To Scale Or Not To Scale
When I first opened my private practice I knew one thing had to change – there would no longer be a scale in my office.
There are two schools of thought on this issue and for a long time I thought that weighing yourself on a regular basis was a good way to keep you "honest" and "on track" because, let's be real, sometimes we put more food into our mouths in the run of a day than we think we do.
We hear it all of the time “the scale doesn’t lie”… but I began to think – it does lie. It lies because A) SO many things impact the number on the scale that are not related to the food we consume or the exercise we engaged in and B) it does not measure all of the amazing things we did for ourselves and for our health.
For some people (and I commend you – I do not fit into this camp) stepping on the scale and seeing a number looking back at you elicits no emotional response. It is simply a number – a data point – that is forgotten about the moment you leave the room. For others, this number is sitting in your mind for the rest of the day. Every time you put something into your mouth, every time you make a conscious food choice, you think of that number.
I would have clients come into my office and they would talk about how proud they are of themselves that they were consistent with a goal they had for the week. Then they would step on the scale and it might be the same, or MAYBE it even went UP! What the heck!?! *&#%@&$
“I worked SO hard this week. I worked out and EVERYTHING”
The next 5 minutes is a conversation consisting of reminding my client about the things they were so proud of themselves for just moments before and listing all of the things that can make that number on the scale go up that are NOT related to food at all:
And this is just a few – there is so much more that changes that number and those little things, and the resulting inflation of the number on the scale can have such a HUGE impact on our mood throughout the day.
After thinking about this more and more, I began asking my clients how they would feel if they reached all of the goals they verbalized (one of them typically being “feeling awesome in my clothes”) but the number on the scale didn’t change. I got some interesting responses. Usually a pause, some contemplation and most of the time they would tell me that it wouldn’t really matter.
So if we could reach our goals separate from the number on the scale… why will we continue to monitor the number?
The reason we monitor that number is because it gives us a concrete way of saying “good” or “bad” (I try not to use this verbiage) and that we are either moving closer or further away from our goals.
But we KNOW that this is not the case. We know that you can change your body composition drastically without a huge change in the number on the scale.
People would admittedly do things on the day they would come to see me that did not reflect a healthy way of living – skipping meals, restricting water, etc. This was all in hopes of seeing the number on the scale go down.
After experiencing this time and time again, I decided that it was finally time…. I had to ditch the scale for GOOD!
So you might be wondering… if there is no scale how do you know if what you’re suggesting is actually working?
My number one focus with clients is how they feel – their mood, energy levels, digestion, sleep, etc. These are the areas we look at first. And let’s be honest… when our weight changes, we feel it! We can feel it in our clothes regardless of what the number on the scale says!
So why do we need that little tool to measure our progress if we can feel it in SO many different ways… the answer is, we don’t! I give you full permission to BREAK UP WITH YOUR SCALE! Break up with it forever – it serves you no purpose. It cannot define you, it cannot give you an accurate reflection of your eating habits, it cannot tell you whether or not you’re getting closer to your goal, it cannot BE your goal.
Take some time and decide whether or not your scale is contributing positively to your life. Even if your goal is to lose “that last 10 pounds”… you don’t need the scale to tell you when you’ve gotten there.
What do you think? Does your scale positively contribute to your life? Please leave your comments or questions below.
Yours in Health,
I often talk with my clients about the impact that restrictive diets have on our metabolic rate but today I want to dive a little bit deeper. What we don’t often think of is the impact that restrictive dieting has on us psychologically. I’ve heard from clients time and time again that when they “diet” all they think about is food – that it becomes more difficult to eat healthy when they actually FOCUS on it. But why is this the case? Shouldn't it be EASIER because we are actually putting effort and thought into our food choices? Not necessarily.
Let’s use the low ethical standards of past scientific studies to our benefit today and look closely at the starvation study of 1944. Two researchers, Ancel Keys and Josef Brozek from the University of Minnesota, led this 6-month study.
Now before you feel like you’re back in school reading research studies… I promise I will summarize this and that my story does have a point.
In order to be included in this study, subjects had to be physically and mentally healthy males that got along well with others in difficult situations. After surveying over 200 volunteers, 36 men were selected for the study.
During the initial 3 months of the study, participants ate their normal diets and their personality and eating patterns were monitored. The following 6 months required that the men cut their food intake in half, resulting in a weight loss of about 25% of their total body weight. This may sound drastic… but this is something that we do to ourselves everyday when we decide to finally “commit” to a “diet”. We voluntarily restrict our food intake to get the weight loss results that we want. And this behavior has significant implications on our mental health.
In this study, the men went from consuming 3200 calories per day to consuming 1570… which, if any of you have ever followed a restrictive diet before, you know that this is quite standard, right? 1200 calories per day for women and 1500 calories per day for men? “Standard”.
Throughout the dieting phase, researchers measured both the psychological and physiological changes that occurred in the men.
During this phase some of the normal things that you would expect to happen to dieters occurred: their strength, stamina, body temperature, sex drive and heart rate decreased. The men also became “obsessed” with food, meaning they would dream, read, smell but not eat and talk about food. These men were unable to concentrate on their daily tasks because that brainpower was spent dreaming about and thinking about food.
Following the diet phase, men were given the opportunity to consume food with no restriction for 3 months. The ability to eat with no restriction caused some of the men to binge, even though all of them had been warned against it. Keep in mind, these are men who before dieting were mentally and physically healthy and now, because of dieting, are engaging in binge-style eating behaviors.
Many other things also happened in this study – if you’re interested in reading about it in more detail, click here.
There are a number of things that we can learn from this study
There are already so many strikes against restrictive dieting, from metabolic slow down to unwanted psychological changes but it continues to be a path that is attractive to many people because of the drive for quick results. As I will continue to say everyday, the best way of eating for you is the way of eating that is maintainable forever. This means a way of eating that leaves you feeling satisfied, nourished and energized. You may be reading this right now thinking “this doesn’t exist” but I promise you, it does – you just haven’t found it yet.
I hope that if you were on the fence between going back on a restrictive diet and looking more at making a lifestyle change that this helps sway you in the direction of the latter. As always, if you have questions or comments, please leave them in the comment section below!
Yours in Health,
For the longest time I had been using non-stick pans for cooking, especially during my low fat eating days when it allowed me to put no oil in the pan and still cook a perfect egg white omelette (insert eye roll here).
These pans were covered with the famous Teflon® coating. Teflon is the brand name for the man-made chemical polytetrafluoroethylene, which has been used commercially for over 50 years. Teflon is part of the perfluorynated chemical (PFC) family. Chemicals from this family have been associated with smaller birth weight babies, abnormal thyroid hormone levels, weakened immunity, elevated cholesterol and liver inflammation.
The issue arises when we heat these pans to temperatures above 500 degrees Fahrenheit because at this temperature smaller chemical fragments are released. Believe it or not, these chemical fragments that are released into the air can actually cause people to develop flu-like symptoms (called the “Teflon flu” by scientists) and can even kill pet birds (who have a more sensitive respiratory system).
But don’t worry – long term effects of regular exposure to these toxic fumes have not been studied… which in many people’s opinion makes it “safe” for use.
I won’t get off on a tangent but this is one of the issues I have with health research. If something shows not the best results in the short term (Teflon pans, artificial sweeteners, etc.) then do we really need to wait for long term research to be conducted before we make the simple switch to something that doesn’t cause these short term issues?
I recommend that people use cast iron, ceramic and stainless steel pots and pans and glass ovenproof dishes. There isn’t sufficient research on other types of Teflon-free cookware so I just prefer to stick to the basics (excuse the pun).
The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment, put together a list of what you should do if you’re still cooking with Teflon pans.
Remember that it seems like everything these days causes cancer. I often get the question from readers, “do you use a microwave?” and my answer is yes. This is a controversial topic for many people and I commend people who don’t use a microwave but to be totally honest, using a microwave allows me to eat much healthier meals because I am able to quickly reheat leftovers.
I like to think of nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices as being on a spectrum – not the best, good, better. For some of us, cooking healthy vegetables in a Teflon pan may be a good option compared to eating food cooked in your deep fryer at home or microwave dinners and that is PERFECT. I wanted to write this post not to scare you but to bring awareness to the issue.
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,
If you saw my post on the Grounded Health Facebook page earlier this week (follow me here), you know that changes in our basal metabolic rate (how many calories our body burns at rest) can make a significant difference in whether or not we gain or lose weight over time. So, if we can increase our basal metabolic rate (BMR), and as a result burn more calories throughout the day, we are more likely to maintain a healthy weight. This is great, but how can we do it? The major way we can increase our BMR is to increase the amount of lean muscle we have BUT we can also engage in activities to increase our brown fat to increase our BMR as well (I know, increase fat to burn calories, sounds backwards, right?).
Today I wanted to talk all about this type of fat - where we can find it and how we can possibly increase the amount we have.
Most of us think of fat as the storage tissue made up of any excess food we consume; however this isn’t necessarily the whole truth. White fat is the type of fat that is used to store the extra calories that our bodies don’t use over time. Brown fat is metabolically active, meaning it actually BURNS calories throughout the day. As little as 2 ounces of brown fat is capable of burning up to several hundred calories per day, which is the equivalent of about 30-minutes of jogging.
So what does this mean? If we can have more brown fat we don’t have to exercise? Not exactly – but it does mean that you are more likely to maintain a healthy weight.
The major role of brown fat is to generate heat, which is why it is found in higher amounts in newborn babies and in hibernating mammals. As we age, the amount of brown fat we have decreases. It is estimated that most adults have only 50-60 grams of brown fat, which is located mostly around the neck, collarbones and along the spine. In addition to increasing our BMR, higher rates of brown fat are also associated with improved insulin sensitivity, making this area promising for future research in blood sugar management.
Aside from burning calories, exercise also helps us convert white fat to brown fat. One study in the Journal of Disease Models and Mechanisms reported that working out triggers the release of the enzyme irisin in mice, which helps turn white fat into brown fat.
Human studies on exercise and brown fat also appear to be promising, suggesting that exercise increased the conversion of white fat into brown fat in men training on an exercise bike over a 12-week training period.
Literally chilling out can help to increase the activity of brown fat in humans. A published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation had 12 men with lower-than-average amounts of brown fat sit in a 63°F room for 2 hours per day over a 6-week period. The men burned an additional 108 calories in the cold compared to normal indoor temperatures. After the 6-week period, the men burned an extra 289 calories in the cold, causing the researchers to hypothesize that the lower temperatures increased the conversion of white fat to brown.
In another study, subjects took part in their normal daily activities but they slept in a private room where the air temperature was controlled. During the first month of the study, the temperatures in the rooms were set at 24º C, which was considered to be the temperature at which the body did not have to work to either gain or lose heat. For the second month, the temperature was decreased to 19º C, for the third month it was increased back to 24º C and for the final month it was increased again to 27º C.
Throughout the entire study, researchers measured the subjects’ brown fat using a cold-stimulated PET/CT scan. This method of measurement allowed them to detect changes in muscle and fat.
Results of the study showed that the cooler temperature (19º C) increased brown fat activity in the subjects by approximately 30-40% and the warmer temperature (27º C) decreased brown fat activity in the subjects below baseline.
If you want to start incorporating some form of “chilling out” in your life, you can lower your thermostat to the mid-60s or below, as this may be enough to stimulate some brown fat activity.
You could also try exercising in a cooler temperature (62-64°F). During this time make sure your skin is exposed to allow sweat to evaporate to help keep you cool. Refrain from turning up the heat when you’re exercising to increase the amount you sweat. Increasing the temperature when exercising will actually decrease brown fat activity.
Want to kill two birds with one stone? Enjoy an ice bath (I use the word “enjoy” very loosely here) after a tough workout to help with muscle recovery and with brown fat activation!
Eat More Apples
Apple peels contain a compound called ursolic acid, which was responsible for boosting brown fat in mice. Other foods that contain ursolic acid include cranberries, blueberries, plums, and prunes, as well as the herbs oregano, thyme, lavender, holy basil, peppermint leaves. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, the results of animal studies cannot be transferred directly to humans but they do warrant further research.
Develop A Healthy Sleep Routine
Getting enough high-quality sleep can help to increase the amount of brown fat we have, as proper melatonin production has an influence on the production of brown fat. Do you have a good sleep routine? Learn more about improving your sleep hygiene here.
Refrain From Eating Too Little
According to a study published in the journal Cell, not only does eating too few calories have many undesirable health benefits but it also prevents white fat from turning brown.
The exact impact these activities have on the amount of brown fat we have is impossible to know at this time, however any increase in brown fat activity will increase your caloric burn at rest.
Are you already engaging in some of the behaviors above? Which ones could you easily incorporate in your life? Leave your answers in the comments below.
Do you have questions that you’d like answered? Click here to ask the RD!
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,
So often we prepare particular foods simply because it's a habit or we feel as though we would be missing something if they weren't on our plate (think starchy carbohydrates: pasta, rice, bread, potatoes, etc.) They can be filler foods that aren't overly nutrient dense but we eat them regularly anyway because they are easy to prepare and require minimal thought. What if I told you that you could swap out rice occasionally in place of cauliflower and you may not even notice?
Cauliflower is a great source of vitamin C (yes, the vitamin that oranges are famous for), vitamin K, folate and fibre (just to name a few). As an added bonus, cauliflower is lower in calories per serving than rice, meaning we get a larger portion (and let's be real - larger portions are always better).
Feel free to spice up your cauliflower rice however you'd like - this is just a simple recipe for quick and easy preparation! Want to spice up your dish even more? Add garlic, onions, shredded carrots, eggs, coconut amino (or soy sauce) and chopped chicken breast for a healthier spin on chicken fried rice.
This breakfast "cookie" is not a typical sweet cookie (although it does contain a touch of dark chocolate because it's cool to have chocolate at breakfast 😉 ). I recommend making these cookies ahead of time for quick grab-and-go breakfast for yourself and your children.
[yumprint-recipe id='26']I recommend adding a protein source to this breakfast (hardboiled egg, plain Greek yogurt, etc.) to complete the meal and to help keep you fuller, longer!
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.
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.