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,
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,
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.
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 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.
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I hate to toot my own horn... but I must say, these are very likely the BEST whole food treat I've ever made! It took 3 batches to get it perfect (and the taste testing process was tough) but I think it is finally ready to be shared (oh the things I do for you guys)!
These brownies have a peanut butter cup twist and will make your tastebuds dance with delight! The best part? They are completely free of refined white sugar and are also gluten free AND dairy free (for my food sensitivity sufferers and die-hard primal eaters out there).
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,