your blender & blend until frothy.

Breakfast Food #3: Veggies

 

Yes, you already know you really should get protein at every meal including breakfast; but this also applies to veggies. You know I would be remiss to not recommend veggies at every meal, right?

 

Veggies are powerhouses of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber, and water. You can’t go wrong adding them into every single meal of the day so if you don’t already you should definitely try them for breakfast!

 

And no, you don’t need to have a salad or roasted veggies for breakfast if you don’t want to but you totally can! You wouldn’t be breaking any “official” breakfast rules or anything like that.

 

Adding some protein to leftover veggies is a great combination for any meal. Including breakfast.

 

I’ve included a delicious recipe below for you to try (and customize) for your next breakfast.

 

Recipe (Eggs & Veggies): Veggie Omelet

 

Serves 1

 

1 teaspoon coconut oil

1 or 2 eggs (how hungry are you?)

¼ cup veggies (grated zucchini and/or sliced mushrooms and/or diced peppers)

dash salt, pepper and/or turmeric

 

Add coconut oil to a frying pan and melt on low-medium heat (cast-iron pans are preferred).

 

In the meantime grab a bowl and beat the egg(s) with your vegetables of choice and the spices.

 

Tilt pan to ensure the bottom is covered with the melted oil. Pour egg mixture into pan and lightly fry the eggs without stirring.

 

When the bottom is lightly done flip over in one side and cook until white is no longer runny.

 

Serve & Enjoy!

 

Tip: Substitute grated, sliced, or diced portion of your favourite vegetable. Try grated carrots, chopped broccoli or diced tomato.

 

References:

 

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/eggs-worse-than-fast-food

 

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/encyclopedia/food/eggs/

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/eating-healthy-eggs/

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/12-best-foods-to-eat-in-morning/

 

Five Cholesterol Myths and What to Eat Instead

You knew there was a bit of an over-emphasis (borderlining 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.

 

Recipe (Dressing to go with your salad): Orange Hemp Seed Dressing

 

Makes about ¾ cup

 

½ cup hemp seeds

½ cup orange juice

1 clove of garlic, peeled

dash salt and/or pepper

 

Blend all ingredients together until creamy.

 

Serve on top of your favourite salad and Enjoy!

 

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

 

References:

How Stress Affects Your Cholesterol Level: Everything You Wanted to Know

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/

 

Why Your Waist Circumference Matters 100x More Than What You Weigh

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 Brussels Sprouts

 

Serves 4

 

1 lb Brussels 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/

 

Why is My Metabolism Slow?

You may feel tired, cold or that you’ve gained weight.  Maybe your digestion seems a bit more “sluggish”.

 

You may be convinced that your metabolism is slow.

 

Why does this happen?  Why do metabolic rates slow down?

 

What can slow my metabolism?

 

Metabolism includes all of the biochemical reactions in your body that use nutrients and oxygen to create energy.  And there are lots of factors that affect how quickly (or slowly) it works, i.e. your “metabolic rate” (which is measured in calories).

 

But don’t worry – we know that metabolic rate is much more complicated than the old adage “calories in calories out”!  In fact it’s so complicated I’m only going to list a few of the common things that can slow it down.

 

Examples of common reasons why metabolic rates can slow down:

  • low thyroid hormone
  • your history of dieting
  • your size and body composition
  • your activity level
  • lack of sleep

 

We’ll briefly touch on each one below and I promise to give you better advice than just to “eat less and exercise more”.

 

Low thyroid hormones

 

Your thyroid is the master controller of your metabolism.  When it produces fewer hormones your metabolism slows down.  The thyroid hormones (T3 & T4) tell the cells in your body when to use more energy and become more metabolically active.   Ideally it should work to keep your metabolism just right.  But there are several things that can affect it and throw it off course.  Things like autoimmune diseases and mineral deficiencies (e.g. iodine or selenium) for example.

 

Tip: Talk with your doctor about having your thyroid hormones tested.

 

Your history of dieting

 

When people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down.  This is because the body senses that food may be scarce and adapts by trying to continue with all the necessary life functions and do it all with less food.

 

While dieting can lead to a reduction in amount of fat it unfortunately can also lead to a reduction in the amount of muscle you have.  As you know more muscle means faster resting metabolic rate.

 

Tip: Make sure you’re eating enough food to fuel your body without overdoing it.

 

Your size and body composition

 

In general, larger people have faster metabolic rates.  This is because it takes more energy to fuel a larger body than a smaller one.

 

However, you already know that gaining weight is rarely the best strategy for increasing your metabolism.

 

Muscles that actively move and do work need energy.  Even muscles at rest burn more calories than fat.  This means that the amount of energy your body uses depends partly on the amount of lean muscle mass you have.

 

Tip: Do some weight training to help increase your muscle mass.

 

Which leads us to…

 

Your activity level

 

Aerobic exercise temporarily increases your metabolic rate.  Your muscles are burning fuel to move and do “work” and you can tell because you’re also getting hotter.

 

Even little things can add up.  Walking a bit farther than you usually do, using a standing desk instead of sitting all day, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can all contribute to more activity in your day.

 

Tip:  Incorporate movement into your day.  Also, exercise regularly.

 

Lack of sleep

 

There is plenty of research that shows the influence that sleep has on your metabolic rate.  The general consensus is to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

 

Tip: Try to create a routine that allows at least 7 hours of sleep every night.

Recipe (Selenium-rich): Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

 

Serves 4

 

½ cup Brazil nuts

2 cups water

nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth (optional)

½ cup chia seeds

¼ cup unsweetened cacao powder

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon maple syrup

 

Blend Brazil nuts in water in a high-speed blender until you get smooth, creamy milk.  If desired, strain it with a nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth.

 

Add Brazil nut milk and other ingredients into a bowl and whisk until combined.  Let sit several minutes (or overnight) until desired thickness is reached.

 

Serve & Enjoy!

 

Tip:  Makes a simple delicious breakfast or dessert topped with berries.

 

References:

 

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/metabolic-damage

 

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/thyroid-and-testing

 

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-energy-balance

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/6-mistakes-that-slow-metabolism/

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/10-ways-to-boost-metabolism/

 

http://summertomato.com/non-exercise-activity-thermogenesis-neat

 

 

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. Seven. Days. A. Week. 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-flavoured 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

 

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

 

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.

 

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

 

Yes, we DO have nutrient deficiencies! Here’s the proof and what you can do about it.

 

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/

Everything You Think You Know About Healthy Eating is Wrong and it’s Making You Fat and Tired

Oh my gosh – nutrition and diet info is everywhere!

And each expert and association tries to lead you in their direction because they know best and their advice is going to help you. Right?

Well, maybe…

Everyone has heard (and maybe lived through) the intense focus on how much you eat. This has gotten way too much attention because while this does affect your weight and energy level, it’s certainly not the “holy grail” of health.

Let’s focus a bit more on the often overlooked (and proven) benefits of what you eat and drink and how you eat and drink it.

What you eat and drink

The “calories in, calories out” philosophy (i.e. how much you eat) is being drowned out with research on other factors that may be just as important. Don’t get me wrong limiting calories, carbs or fat can certainly help you lose weight but that’s simply not the only factor for long-term weight loss and maximum energy for everyone.

When the intense focus on how much we ate didn’t work in the long-run it wasn’t really a surprise. We kinda knew that already, didn’t we?

You can certainly still continue to count your calories, carbs, and fat but don’t forget to also pay attention to what you eat.

Ideally, you need a varied diet full of minimally-processed foods (i.e. fewer “packaged” “ready-to-eat” foods). This simple concept is paramount for weight loss, energy, and overall health and wellness.

Every day this is what you should aim for:

  • A colourful array of fruits and veggies at almost every meal and snack. You need the fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

 

  • Enough protein. Making sure you get all of those essential amino acids (bonus: eating protein can increase your metabolism).

 

  • Healthy fats and oils (never “hydrogenated” ones). There is a reason some fatty acids are called “essential” – you need them as building blocks for your hormones and brain as well as to be able to absorb essential fat-soluble vitamins from your uber-healthy salads. Use extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, eat your organic egg yolks, and get grass-fed meats when possible. You don’t need to overdo it here. Just make sure you’re getting some high-quality fats.

 

How you eat and drink

Also pay attention to how you eat and drink.

Studies are definitely showing that this has more of an impact than we previously thought.

Are you rushed, not properly chewing your food, and possibly suffering from gastrointestinal issues? Do you drink your food?

When it comes to how you eat let’s first look at “mindful eating”.

Mindful eating means to take smaller bites, eat slowly, chew thoroughly, and savour every bite. Notice and appreciate the smell, taste and texture. Breathe.

This gives your digestive system the hint to prepare for digestion and to secrete necessary enzymes.

This can also help with weight loss because eating slower often means eating less. Did you know that it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full?

Thought so!

We also know that more thoroughly chewed food is easier to digest and it makes it easier to absorb all of those essential nutrients.

And don’t forget about drinking your food.

Yes, smoothies can be healthy and a fabulously easy and tasty way to get in some fruits and veggies (hello leafy greens!) but drinking too much food can contribute to a weight problem and feelings of sluggishness.

Don’t get me wrong a green smoothie can make an amazingly nutrient-dense meal and is way better than stopping for convenient junk food – just consider a large smoothie to be a full meal not a snack. And don’t gulp it down too fast.

If your smoothies don’t fill you up like a full meal does try adding in a spoon of fiber like ground flax or chia seeds.

 

Summary:

Consider not only how much you eat but also what and how you eat it.

 

Recipe (Smoothie meal): Chia Peach Green Smoothie

Serves 1

handful spinach

1 tablespoon chia seeds

1 banana

1 chopped peach

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

Add ingredients to blender in order listed (you want your greens on the bottom by the blade so they blend better and have the chia on the bottom to absorb some liquid before you blend).

Wait a couple of minutes for the chia seeds to start soaking up the almond milk.

Blend, Serve and Enjoy!

Tip: Smoothies are the ultimate recipe for substitutions. Try swapping different greens, fruit or seeds to match your preference.

Bonus: Chia seeds not only have fiber and essential omega-3 fatty acids but they contain all of the essential amino acids from protein.

 

References:

The Astounding Benefits of Chia Seeds

http://summertomato.com/wisdom-wednesday-salad-dressing-is-your-friend

https://authoritynutrition.com/20-reasons-you-are-not-losing-weight/

http://summertomato.com/the-science-behind-mindful-eating-what-happens-to-your-body-during-a-mindful-meal

http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3061/2

 

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Three Ways to Avoid Overeating at Meals

Sometimes those holiday feasts are just amazing.

And it’s not just the abundance of delicious food but also the people, the decorations, and the ambiance.

It is way too easy (and common) to indulge on those days.
But it doesn’t always stop there.
Sometimes we overeat on regular days.  Or at regular meals.  Or All. The. Time.

Here are three tips to avoid overeating at meals.

(Psst, turn these into habits and ditch the willpower!)
Tip #1: Start with some water 

When your stomach is growling and you smell amazingly delicious food it’s too easy to fill a plate (or grab some samples with your bare hands) and dive into the food.
But did you know that it’s possible to sometimes confuse the feeling of thirst with that of hunger?  Your stomach may actually be craving a big glass of water rather than a feast.
Some studies have shown that drinking a glass or two of water before a meal can help reduce the amount of food eaten.
And this super-simple tip may even help with weight loss (…just sayin’).
Not only will the water start to fill up your stomach before you get to the buffet, leaving less room for the feast but drinking enough water has been shown to slightly increase your metabolism.
Win-win!
Tip #2: Try eating “mindfully”

You’ve heard of mindfulness but have you applied that to your eating habits?
This can totally help you avoid overeating as well as having the added bonus of helping your digestion.
Just as being mindful when you meditate helps to focus your attention on your breathing and the present moment being mindful when you eat helps to focus your attention on your meal.
Do this by taking smaller bites, eating more slowly, chewing more thoroughly, and savouring every mouthful.  Notice and appreciate the smell, taste and texture.  Breathe.
This can help prevent overeating because eating slower often means eating less.
When you eat quickly you can easily overeat because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full.
So take your time, pay attention to your food and enjoy every bite.
Bonus points: Eat at a table (not in front of the screen), off of a small plate, and put your fork down between bites.
Tip #3: Start with the salad
You may be yearning for that rich, creamy main dish.
But don’t start there.
(Don’t worry, you can have some…just after you’ve eaten your salad).
Veggies are a great way to start any meal because they’re full of not only vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and health-promoting phytochemicals but they also have some secret satiety weapons: fiber and water.
Fiber and water are known to help fill you up and make you feel fuller.  They’re “satiating”.
And these secret weapons are great to have on your side when you’re about to indulge in a large meal.
Summary:
Have your glass of water, eat mindfully, and start with your salad to help avoid overeating at meals.
Recipe (Water): Tasty (and beautiful) Pre-Meal Water Ideas
If you’re not much of a plain water drinker or need your water to be more appealing to your senses here are five delicious (and beautiful looking) fruit combos to add to your large glass of water:

  • Slices of lemon & ginger
  • Slices of strawberries & orange
  • Slices of apple & a cinnamon stick
  • Chopped pineapple & mango
  • Blueberries & raspberries

Tip: You can buy a bag (or several bags) of frozen chopped fruit and throw those into your cup, thermos, or uber-cool mason jar in the morning.  They’re already washed and cut and will help keep your water colder longer.

References:
https://authoritynutrition.com/7-health-benefits-of-water/
http://summertomato.com/the-science-behind-mindful-eating-what-happens-to-your-body-during-a-mindful-meal

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