A: Before I dive into answering this question, I want to start by saying that eating ANY vegetables is AWESOME and if thinking about which vegetables to eat cooked and which ones to eat raw overwhelms you, do NOT worry!
Let’s start first with one of the basic characteristics of vitamins – some are water-soluble and some are fat-soluble and some vitamins are also more heat sensitive than others.
The water-soluble vitamins are vitamin C and the B vitamins. If you’re going to be cooking vegetables containing B vitamins or vitamin C (outlined below), avoid boiling them, as a good majority of the nutrients will end up in the cooking water. Instead, stick to steaming, sautéing or roasting these vegetables.
TIP: If you do end up boiling the vegetables, save the water to use for soups or for cooking at a later time so that the nutrients are not lost.
The fat-soluble vitamins include, vitamins A, D, E and K. These vegetables are fantastic when cooked.
When Cooking is Better
One of the most infamous vegetables (actually fruits) that are more nutritious when cooked is tomato. Tomatoes contain lycopene, which is an antioxidant that becomes MORE bioavailable (easily absorbed and used by the body) when cooked rather than raw. Research shows that lycopene increases by 25% when tomatoes are cooked for 30 minutes. Lycopene has been studied for its belief of being helpful with preventing cancer and other chronic diseases.
Vegetables containing beta-carotene (the precursor to vitamin A), like carrots and sweet potato are actually MORE nutritious when cooked. Cooking, in this case, helps to break down the rigid plant cell wall, which makes more nutrients available for absorption.
Now let’s chat about heat sensitivity. There are a few vitamins that are quite sensitive to heat and therefore, vegetables containing these vitamins are best consumed raw.
Heat breaks down vitamin C, folate, vitamin B1 and B5.
Examples of vegetables containing vitamin C:
Examples of vegetables containing folate:
Examples of vegetables containing vitamin B1:
Examples of vegetables containing vitamin B5:
Eating any vegetables is good and whether or not you consume these foods raw or cooked is not a HUGE concern. If we can simply incorporate more vegetables into our diets that is going to be where we see the biggest benefit!
What Is A Good Balance Of Raw, Cooked And Fermented Vegetables?
In my opinion, incorporating 1-2 servings of fermented foods per day (sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, fermented vegetables, kefir) is great for maintaining the population of good bacteria in your gut. However, if you’re more likely to have trouble with the good bacteria in your gut (read here to see if this might be you), then increasing the amount of fermented foods you consume may be helpful.
In terms of breaking up vegetables into raw, fermented and cooked categories and finding a balance between the 3, I recommend variety. I usually tell clients that they should be shooting for at least 4 cups of vegetables per day, which most people gasp at but think: if you have a side salad that is usually 2-3 cups alone. I recommend consuming some vegetables raw everyday, some cooked and some fermented. This will give you a great balance of nutrients and really give you the best bang for your buck nutrition-wise.
I hope this helps answer your question. The real truth is not to be too overly worried about it. If you’re eating at least 4 cups of vegetables per day (raw, cooked or both) and some fermented foods – relax, you’re golden 🙂
Do you have a question that you'd like answered on the blog?
Yours in Health,
For ages, health and nutrition professionals claimed “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” and that “we must eat on a consistent interval throughout the day to keep our metabolism revved”… but is this actually the case? My answer: Not necessarily.
Intermittent fasting is something that has become popular in the media in the past couple of years and for good reason.
Intermittent fasting is a WAY of eating that focuses on how much time is spent each day or each week eating versus fasting.
Intermittent fasting does not require you to follow any rules around WHAT you eat and instead it focuses majorly on WHEN you eat.
Intermittent fasting can be done a number of different ways, including:
Your meals during your "eating window" can be spaced however you please - it can be 2 large meals with no snacks, 1 large meal with 3 snacks, etc.
People who follow an intermittent fasting eating style claim that this is a very traditional method of food consumption. Historically humans did not have access to food all year long. Throughout the year humans would go through periods of time where there was little to no food and other times of the year (after a kill or a summer of abundant fruit and vegetable growth) where there was a significant amount of food available.
Further research on the benefits of intermittent fasting is still needed, however current research is quite promising. The latest research on intermittent fasting suggests that this style of eating can potentially increase levels of human growth hormone and decrease insulin levels, both of which favor weight loss.
Levels of human growth hormone decrease as we get older (levels are highest in childhood as levels of this hormone are responsible for growth in children). However, some research suggests that if we can increase our levels of human growth hormone as adults we could potentially increase our muscle mass and decrease our body fat. Tip: human growth hormone is produced when we sleep, so make sure your sleep hygiene is on point!
Research also suggests that intermittent fasting can potentially slow the progression of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and aging.
Many people who choose to follow an intermittent fasting style of eating claim that it is easy to follow than a traditional lower calorie diet for weight loss. People following this diet often find that restricting your intake 1-2 days each week and then eating without restriction the remaining days of the week is easier mentally than following a slightly restrictive plan (aimed at weight loss) everyday.
Short answer, no. Eating 5-7 meals a day does not increase your metabolism any more than eating 3 larger meals a day. I typically recommend snacking between meals to clients who otherwise may be tempted to indulge between meals. Say for example, you have a staff meeting at 10:30 am everyday and your co-worker always brings donuts or muffins. This is a situation where it can be extremely helpful to have your own snack available. This way you have a healthier (and typically more filling) snack on hand so that you don’t feel like you’re missing out and you are much less likely to indulge in a treat “just because it’s there”.
It comes down to personal preference and what works best for YOUR body. Some people feel great eating two meals a day, and as long as those two meals include all of the nutrition your body needs and you don’t lack energy throughout the day, that is A-OK with me!
Before you go out and give intermittent fasting a try, I must touch on a couple of things. There are a few groups of people who I would not recommend long periods of fasting.
I wouldn’t recommend intermittent fasting beyond a 12-hour hours for women who are trying to get pregnant, women who are pregnant or women who are struggling with hormonal imbalances and irregular periods.
I would also not suggest intermittent fasting for people living with low thyroid function, particularly Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and people with adrenal fatigue.
And finally, although I am a big supporter of a non-traditional diet for diabetes, please do not try intermittent fasting if you have diabetes and need assistance adjusting your oral medication or insulin dosage.
What I recommend to my clients is to focus on a 12-hour fasting window and for most people, this is quite simple to maintain long-term! For example, if you finish your dinner at 6:30 pm then your first meal the following day should not be before 6:30 am. You can manipulate the hours however you’d like to fit your own schedule but just focus on the 12-hour window of fasting. If a 12-hour window sounds simple, maybe work up to a 14- or 16-hour fasting window.
If you try intermittent fasting and it impacts you negatively, stop. Like I always say, eating must be individualized and one method does not work for EVERYONE.
Do you naturally intermittent fast? Let me know in the comments below!
Yours in Health,
I received a great question to my Facebook page last week asking the reason behind my vitamin selection. This is a great question because so many of us (my past-self included) would take supplements and not really understand why. I would take a supplement because I heard it was healthy and that’s all I really needed to know (so I thought). There is SO much nutrition and health misinformation out there now and I encourage everyone to think critically about the information they hear before implementing it in their lives.
SO – today I want to go through some of the top supplements that I take and that I recommend to clients most often.
If you’ve read any of my post you know I am a huge advocate of the “food first” approach, meaning – if you can get a vitamin or mineral from food, then by all means get it from food. I used to preach that we could get all of our nutrients from our food, but as I dug into more and more research and worked with more and more clients, I realized that it would be irresponsible for me to suggest this. Getting our nutrients from food is always going to be number one, but strategic supplementation is important and very necessary, in most cases.
Before we start I must mention: please do not start a new supplement regimen without discussing it with your personal health practitioner. Some supplements can have an adverse reaction with other medications or could be toxic at high levels.
So let’s start with the basics.
The first supplement that I recommend to almost everyone is a good quality vitamin D supplement. If you remember from this post here, vitamin D plays a critical role in our body as it is important for bone health, immunity and cognitive function.
How much vitamin D a person needs is going to vary depending on ethnicity, where you live and your lifestyle (a typical recommendation is 1000-5000 IU per day). Right now in Alberta our provincial health care no longer allows us to get our vitamin D levels checked, which is extremely unfortunate given the role of vitamin D in our overall health.
You do have to worry about vitamin D supplementation at high levels due to the fact that it is a fat-soluble vitamin (meaning we can’t just pee it out if we have too much). Typically we must supplement with over 10,000 IU per day for a period of several months before we need to worry about toxicity. Vitamin D is beneficial for bone health because it enhances the absorption of calcium. Too much vitamin D can cause high levels of calcium in our blood (called hypercalcemia).
The symptoms of hypercalcemia include (1):
I love when vitamin D is in combination with vitamin K2 (which we can find in the diet from grass fed dairy products). Vitamin K2 helps with the proper absorption and utilization of calcium in the body. We want calcium to be deposited into our bones, and vitamin K2 helps with that (sometimes we can end up with calcium deposits in our blood vessels and kidneys, something we want to avoid).
I can’t stress the importance of good quality enough when I talk about omega-3 supplements. Many people pop a fish oil everyday but why is it important? If you remember back to my post on cooking fats you know that omega-3 fats are potent anti-inflammatories. Inflammation is the building block of many chronic diseases and most of us walk around with low-grade inflammation all of the time. To keep inflammation under control we want to make sure we have a good balance of omega-3 fats in relation to omega-6 fats. Omega-6 fats are PRO-inflammatory and omega-3 fats are ANTI-inflammatory. A great relationship between omega-3 and omega-6 is somewhere between 1:1 and 4:1.
Two of the major ways we can help get our omega-3:omega-6 ratios balanced is by reducing consumption of omega-6-rich oils like corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil and increasing our intake of omega-3-rich foods like fatty fish (salmon, herring, sardines, trout, etc). If you look, these inflammatory oils are used A LOT in store bought salad dressings and condiments - so be mindful of this and always look at the ingredient list.
As I’ve noted in previous posts – I don’t recommend plant-based foods containing omega-3 fats as a good way to decrease inflammation. Plant sources of omega-3 fats contain a type of omega-3 fat called alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). In order to be used properly in the body ALA must be converted to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) (the animal sources of omega-3 fats). This would not be an issue if the conversion of ALA to DHA/EPA wasn’t so poor. In a healthy person the conversion from ALA to DHA and EPA is under 5%. If you are following a vegan diet, I recommend NutraVege – an algae-based omega-3 supplement.
One of my FAVOURITE ways to get in omega 3 fats with some vitamin D and active vitamin D is through cod liver oil. If you're wondering which brands I use and recommend, you can check out my dispensary here to get professional grade supplements at a discount and see exactly what I use every single day!
There are two types of magnesium supplements that I recommend for two different reasons. Magnesium glycinate I recommend to clients who are struggling with getting good quality sleep, whether it’s difficulty falling asleep or difficulty staying asleep, this supplement can often do the trick (better than melatonin, in my opinion). I suggest 400 mg of magnesium glycinate in the evening to start and typically the 400 mg dosage is enough to do the trick. If you want to read more about the benefits of magnesium, check out my post here.
The second type of magnesium supplement I recommend to clients is magnesium citrate. This supplement I recommend as a better alternative to laxatives from the pharmacy. Again, 400 mg in the evening is usually enough to do the trick but be sure to check with your personal health practitioner before beginning any supplement regimen.
A vitamin B complex can be helpful for many people, especially those who are just coming off of birth control, since the pill has a negative effect on vitamin B status in the body. Supplementing with a vitamin B complex may also be useful if you consume alcohol on a regular basis, since alcohol consumption depletes B vitamin levels (particularly thiamin).
I also recommend a vitamin B/C supplement for those who struggle with stress management. If you remember from this post, vitamin C and B vitamins have been associated with lower levels of cortisol (our stress hormone) and our perceived levels of stress.
Probiotics are so incredibly important to our overall health and wellbeing. Not only is our gut our first line of defense against infection and invasion of pathogens but it's also responsible for the majority of our serotonin (feel good chemical) production. There is a strong relationship between gut health and levels of depression, making probiotics key not only for digestion but also for our mental health. Read more about this relationship here.
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid (building block of protein) in our bodies. Glutamine is made in the body but we also get it from protein sources like beef, pork, milk, yogurt, ricotta/cottage cheese, poultry, raw spinach, parsley and cabbage. Periods of prolonged stress can lower our glutamine levels and make supplementation extremely valuable. I often suggest clients with serious digestive issues to try supplementation with l-glutamine powder twice per day. Also, if you remember from my post on sugar cravings, l-glutamine can also be helpful in reducing cravings when they strike.
Tip: if you’re using a powdered l-glutamine supplement, only use it with cold or room temperature foods or liquids, as heat will destroy the glutamine and it will no longer be effective.
So often there are so many fillers in the supplements we find on the shelf that they may even do more harm than good. We should be looking for third party testing on all of our supplements to make sure that what they say is in the bottle is acutally in the bottle! For access to high quality supplements, click here and don't forget to consult your personal care practitioner for guidance on what is right for you.
Have some time and want to watch an interesting Fifth Estate episode on the supplement industry? Click here.
Do you have a question you'd like answered? Submit your question here.
Until next time,
Yours in Health,
Contrary to popular belief, bloating throughout the day is not normal and we have the power to engage in activities and restructure our eating schedule to help banish the bloat!
First, it is important to understand that our digestive process is not triggered only when we begin eating. Our digestive systems start firing before the point when we put food into our mouths. Can you remember a time when you smelled a delicious meal cooking and your mouth began to water? Saliva production helps prepare our mouths with the enzymes needed to begin the digestive process (digestion actually begins in the mouth, but we will talk more about that later).
We (I use this term loosely – I do not remember this) use to live in a world where convenience foods were not an option and meals took time to prepare and had to be prepared from scratch. Seeing and smelling food cooking gets the body ready to eat and acts as a signal that a meal is coming. Unfortunately, many of the meals we consume can be ready in an instant – from takeout options to microwave dinners. When we consume these types of meals, we don’t get the same “warm up” before the meal as we do when we prepare our own meals.
I totally understand that it is not always possible for us to prepare our meals from scratch three times per day (plus, I usually recommend that my clients batch prepare meals). What I would suggest if all you need to do is heat up a meal before eating would be either to reheat your meal in the oven rather than the microwave (this takes a little more time and it allows the aroma of the food to flood the house) and/or take a few minutes before beginning the meal to
In order to properly digest your food, you must be in a parasympathetic state (think: rest and digest) rather than a sympathetic state (think: fight or flight). How many times have you scarfed down your lunch at your desk before a meeting? This is a perfect example of eating in a sympathetic or stressed state. Eating while in a sympathetic state makes it much more difficult for the body to begin properly digesting our food, making it much more likely that we end up with digestive issues such as bloating or indigestion.
So how can we avoid this? It may sound obvious but taking time (20 minutes or more) to enjoy your meal away from distractions such as your phone, computer or television is a great start!
Tied in with the last point - taking time to eat your meals is important. Next time you eat a meal, I want you to look at the clock prior to beginning your meal and directly following as well. Believe it or not, for optimal digestion (and feeling of satisfaction) it should take you at least 20 minutes from start to finish.
Chewing our food is the first step in the digestion process. So often we eat far too quickly and only chew each mouthful a few times before swallowing. When we swallow food that is not adequately broken down by chewing, it places more stress on the rest of our digestion system to properly breakdown the food to get it ready for absorption and elimination.
Improperly chewing our food is one of the major causes of bloating and by simply focusing on chewing 20-30 times before swallowing often makes a huge difference in whether or not we experience bloating after a meal.
Listen, this is coming from a recovering gum chewing addict (anyone close to me can attest to this) – chewing gum is not something I recommend if you’re struggling with any digestive issues. Not only do you swallow a significant amount of air when chewing gum but most conventional gum also contains artificial sweeteners, such as sugar alcohols, which can cause gastrointestinal upset when consumed in excess (10 grams per day usually causes unwanted symptoms).
For clients reporting bloating and digestive issues I typically recommend avoiding consuming liquid (yes, even water) with meals. Although a lot of this evidence is anecdotal in nature, I find it can be extremely helpful for some of my clients. The idea is that when we consume too much liquid during mealtime we can dilute our gastric juices making it more difficult to properly digest our food. If you typically drink with your meals but struggle with digestive issues, I suggest avoiding water 30 minutes before a meal and 30 minutes after a meal.
Do you have a history of popping TUMS on a semi-regular basis? Do you have uncontrollable and unexplained heartburn? Believe it or not, heartburn is often caused by lack of stomach acid rather than too much stomach acid. Let’s bring back a little high school chemistry – our ideal stomach pH range is 1-3 but when we take antacids we can raise our stomach pH to 4-5. Not only does raising our stomach pH put us at risk for getting ill (the acidity in our stomach kills a lot of bacteria and parasites, which keeps us healthy) but it also hinders our digestive process. The acidity in our stomach plays a major role in the breakdown of protein (called denaturation) and when the pH of our stomach is not within the ideal range our digestion is impaired and we can experience side effects such as bloating.
If you suspect that you’re dealing with low stomach acid, the first thing I would suggest is an apple cider vinegar drink. Start with mixing 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar with 8 ounces of water and drinking it three times each day before meals. Make sure you’re consistent with this practice to see maximum results.
If the apple cider vinegar drink helps but not quite enough, a digestive enzyme containing betaine HCl may do the trick. I don’t recommend supplementing with this on your own without the advice of your personal health practitioner.
If you try all of the above recommendations and still struggle with bloating, I suggest working with your personal health care provider (integrative physician or dietitian) on a supplement protocol including a good quality probiotic, digestive enzyme containing HCl and ruling out a candida albicans overgrowth.
Hopefully these tips will help you battle the bloat and rid post-meal discomfort and the need for Joey's "Thanksgiving pants".
Do you still have questions about digestion? Submit your questions in the comments below or through the Ask the RD form here.
Yours in Health,
Today we are going to cover some useful information on a spice and supplement that has been getting quite a bit of media attention over the past year. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, chronic inflammation is the building block of many chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
There are many things we can do in terms of diet to help decrease the inflammation in our body, including a high intake of omega-3 fats and a reduced intake of omega-6 fats, sugar and trans fats. Lifestyle factors also play a role in keeping inflammation at bay, including adequate sleep and stress management.
Curcumin is the main active ingredient and powerful antioxidant found in turmeric. You are likely familiar with turmeric, as it is responsible for giving curry its yellow color. Turmeric has been used traditionally for its medicinal properties for thousands of years.
Unfortunately, sprinkling turmeric on your food may not give you the potent anti-inflammatory benefits you’re looking for, as pure turmeric powder averages only 3.14% curcumin by weight (1).
Tip: If you’re using turmeric for its anti-inflammatory health benefits, I recommend pairing turmeric with black pepper. A component of black pepper called piperine enhances the absorption of curcumin by 2000%. However, if you’re using turmeric to help reduce inflammation in the intestines, you should AVOID consuming pepper with turmeric to enhance absorption. When using turmeric for combatting intestinal inflammation, it is not necessary that the turmeric is absorbed into the bloodstream and instead you want it to reach your intestines.
Research on the long-term benefits of turmeric use are limited, however there are consistent results suggesting that curcumin can be beneficial for many different conditions. Let’s review some recent findings:
Research is also emerging in the area of curcumin and Alzheimer’s disease. In one particular 6-month trial, curcumin was provided at 1 or 4 grams per day in a population of individuals 50 years and older who were experiencing a cognitive decline for at least 6 months prior to the beginning of the trial. The MMSE (a rating scale used for Alzheimer’s) was then tested and scores increased in the placebo group but were mostly halted in the group supplementing with curcumin (a higher score indicates increased cognitive decline). More research must be conducted in this are due to the small sample size (27 subjects) and other confounding factors that must be controlled but it is very promising to see these results, even from a small sample (4).
As we’ve just covered, there is a significant amount of research indicating that supplementing with turmeric is very promising at reducing pain and inflammation, so why isn’t everyone supplementing? Inflammation is the building block of many chronic diseases so wouldn’t everyone benefit from taking a turmeric supplement?
Right now there is no consensus on what dosage is appropriate and recommended dosage varies from person to person. More research is needed before this supplement becomes more mainstream but it is showing a lot of promise and could be beneficial for you (be sure to talk to your personal health practitioner before beginning any supplement regimen).
In order to increase absorption of curcumin, the turmeric supplement must contain black pepper extract or piperine.
If you’re not supplementing and simply adding more turmeric to your meals, always add black pepper to the dish.
As with many supplements, patience is key. If you decide to supplement with turmeric, please be sure to be consistent with intake over at least eight weeks, as it may take this long for benefits to become apparent. Many of the research studies conducted using turmeric/curcumin supplements lasted 6 months, so be prepared to be patient as it may take this amount of time to achieve maximum benefits.
If you cannot find a turmeric supplement at your local health food store that meets the above standards, here is a link to a good quality supplement available on Amazon.
According to Dr. Andrew Weil, you should not supplement with turmeric if...
Important to note:
Serves 6 to 8
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
2 medium white onions, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to season
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large head of cauliflower (about 2 pounds), trimmed and cut into florets
4 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth or water
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 cup coconut milk
Freshly ground black pepper, to season
1/4 cup roasted cashew halves, for garnish (optional)
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley, for garnish (optional)
Red pepper flakes, for garnish (optional)
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat until shimmering. Cook the onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt until onions are soft and translucent, 8 to 9 minutes.
Reduce heat to low, add garlic, and cook for 2 additional minutes.
Add cauliflower, broth or water, coriander, turmeric, cumin, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer until cauliflower is fork-tender, about 15 minutes.
Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender until smooth and then return the soup to the soup pot. (Alternatively, use an immersion blender to purée the soup right in the pot.)
Stir in the coconut milk and warm the soup. Taste and add more salt, pepper, or spices if you’d like.
To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a handful of toasted cashews, a few springs of parsley, sprinkle of red pepper flakes, and a dash of olive oil to top.
Do you think supplementing with turmeric is right for you? Do you currently supplement with it? What have been your experiences? Please share in the comments below!
Also, I share nutrition information almost daily on my Facebook page. Please be sure to follow me here. If you find the information I share helpful, please share with your friends and family. There are many new and exciting things coming up the next month that I cannot wait to share with you all!
Yours in Health,
This post comes at a good time – right after our homes have been plagued with glorious Easter chocolate… if only we didn’t consume SO much of it and if only it didn’t CALL to us as it sits leftover and forgotten in our children’s baskets.
This is probably one of the top questions I hear from my clients - they want to know WHY their sugar cravings are so strong and what to do about it. We've all heard that sugar is "addictive" and we've talked about the impact of sugar on brain chemicals here but did you know that you can make some lifestyle, nutrition and supplement changes to help balance your brain chemistry and reduce sugar cravings?
Let’s discuss some surefire ways to get your sugar cravings under control. Some of these are obvious and others may be a new concept for you.
We will start with some of the most obvious tips. These may sound insignificant but I can assure you, they will make a huge difference in whether or not you’re back at that candy dish at the office or the basket full of chocolate in your home.
1. Eat on a regular schedule and include protein with all meals and snacks.
We’ve all had those moments where we allow our blood sugar levels to plummet and as a result we make poor nutrition choices (hello jelly beans). Would you believe me if I told you that we make those poor nutrition choices because the blood flow to our brain is actually REDUCED when our blood sugar levels are low?
If we let our blood sugar levels drop below optimal levels (you will likely feel tired, irritable and/or dizzy) it is a protection mechanism for our body to crave simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates will bring our blood sugar level up high and fast, exactly what our body thinks we need at this time. The issues with these cravings are that we typically don’t go for something naturally sweet like a piece of fruit, we instead go for something highly processed made with large amounts of refined sugar.
One study that demonstrates how stabilizing blood sugar levels reduces the urge to consume carbohydrate-rich foods focuses on women dealing with bulimia. 20 research subjects were put on a sugar stabilizing diet and within 3 weeks all 20 women had stopped binging (Dalvit-McPhillips, 1984).
One of the best ways to combat these low blood sugar levels is to eat on a regular schedule and to include protein at every meal and snack. Protein helps to keep you fuller longer and slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream. Let’s put this into practice – instead of choosing JUST a piece of fruit for a snack add some nuts, nut butter, a hardboiled egg or some leftover meat from your last meal. This combination of carbohydrate and protein will help keep your blood sugar levels stable longer.
2. Eat 25-45 grams of fiber per day.
Fruits, vegetables and whole, unprocessed grains contain fiber but one of my favorite ways to get fiber in is by incorporating chia seeds in my diet on a regular basis. Let's look at the nutrition profile for chia seeds and why they're such a great addition to your nutrition plan.
1 ounce (approximately 2 tablespoons) of chia seeds contains the following nutrients:
• 11 grams fiber (throw 2 tablespoons of chia seeds in your smoothie and you’re almost half way to your daily goal!)
• 4.7 grams protein
• 9 grams fat
• 178.9 mg calcium (18% of your recommended daily intake)
• Excellent source of antioxidants (we talked about antioxidants and health here)
Chia seeds absorb over 10 times their weight in fluid (1) making them extremely filling, as they form a gel in our bodies when we eat them. The research linking chia seed consumption and weight loss is limited right now but including chia seeds in your diet on a regular basis is going to be extremely advantageous to your health.
Chia seeds also act as a prebiotic (food for the beneficial bacteria living in our intestines). We must supply nutritious food for these good bugs in order to keep them thriving.
I recommend adding 2 tablespoons of chia seeds in your smoothie or to your yogurt daily for optimal benefits. You can buy chia seeds at most grocery stores (likely in the "natural foods" section).
3. Spice things up!
Adding cinnamon to your food can actually help you to stabilize your blood sugar levels and prevent the spike (and subsequent plummet) in your blood sugar levels after a carbohydrate-rich meal. Research shows that cinnamon can reduce blood sugar levels by 3-5%, which is comparable to older generations of diabetic medications (2).
The type of cinnamon you use matters. Most cinnamon that we find in the grocery store is Cassia cinnamon and can cause liver toxicity in large doses (I do not recommend doing the cinnamon challenge – the European Food Safety Authority suggests that 1 teaspoon is a daily maximum of Cassia cinnamon for people sensitive to a component of cassia cinnamon called coumarin). The cinnamon you want to purchase if you are trying to stabilize your blood sugar levels is ceylon cinnamon. You can find ceylon cinnamon at most health food stores.
4. Get quality sleep. We’ve discussed the importance of sleep for weight loss and carbohydrate cravings over and over again. Haven’t read these posts yet? Check them out here and here.
5. Be sure you’re taking a vitamin D supplement – especially if your sun exposure is limited. When Vitamin D levels are low, levels of ghrelin (the hormone that tells us we're hungry) is affected making us feel hungrier more often, which leads to excess consumption (3). Read more about vitamin D here.
6. Adequate omega-3 intake. As we’ve discussed previously when we’ve covered inflammation, regular intake of a good quality omega-3 supplement is key in keeping inflammation under control. Omega-3 fats are beneficial fats for our brain and they also play a role in insulin (our storage hormone that we produce when we consume carbohydrates) control.
7. Chromium picolinate. Chromium picolinate has been shown to reduce cravings for fat and carbohydrates. In one double-blind placebo-controlled study, study subjects supplemented with 1000 mcg of chromium picolinate daily for a two-month period. Compared to the placebo group, the subjects supplementing with chromium picolinate had a decrease in appetite and fewer fat cravings (Anton, 2008).
If you’re following all of the tips above and still not getting any relief, your sugar cravings may stem from an imbalance in brain chemicals due to suboptimal gut health. Our gut is literally our second brain and without a healthy gut, the balance of our brain chemicals suffers.
Without getting too deep into the chemistry, let’s look at what may be beneficial. Remember – do not begin taking any supplements without consulting your physician or pharmacist. Supplements can interact with various medications. Please also be sure to take a pharmaceutical grade supplement to ensure you are actually getting what is written on the label.
8. Supplementing with l-glutamine and a good quality probiotic. L-glutamine is an amino acid that plays a major role in healing the gut lining. Taking l-glutamine and a good quality probiotic are the first steps in healing the gut and establishing a thriving population of good gut bacteria.
How does gut health impact our sugar cravings you may ask? Well, believe it or not, sugar cravings can be caused by a simple imbalance in brain chemicals and because it is in our gut that many of these brain chemicals are produced, our gut health is imperative if we want to balance our brain chemistry to combat cravings. An example of this is serotonin – serotonin is an excitatory neurotransmitter that reduces our appetite and most of our serotonin is produced in the gut. Many obese patients have lower levels of serotonin than non-obese patients, meaning that the obese patients will have a more difficult time controlling their appetite than the non-obese patients (4). If we want to have adequate serotonin production, we must have good gut health.
When taking a probiotic, I recommend taking it at the end of the day with your last meal (read more about probiotics here). Your current health status will determine the dosage of l-glutamine (I recommend working with an integrative dietitian or naturopath to determine dosage).
I hope these tips are helpful and will assist you in combating the post-Easter sugar cravings.
Still have sugar cravings? Whip up these DELICIOUS refined sugar-free brownies . Thanks so much for reading. If this information was helpful please share ☺
Yours in Health,
Dalvit-McPhillips S. A dietary approach to bulimia. Physiol Behav 1984;33:769-775
Anton SD, et al. Effects of chromium picolinate on food intake and satiety. Diabetes Technol Ther. 2008;10(5):405-12.
Docherty JP, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, exploratory trial of chromium picolinate in atypical depression: effect on carbohydrate craving. J Psychiatr Pract. 2005 Sep;11(5):302-14.
We hear all of the time “you need to drink lots of water in order to lose weight”… but why? And what's "lots"? Why should you be carrying your water bottle (glass or stainless steel please) around with you during the day? Today we are going to dive into the topic of water and weight loss and hopefully clear up any confusion.
Like every other health and nutrition topic, there are mixed views on this issue. Some say that the moisture content of our food is high enough and we don't need to focus on water consumption but simply drink when we are thirsty. Others say that if we don't drink enough there is no way our fat cells can break down (a process called lipolysis) and as a result we cannot lose any weight.
It is important to note: Consumption of unsweetened (non-caloric) beverages did NOT have a benefit similar to water. Take home: Drinking 2 liters of diet soda, diet iced tea, etc. does not produce the same benefit as drinking “plain” water.
Although these studies seem promising as to why it is important that consume more than 1 liter of water per day, these studies do not demonstrate causation. As we’ve talked about in previous posts, it is difficult to control every aspect of a subject’s diet in a study for an extended time period. Methods of gathering data in these studies were typically a 24-hour recall on a scheduled basis (i.e. 2-months, 6-months, 12-months.)
Due to the nature of the study that would be needed to prove causation (that drinking more water actually CAUSED weight loss – regardless of how minute) this may be the most accurate research we can conduct at this time.
Although we cannot say with 100% certainty that drinking more water (approximately 2 liters per day) will have added benefit in terms of weight loss we do know that it could likely be beneficial and will not hinder weight loss.
I recommend that my clients consume 2 liters of water per day for two reasons:
First, we often mistake thirst for hunger (I’m sure you’ve all heard of this before). Have you ever experienced cravings for foods like grapes or a juicy apple? This is very likely a signal that your body is really craving hydration. You can often tell whether it’s a food or water craving based solely on the foods you’re craving. If you’re craving salty chips, it is unlikely that you’re really craving water since the moisture content of chips is extremely miniscule. Next time you have a craving, drink 500 ml of cold water and wait 20 minutes. This is often the key to feeling satisfied.
If we are focused on consuming 2 liters of water per day, we are likely replacing sugar-sweetened or non-caloric beverages (this includes Mio, Crystal Light and any of those drink mixes) in our diet with water. Replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with water will absolutely result in a decrease in body weight over time but what about non-caloric beverages? Many non-caloric beverages (i.e. diet drinks) are sweetened with artificial sweeteners, which can have a major impact on our population of good gut bacteria. If you remember from this post, having a robust population of good bacteria in our gut is extremely important if we are trying to maintain a healthy weight.
Tip: I don't typically recommend that any of my clients with digestive disorders drink water with their meals. Drinking water with meals can hinder the digestive process in many people due to its impact on digestive enzymes. Keep your liquid consumption to 30 minutes prior to or 30 minutes following a meal for optimal digestion.
In case you needed another reason to stay hydrated - Hydration status is linked tightly to mood. If you remember from this post, studies show that even slight dehydration can increase feelings of depression in some people.
We must also remember that the major ways our body detoxes is through urination, defecation and sweating - all which rely on adequate hydration levels to occur. If we are not drinking enough water (and the "enough" can be different for many people depending on climate, activity level, etc.) these detox pathways are hindered, which can lead to suboptimal health status. You will want your urine to be a light yellow color - not clear or dark yellow. It may sound crazy but monitoring the color of your urine can be a simple and effective way of monitoring your hydration status!
How much water do you drink each day? Share in the comments below. And don't forget - if you have any questions that you'd like to be answered, please don't hesitate to submit them here!
Yours in Health,
I have many clients who are sensitive to nightshade vegetables. Nightshades, for those of you who don't know, include potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers and all of the spices that are derived from these foods. This recipe has been adapted from the Merit and Fork website (I am a lazy cook, so I've shortened a few steps and omitted some ingredients).
Bacon gives a wonderful flavour to everything (just make sure if you're following a gluten-free diet that you purchase gluten-free bacon). This recipe will take you all of 30 minutes from start to finish so use tonight to get a batch of soup prepared and ready to go for the weekend. Tip: make recipes that you LOVE for the weekend so you are less likely to get off track with your nutrition.
Part of the reason why people feel so confused when it comes to nutrition and what they should eat for optimal wellness is because there are SO many myths out there that just won't die. Today I want to go through 5 of the top myths I hear in my practice and discuss WHY they must be busted!
This belief has been engrained in us for a long time – too much protein is bad for your kidneys. A high protein diet is only bad for your kidneys IF you already have kidney disease. When our body metabolizes protein there is more waste product that must be filtered through the kidneys (compared to fat and carbohydrate) and this is where the strain on our kidneys comes from. However, if your kidneys are functioning normally you do not need to worry!
This is an important myth to bust because higher protein diets can be very helpful for people looking to lose weight. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein for adults is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, which in my experience with clients is far too low. Protein has the highest thermic effect (meaning we actually BURN calories digesting it) and it has the highest satiety factor (meaning we feel fuller longer). So doesn’t it make sense that we should capitalize on this and increase our protein intake when trying to lose weight (1)?
Current evidence is now suggesting that a range of 1.2-1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day for adults is more of an ideal target in order to achieve optimal health. So unless you have kidney disease, forget about this myth and include a protein-rich food source with all of your meals and snacks to stay full, increase the thermic effect of your food and maintain your lean muscle mass while losing fat (2).
This is a myth that has come into the media spotlight in the last year. We have been brainwashed into thinking that consuming fat in our foods will turn directly into fat on our bodies, however this is not the case at all (so please stop ordering your skim milk latte – see more about dairy fat here).
This war on dietary fat started in the 1960s when a University of Minnesota physiologist named Ancel Keys published an analysis “proving” the link between dietary fat consumption and heart disease. The unfortunate truth about this analysis (that we later learned) was that Keys had selected the data for his study that supported his hypothesis rather than including all the available data (this worked out to be data from 6 countries instead of the 22 countries available).
In terms of fat intake and health we just need to look at the type of fat we are consuming. It is agreed upon by everyone that trans fats are not good for us. Trans fats on the label appear as “partially hydrogenated oil” – and I bet you’ve seen this in your peanut butter (along with icing sugar and some other not-so-healthy ingredients). If you replace your traditional oil and sugar-added peanut butter for natural peanut butter (ingredients: peanuts) you can avoid this nasty trans fat.
Saturated fats like butter and coconut oil have also been demonized in the past, however these fats are perfectly fine and I recommend using coconut oil and butter or clarified butter for cooking regularly.
The healthiest fats are omega-3 fats, which are very anti-inflammatory in our body. Remember – inflammation is the building block of many chronic diseases so including foods that can decrease inflammation in the body is extremely helpful (read more about inflammation and food here). Some great sources of omega-3 fats are fatty fish like salmon, herring, mackerel and trout. Tip: make sure your salmon is wild caught Pacific salmon – these fish are fed their natural diet (including omega-3-rich algae) versus farmed Atlantic salmon, which are often fed fish pellets containing genetically modified corn and soy.
Long story short, fat IS healthy for us and without adequate amounts of dietary fat we would run into many health problems. Dietary fat plays many key roles in our body, including:
I recommend including the right types of fat in every meal for optimal health and getting rid of any and all “fat-free” products in your home.
Weight loss is 80% nutrition and only 20% exercise. I recommend that my clients exercise for all of the great benefits exercise has on the body but weight loss is not one of them. Believe it or not, for some of my clients I don’t recommend exercising at all (leisure walks and gentle stretching not included).
Exercise can be helpful for so many people, however if we lead an already stressful lifestyle, exercise can do more harm than good. When we exercise intensely it puts stress on the body. If we are already stressed and our cortisol (stress hormone) levels are high then exercise can just drive our cortisol production even higher!
A chronic low calorie diet also puts stress on the body. Remember, the number one priority our body has is to keep us alive. When we restrict calories far below what our body needs to function optimally, it causes a great deal of stress and this can also raise our cortisol levels leading to more fat storage as a protection mechanism.
So let’s put the two together: let’s eat LESS and exercise MORE to achieve our goal weight. This sounds like a huge cortisol bomb to me. Instead, eat MORE of the good stuff that your body needs to function optimally and make exercise FUN and only do it when you’re in a relaxed state (hint: you are not relaxed at 5 am after 6 hours of sleep – don’t worry – I’ve been there and done that so you don’t have to).
The studies that we’ve heard outlined in popular news headlines are all epidemiological in nature (what the heck does that mean?). These epidemiological studies look at large numbers of people to determine whether or not there is any association between their diet and their risk of dying or developing a health condition after a certain number of years.
Epidemiological studies should only be used to form a hypothesis – they do NOT determine causation. If you were a participant in this study you would receive something that’s called a “food frequency questionnaire” every few months/years to fill out. Food frequency questionnaires look like this:
I don’t know about you, but I can hardly remember what I ate two days ago so I definitely couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve eaten something in the past 3-6 months or even worse, the last year! We are unable to perform a randomized controlled trial with a group of humans (half fed animal fats and half fed vegetable fats) in order to measure their health status long-term because this is extremely unethical. So at this time this is the best technique for determining whether or not a relationship exists between dietary patterns and various health conditions but it definitely does NOT determine causation.
What we have to remember is that the QUALITY of the animal fat matters and this adds another level of complexity to this nutrition myth. The saying “you are what you eat” really comes into play with the animals we eat. Animals are only as nutritious as the food they eat – meaning if the cows we eat are fed a feed of genetically modified corn it is not going to be nearly as nutritious as would be a cow fed its natural diet of grass. We will talk more about grass-fed versus grain-fed in a future post but for now just remember, grass-fed beef or pasture-raised animals are much healthier than conventionally farmed animals. Tip: If you are eating a good quality meat from a grass-fed cow, eating the fat is absolutely fine and healthy for us. If you're eating a piece of meat from a grain-fed cow, I recommend trimming off some of the fat. Again, we will discuss why in a future post.
It is true that eggs contain cholesterol, but the impact of the dietary cholesterol in eggs on our blood cholesterol is negligible and there is no legitimate link between dietary cholesterol and the incidence of heart disease.
The truth is, our liver makes 3-6 times more cholesterol than we can get from eating eggs.
Cholesterol has been demonized for so long and the reality of the situation is that we NEED cholesterol for optimal health.
Some of the major roles of cholesterol in the body include:
Worried about your blood cholesterol levels? Instead of worrying about eggs, take these steps to improve your blood work:
I hope our discussion today helps you bust some of these popular nutrition myths and you can make some changes in your diet today to start optimizing your health.
Yours in Health,
Probiotics have been named the future of preventive medicine and disease treatment. Over 100 trillion microbes live in your intestines right now and they are responsible for so many beneficial processes within our bodies, from proper digestion to boosting our immune system.
Probiotics are non-disease causing bacteria that live in our intestines. They produce vitamins (B6, B12 and K2), short chain fatty acids, aid in digestion and absorption of our food (including minerals magnesium, calcium and iron) and help prevent inflammation and infection (fighting off bad bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli).
The more strains (types) of bacteria you have in your gut, the better.
In our intestines there is a constant battle between the good and bad gut bacteria and the key is for the good bacteria to always outnumber the bad bacteria. When there are more bad bacteria than good bacteria in our intestines we have something called gut dysbiosis. Gut dysbiosis can lead to many issues, which we will discuss later.
Two major known benefits of probiotics are digestive health and immune support but research is emerging in the area of probiotics and obesity. We will cover digestive health separately in the next couple of weeks so for today we will just focus on immunity and obesity.
Over 70% of our immune system is housed in our gut. This immune system is called GALT, which stands for gut-associated lymphoid tissue and it works by helping to protect the body from invasion of bad bacteria.
If you’re prone to developing urinary tract infections, eczema or allergies, a good quality probiotic can help. The good gut bacteria form a sort of shield that prevents pathogens from adhering to the intestinal wall, which helps to keep us healthy.
Let’s look at some of the data:
Studies have already demonstrated that the intestinal flora of obese individuals differs from that of thin people. One hypothesis for this relationship is linked to consumption of dietary fibre, suggesting that thin individuals consume more fibre than overweight individuals. Foods containing large amounts of fibre (prebiotics) act as food for good gut bacteria so naturally, if we consume more prebiotics we are going to be able to better support a robust population of good gut bacteria and in turn, starve off the bad. As we discussed last week, a diet high in sugar feeds bad bacteria and starves the good.
Another hypothesis is linked to the relationship between an imbalance of good and bad gut bacteria and inflammation. As we discussed last week, inflammation often causes a halt in weight loss and can even promote weight gain through insulin resistance.
A third hypothesis is that our gut bacteria can influence glucose and fat metabolism, which directly impacts our weight and likelihood of becoming obese (1).
“According to Angelo Tremblay, probiotics may act by altering the permeability of the intestinal wall. By keeping certain proinflammatory molecules from entering the bloodstream, they might help prevent the chain reaction that leads to glucose intolerance, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.” (2)
The number of human studies linking probiotic intake to obesity is limited at this time, however it is a promising area of research and the relationship will only continue to get clearer.
Remember – not all probiotics are created equal. Probiotics can contain many different strains and number of colony forming units (CFUs). There is no magic number for amounts of CFUs in a probiotic but some researchers believe you need a minimum of 2 billion CFUs for at least a 2 week period in order to get maximum benefits.
On the label you will want to look for
If there are just two words (ex. Bifidobacterium longum) with no strain designation afterwards, it could be any one type of hundreds of bacteria. This is often a red flag when choosing a probiotic because it demonstrates that the company is either unaware of which particular strains exist in the supplement or they do not realize the importance of distinguishing the strain.
You’re going to want to choose a probiotic that is multi-strain. Some of the most popular probiotics in supplements today are:
Lactobacillis acidophilus (this bacteria readily colonizes on the intestinal wall and supports nutrient absorption and assists with digestion)
Bifidobacterium longum (this bacteria helps maintain the integrity of the gut lining – remember, inflammation occurs when foreign particles crosses the gut barrier and enter the bloodstream) *Fun Fact: This is one of the first strains of bacteria to colonize after birth.
Bifidobacterium bifidum (this bacteria is essential for the proper breakdown of carbohydrates, fats and protein)
*Tip: For all you travellers out there – look for a probiotic containing Lactobacillis rhamnosus to help prevent travellers diarrhea.
This is an unfair generalization however when my clients have been on antibiotics, I would estimate that 95% of them had no idea that it would be beneficial to take a probiotic following their course of antibiotics. With the frequency of antibiotic use in the world today, a probiotic protocol following a course of antibiotics has GOT to be put into place.
Recommendation: Consume a serving of fermented foods daily for a good maintenance dose of probiotics. After a course of antibiotics consume a good quality, multi-strain probiotic for at least two weeks after finishing the treatment.
Caution: Probiotics should not be taken by anyone who is immunocompromised. Please consult your physician before taking a probiotic.
Believe it or not, you can actually send a sample to the American Gut Project for a full analysis of your gut microbes through stool analysis. With the population of your gut bacteria playing such a huge role in our health, why not see what's actually going on in there?
Hope you found today's post informative. Keep checking back - over the next few weeks we will go over everything you need to know about housing a robust population of beneficial bacteria!
Yours in Health,