Multivitamins: Are They Really a Waste of Money?

Multivitamins: Are They Really a Waste of Money?

Are you one of the many people who feels that multivitamins are an “insurance policy” for your health? Do you take the very popular “Jack of all trades” of the supplement world?

Or, have you been told that they’re not worth anything, and just make expensive pee?

I’m spilling the truth in today’s post.


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Mindfulness and Meditation...Do They Really Work?

mindfulness

So there’s a lot of talk these days about mindfulness, being mindful and meditating. So why the big fuss?

Well...they do actually work. For real! The fact is, science shows definite health benefits for people who use mindfulness and meditation. But, before we dive in, let’s just make sure we’re on the same page when we say mindfulness and meditation.

Meditation is the ancient practice of connecting the body and mind to become more self-aware and present. It’s often used to calm the mind, ease stress, and relax the body.

Practicing mindfulness is one of the most popular ways to meditate. It’s defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”

Mindfulness meditation is well studied in terms of its health benefits. So let’s talk about a few of them below, and refer to it as mindfulness for the rest of the post.


The Link Between Mindfulness & Health = Stress Reduction

Have you heard the staggering statistics on how many doctors' visits are due to stress? Seventy-five to ninety percent! So, if you ask me, it makes a ton of sense that anything that can reduce stress can reduce health issues too. Mindfulness reduces inflammation, reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and improves sleep. All of these can have massive effects on your physical and mental health.

I'll briefly go over the research in three main areas: mood, weight, and gut health. But know that the research on the health benefits of mindfulness is branching into many other exciting new areas too.

Mindfulness for Mood

The most immediate health benefit of mindfulness is improved mood. In one study, people who took an 8-week mindfulness program had greater improvement in symptoms according to the Hamilton Anxiety Scale. They were compared with people who took a stress management program that did not include mindfulness. It seems that the mindfulness training was key to lowering symptoms.

Other studies show that mindfulness has similar effects as antidepressant medications for some people with mild to moderate symptoms of depression. While mindfulness isn’t a full-fledged cure, it can certainly help to improve moods.

Mindfulness for Weight

Studies show that people who use mind-body practices, including mindfulness, have lower BMIs (Body Mass Indices). But how can this be?

One way mindfulness is linked with lower weight is due to stress-reduction. Mindfulness can reduce stress-related and emotional overeating. It can also help reduce cravings and binge eating.

Another way it can work for weight is due to mindful eating. Mindful eating is a "non-judgmental awareness of physical and emotional sensations associated with eating." It's the practice of being more aware of food and the eating process. It's listening more deeply to how hungry and full you actually are. It's not allowing yourself to be distracted with other things while you're eating, like what's on TV or your smartphone.

People with higher mindfulness scores also reported smaller serving sizes of energy-dense foods. So it seems that more mindful eating = less junk. Mindfulness about food and eating can have some great benefits for your weight.

Mindfulness for Gut Health

Recent studies show a link between stress, stress hormones, and changes in gut microbes (your friendly bacteria and other critters that help your digestion).In theory, mindfulness-based stress reduction could be a way to help prevent negative changes in the gut's microbes.

Also, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) seems to be linked with both stress and problems with gut microbes. In one study, people with IBS who received mindfulness training showed greater reductions in IBS symptoms than the group who received standard medical care.

The research here is just starting to show us the important link between stress, gut health, and how mindfulness can help.

It’s pretty incredible that science is confirming some amazing health benefits of the ancient practice of mindfulness meditation. For moods, weight, gut health, and more.

Do you regularly include it in your life? If so, have you seen benefits? If not, would you consider trying it? Let me know in the comments below.

Herbal Teas for Relaxation

There are many relaxing herbal teas that would be great after meditation.

Try any of these by steeping in boiling water:

  • Green tea (has a bit of caffeine, or you can choose decaffeinated green tea)

  • White tea (also has a bit of caffeine, or you can choose decaffeinated white tea)

  • Rooibos tea

  • Peppermint tea (or steep fresh peppermint leaves)

  • Ginger tea (or steep slices of real ginger)

Serve & enjoy!

Need a little help with your relaxation? Check out these great Guided Meditation ‘Recipes’ (videos, apps and podcasts)

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditation

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/benefits-mindfulness-meditation/

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm

https://authoritynutrition.com/mindful-eating-guide/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341916/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4454654/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26186434


How to Make Cooking Fun

cooking

Spoiler Alert!

I like to cook!

But, maybe you don’t. And that’s totally okay. But, if you don’t love cooking, maybe I can help to make it more fun for you?

I know that sometimes I don't find cooking fun and it can seem like a chore. And I can get into a rut just like everyone else.

So that's why I've listed my best fun cooking tips for you.

1. Check out new recipes.

Sometimes just seeing the beautiful food photos and reading the recipe can spark some inspiration and fun in your kitchen.

You can head to your local bookstore or library Or look up your favourite nutritionists, chefs, bakers, and other online foodies. Maybe do a quick search on Google or Pinterest to see thousands of new ideas.

Perhaps you have some ingredients in your fridge that are just waiting to be eaten.

Pro Tip: Searching through recipes can be so fun and inspiring, and can also end up taking waaaay longer than planned. So, consider setting your timer when you start browsing. The last thing you want is to take too much time looking, that you don’t leave enough time for cooking.

2. Make grocery shopping fun and inspiring.

When you’re at the grocery store, try something that you haven’t had in a while. Is there a seasonal fruit or vegetable you haven’t had for months? What about a childhood favourite? Did you come across something totally delicious at a restaurant or get-together lately?

Or, browse around the store looking for something you haven't had before; something that is completely new to you. Be adventurous and fun. Then you can go to tip #1 to find new and inspiring recipes when you get home.

3. Keep it simple!

Sometimes when I see a great food picture, I immediately get inspired to make it. But if I look at the ingredients or instructions and they're too long, I stop. While there are times when I'm inspired and dive into a new great recipe; when I'm not all that inspired, I need to keep things simple.

A few ways to keep things simple are to:

  • Search for recipes with 10 or fewer ingredients, and five or fewer instructions;

  • Search for recipes that can be made in one pot or pan;

  • Buy ingredients that are ready to cook with (pre-washed salad greens, diced squashes, frozen vegetables, etc.)

4. Put on some music and invite someone to join you.

Do you have kids that need to learn the critical life skill of cooking? Perhaps your partner would love to join you? What about having a cooking party where everyone brings something and pitches in on the process?

5. If none of the other tips work for you, invest in some kitchen swag!

Having proper kitchen tools makes cooking so much easier and faster. When's the last time you sharpened your (our bought yourself a new) knife? Could dicing carrots with a dull knife be draining the fun from cooking? Or is blending a smoothie with a crummy blender, leaving it too chunky to enjoy, making you feel less excited to try new smoothie recipes? I know it does for me.

So you know that cooking your own food is key to healthy eating. And, yes, it can get boring from time to time. But, try one (or all) of my fun cooking tips to inspire you to get over to your kitchen and cook yourself some great dishes.


You already know your health will thank you.

Can Foods & Lifestyle Help Heartburn?

heartburn.jpg

The odds are that you or someone you know experiences heartburn. Around half of North American adults experience it at least once per month. Somewhere between 10-20% have it at least once per week! Heartburn, also known as reflux, occurs when the strong acid in your stomach creeps up into your esophagus.

It can feel like a burning sensation; hence the name heartburn. Other common symptoms include bloating, burping, difficulty swallowing, or a sore throat. Often there is a bitter or sour taste as well. Don't get me wrong, stomach acid is good! Stomach acid is essential for good health and optimal digestion.

We need the acid in our stomach to protect us against harmful microbes (i.e. bacteria) that lurk in our food and drinks. Stomach acid also helps us break down our food, and digest nutrients. But we need that acid to stay in the stomach, and not get up to our esophagus!

Stomach acid doesn't usually burn the stomach itself; this is because the stomach is protected by a layer of mucus.

But your esophagus doesn't have that same protection. It has a valve that is supposed to prevent things from going the wrong way (i.e. keep food, drink, and acid down; not allow it back up). And when your esophagus is exposed to stomach acid too often, it can cause the infamous burning, inflammation, and other potential issues.

I'm going to share a bunch of tips that may help you overcome your heartburn symptoms naturally. Of course, if symptoms last for a long time, or get worse, it's probably a good idea to see your doctor.


1. Foods to Eat and Avoid

You may notice that when you eat or drink certain things, you get heartburn soon afterward. These triggers may be different for everyone; but often include onions, garlic, chocolate, citrus, tomato, mint, spicy foods, greasy foods, coffee, carbonated drinks, or alcohol. If any of these affect you, reduce them or even try cutting them out to see if it makes a difference.

Heartburn might also result from a sneaky food intolerance. Try eliminating grains, dairy, and processed foods for a few weeks and see if that helps.

Now, you may be wondering: “If I eliminate these foods/drinks, then what can I put in their place?”

Try increasing fiber intake. Yes, this means more whole, unprocessed foods, especially veggies! In fact, potatoes may be a great addition to meals if you suffer from heartburn. Try getting at least five servings of veggies every day.

2. How and When to Eat

Sadly, a lot of us have forgotten HOW to eat. Eating isn’t just cramming food in your face and swallowing. In order for eating food to be enjoyable, satisfying and digested, you need to remember to how to eat.

  • Eat slowly.

  • Use meal times to release stress.

  • Chew your food very well. Remember what your mom always said…

  • Don’t eat meals that are too big.

And don’t eat too close to bedtime. You want to avoid lying down with a full stomach. We’re talking finishing eating 2-3 hours before lying down, so schedule your dinner or snack with this in mind.

Lifestyle Changes

Sometimes strenuous exercise can make heartburn symptoms worse. If this happens to you, then focus on low-intensity exercises like walking and cycling.

If symptoms come on as you’re lying down to sleep, try adding a pillow or two so your head is a bit higher than your stomach.

Another interesting tip is to try sleeping on your left side. Lying on your left side works because the valve that prevents the acid from leaking into your esophagus is located on the right side of the stomach. So, when you're lying on your left, the acid is away from that valve. (p.s. I’ve tried this and it really helps! My husband swears by it.)

Heartburn is a very common condition where stomach acid creeps up into the esophagus (where it’s not supposed to be).

If you suffer from symptoms of heartburn, there are many things you can do. There are foods and drinks to avoid and veggies to increase. You can eat slower, chew more thoroughly, and don't lie down within 2-3 hours of eating. Also, try low-intensity exercise and sleeping on your left side.

Try these simple, natural strategies. They can help prevent or relieve heartburn symptoms for you.

Recipe: Not Too Greasy or Spicy Baked Potatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 small bag of mini potatoes

  • 4 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Scrub potatoes and boil them until they're soft. How long will depend on their size, so check them by feeling how easily they're penetrated with a fork or knife.

  2. Drain the water and toss the potatoes with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt & pepper.

  3. Place in a roasting dish at 425F for about 15 minutes.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Don’t have mini potatoes? Use large potatoes or sweet potatoes and chop them to the size of mini potatoes.

References:


The Real Deal About Artificial Flavours

So let me ask you this: Have you looked at the ingredients on a food label lately? When was the last time you looked at the label of some of those famous brands of processed foods -  cookies, cereals, or junky snack foods?

Do you have those ingredients in your house? Do you even know what all of those ingredients are?  There are a ton of artificial, chemical, junky ingredients in foods these days.  

So if you see an ingredient called "artificial flavour," what exactly is it?

Well, for the most part, it’s a secret! Seriously! Big food companies don’t want their proprietary flavours to be known, so they’re allowed to say artificial flavour and leave the details out.

That alone gets me upset.

Seriously, the things that get hidden behind  the term artificial flavour is pretty frightening. Did you know that some of that vanilla, strawberry and raspberry artificial flavour actual comes from beavers? Not even kidding.  It's called Castoreum and it comes from a gland under their tail...yep, pretty much right beside the beaver's butt. Mmm!

But what makes me more upset is what artificial flavours represent when they're in your food.

So here's the deal...

Why use artificial flavours in a product?

When you make an apple muffin at home, what gives it the apple flavour?  Apples of course! Like real, whole, chopped or shredded apples or applesauce.

But, let’s say you’re a big food company and you’re making thousands of apple muffins every day. In a factory. On an assembly line.

How would you process the huge amount of apples that are to be chopped, grated or made into applesauce? Would you have a separate Apple Room where all the apple processing happens? What if one batch is slightly riper, or tastes slightly different from the rest? Will your customers notice a different taste?

Plus, apples are perishable - they go bad.  So how would you guarantee the apples won't go bad? (Remember the saying "it only takes one bad apple to ruin the whole bunch?").

And what if you can have an apple flavour that tastes better than using real apples? Something that makes people want to keep buying them every week.  It's true - some of the artificial flavours are engineered to give an even better taste than the real food.  Think hyper-palatable and pretty much addictive.

Companies will often opt for the easier and more profitable option like artificial flavours. Artificial flavours last longer and will be virtually identical batch after batch.  In our apple muffin example, artificial flavours used to make an apple muffin are ready to go, so you don't need to peel, cut, or worry about apples going brown, or that they're not tasting                apple-y enough.

Oh, and it’s way cheaper than using real, whole apples.

Pro Tip: If the package says flavoured in the description, then the flavour is artificial. For example, apple muffin contains at least some apple. But, apple flavoured muffin contains artificial flavour and no apple!

Safety of artificial flavours

While there are some flavours banned for use in many countries, other countries allow them. There is an approved list of flavours that are accepted to be safe, and are used by the food industry. They are considered GRAS, or “generally recognized as safe.”

Even if they are 100% safe to ingest, the mere fact that an artificial flavour is in food makes it an artificial food.  It's not a real, whole food. Having an artificial flavour as an ingredient almost defines that food to be a processed, "food-like product." Sometimes referred to as junk.

Artificial flavours in food indicate that the food, regardless of the marketing, or health claims, is not a healthy choice.

Big food companies use artificial flavours to reduce costs, make the manufacturing process simpler, reduce waste and even enhance flavour way beyond what the natural ingredient would taste like.  They are NOT added to improve the healthfulness or nutrition of the food.

Artificial flavours in the ingredient list indicate that the food is not going to optimize your health. These processed foods are most certainly junk. Sorry friends, I know it sucks.  

After minimizing my junk intake I have noticed a big change in my taste buds. So much so, that when I have something processed I have a hard time finishing it as it is always too sweet or too salty. When you eat the processed junk regularly, your taste buds get sensitized to the overly flavoured foods.  That's why a lot of time when you have a comparable, non-processed food it doesn't taste as good. You're so used to having something artifically enhanced, that the natural form just doesn't give you the same satisfaction.  And that's how those big companies get you hooked! But when you cut back, your taste buds will adjust and reset themselves so that you don't need so much sweet, salt and flavouring. And you can actually taste and enjoy the flavours of natural, whole foods.

Ditch the processed stuff and make it yourself. Your body and wallet will thank you.

And now that I've got you thinking about apples, give these apple bars a try! 

Apple+Raisin+Oatmeal+Bars.jpg

Am I Getting Enough Vitamin D?

When we think of vitamins, we think of Vitamin C or that multi-vitamin we sometimes take in the morning.  But do you ever think about Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is kinda special and pretty important too. Plus, it's difficult to get enough vitamin D; vitamin D is, therefore, a very common deficiency.

So, let's talk about how much of this critical fat-soluble vitamin we need, and how you can get enough. The three ways to vitamin D are exposure to the sun, consuming vitamin D containing foods, and through supplements.

Vitamin D.jpg

So why is vitamin D important, and how much do we need?

Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium from our food and acts like a hormone to help us build strong bones. Vitamin D can also help with immune function, cellular growth, and help to prevent mood imbalances such as depression and seasonal affective disorder.

Not getting enough vitamin D can lead to bone diseases like osteomalacia. Inadequate vitamin D can also increase your risk of heart disease, autoimmune diseases, certain cancers, and even death. The official minimum amount of vitamin D to strive for each day is merely 400-600 IU. Many experts (and myself) think that this is not nearly enough for optimal health.

To ensure you get adequate amounts of vitamin D, you can implement any combination of the three vitamin D sources mentioned above on a weekly basis.

How can I get enough vitamin D from the sun?

Your skin makes vitamin D when it's exposed to the sun; that's why it's referred to as the 'Sunshine Vitamin.' But how much vitamin D your skin makes depends on many things. Location, season, clouds, clothing, all affect the amount of vitamin D your skin can produce from the sun. One standard recommendation is to get about 5–30 minutes of sun exposure between 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. to the face, arms, legs, or back. This should be done without sunscreen, at least twice a week.

Of course, we should always avoid sunburns and of course in some locations (and seasons of the year) it's not easy to get sun exposure. (hey fellow Canadians...this is a big problem for us!) 

I used to have a big problem with seasonal affective disorder until I started taking Vitamin D in the Fall/Winter months.   I had no issues in the Spring and Summer as I spend loads of time outdoors.  But living in Canada in the winter means we don't have a lot of access to sunshine and if it is sunny, it's entirely too cold to be outside with bare skin.

How can I get enough vitamin D from food?

Vitamin D is naturally found in fatty fish, liver, and egg yolks. And some mushrooms make vitamin D when they're exposed to the sun.

Some foods are 'fortified' (which means vitamin D has been added) with vitamin D. These include milk, some orange juices, breakfast cereals, and yogurt. It will say on the label how much vitamin D has been added per serving.

Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, you can increase absorption of it from your food if you eat it with some fat (healthy fat, of course).  Between sun exposure and food, it still may be difficult to get even the minimum of 400 IU of vitamin D each day; this is why vitamin D supplements are quite popular.

How can I get enough vitamin D from supplements?

It's easy enough to just "pop a pill" or take some cod liver oil (which also contains vitamin A). Either of these can ensure that you get the minimum amount of vitamin D, plus a bit extra.

But before you take vitamin D containing supplements, make sure you check that it won't interact with other supplements or medications you may be taking. Always read your labels, and ask a healthcare professional for advice.

Do not take more than the suggested dosage on the label of any vitamin D supplement, except under medical care.  The maximum amount recommended (for the general population) is 4,000 IU/day. Too much vitamin D can raise your blood levels of calcium (to an unsafe level), and this can affect your heart and kidneys.

The best thing, if you're concerned, is to ask your healthcare professional to do a blood test and make a recommendation about how much vitamin in supplement form is right for you. Your healthcare practitioner may recommend higher amounts of vitamin D supplementation for a short time while under their care.

Conclusion:

Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin which; many people have a hard time maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D.  There are three ways to get enough vitamin D: sun exposure, through certain foods, and in supplements.

I've given you some ideas how you can get the minimum 400-600 IU or vitamin D daily. And if you're concerned, it's best to request a blood test that tests your vitamin D levels to be sure what's right for you. Always take supplements as directed.

But what if you don't eat animal products? Well, here's some great plant-based sources of Vitamin D to add into your daily routine:

  • Mushrooms - Portobello, maitake, morel, button, and shiitake mushrooms are all good sources of vitamin D. Tip:  set them out in the sun to boost their vitamin D content! Less than a minute can make a big difference.
  • Fortified Beverages - Fortified orange juice, Almond Milk or Soy Milk. Just make sure to read the labels.
  • Fortified Cereals - lots of vegan cereals are fortified with Vitamin D. Just check the label.
  • Tofu - again, check the label as some Tofu is also fortified with Vitamin D
  • Vegan Vitamin D Supplement - so not all Vitamin D supplements are vegan. Some D3 is made from animal products and some is made from lichen. Just make sure to read the label and grab a plant-based one.

http://thewellnessbusinesshub.com/yes-nutrient-deficiencies-heres-proof-can/

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/reference/table/ref_vitam_tbl-eng.php

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-vitamin-d

https://authoritynutrition.com/vitamin-d-101/

http://neurotrition.ca/blog/brain-food-essentials-sardines

Decadent Vegan Zucchini Brownies

So it turns out I may have planted a few too many zucchini plants this year.  For the past week or so we have been picking non-stop  small baby-sized zuccs from our garden.  And I really don't mind.  I actually quite like them, but to be honest, after eating them daily, it gets a bit boring.

That is until now.

Who doesn't love brownies? And who doesn't love super-chocolatey, rich vegan brownies that are also filled with hidden veggies? 

Vegan brownies.jpg

I was actually quite surprised how well these turned out.  And if you like chocolate, you're gonna love these.  And the veggies are totally undetectable.  I would only change one thing.  Can you actually believe I found these brownies a tad too sweet? Yeah, like I was kinda shocked too.  So I think next time I will reduce the sugar by a 1/4 or 1/2 cup.  But regardless, this recipe is a definite keeper and perfect for using up all that zucchini!

Recipe: Decadent Vegan Zucchini Brownies

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2  cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chickpea flour (could use almond or coconut flour instead)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (I used 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar)
  • 1/2 coconut oil (melted)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini (don't squeeze out the liquid)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1 1/4 cups semi-sweet vegan chocolate chips (divided)

Instructions:

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper or grease well with coconut oil.
  • In a large bowl, combine sugar, oil and flour. Mix well and then use a fork to combine until the mixture looks like wet sand.
  • Add in cocoa, salt, baking soda and vanilla (if using) and continue to mix with the fork until well combined.  It will look quite dry, but don't worry, the zucchini will give it all the moisture it needs.
  • Stir in shredded zucchini until well mixed.  Add in 1 cup of chocolate chips and mix until well combined.
  • Pour batter into your pan and spread out evenly with a spatula.  Your batter will be quite dough-like, but don't worry that's the way it should be. Trust me.
  • Sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips on top of the batter.
  • Bake for 27-32 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean and the brownies are set.
  • Cool your brownies completely before cutting...if you can wait that long.
  • Serve and enjoy! And try not to eat the whole pan in one day!
vegan zucchini brownies.jpg

These brownies might just be a new favorite in my house.  I can't believe how moist and delicious they are, especially since the only real moisture comes from all the yummy zucchini.

You don't have to use chickpea flour if you don't want to.  All-purpose flour will work just fine.  I just like trying to add in additional nutrition whenever I can.  And the chickpea flour is a great way to add some protein. I mean, if you're gonna have dessert, why not make it kinda good for you too?!

Hope you enjoy them as much as we do!  I see more brownies in my future!

This recipe was adapted from a recipe found on Two Peas & Their Pod.

How Do I get off that Blood Sugar Rollercoaster?

blood sugar

Oh, blood sugar...

Does it conjure up visions of restrictive eating, diabetes medications, or insulin injections?  Blood sugar is the measure of the amount of sugar in your blood. You need the right balance of sugar in your blood to fuel your brain and muscles.

The thing is, it can fluctuate. Like A LOT.

This fluctuation is the natural balance between things that increase it; and things that decrease it. When you eat food with sugars or starches (carbs), then your digestive system absorbs sugar into your blood. When carbs are ingested and broken down into simple sugars, your body keeps blood sugar levels stable by secreting insulin. Insulin allows excess sugar to get it out of your bloodstream and into your muscle cells and other tissues for energy

So why keep my blood sugar stable?

Well, your body wants your blood sugar to be at an optimal level. It should be high enough, so you're not light-headed, fatigued, and irritable. Think 'Hangry'. But, it should be low enough that your body isn't scrambling to remove excess from the blood.

When blood sugar is too low, this is referred to as hypoglycemia. And when blood sugar is too high, it is referred to as hyperglycemia.  Prolonged periods of elevated blood sugar levels (chronic hyperglycemia) can lead to insulin resistance.

Ok, so what's insulin resistance? Insulin resistance is when your cells get so used to the excess insulin that they start ignoring (resisting) it, and that keeps your blood sugar levels too high. Therefore, insulin resistance and chronic hyperglycemia can eventually lead to diabetes.

So let’s look at how you can optimize your food and lifestyle to keep your blood sugar stable.

Foods for stable blood sugar

The simplest thing to do to balance your blood sugar is to reduce the number of refined sugars and starches you eat.  To do this, you can start by dumping sweet drinks and having smaller portions of dessert.

Eating more fiber is helpful too. Fiber helps to slow down the amount of sugar absorbed from your meal; it reduces the "spike" in your blood sugar level.  Fiber is found in plant-based foods (as long as they are eaten in their natural state, processing foods removed fiber). Eating nuts, seeds, and whole fruits and veggies (not juiced) is a great way to increase your fiber intake.

Hot Tip: Cinnamon has been shown to help cells increase insulin sensitivity. Not to mention it’s a delicious spice that can be used in place of sugar. (HINT: It’s in the recipe below)

Lifestyle for stable blood sugar

Exercise also helps to improve your insulin sensitivity; this means that your cells don't ignore insulin's call to get excess sugar out of the blood.  Not to mention, when you exercise, your muscles are using up that sugar they absorbed from your blood. But you already knew that exercise is healthy, didn't you?

Would you believe that stress affects your blood sugar levels too? Yup! Stress hormones increase your blood sugar levels. If you think about the "fight or flight" stress response, what fuel do your brain and muscles need to "fight" or "flee"? Sugar! When you are stressed signals are sent to release stored forms of sugar back into the bloodstream, increasing blood sugar levels.  So, try to reduce the stress you're under and manage it more effectively. Simple tips are meditation, deep breathing, or gentle movement.

Sleep goes hand-in-hand with stress. When you don't get enough quality sleep, you tend to release stress hormones, have a higher appetite, and even get sugar cravings. Sleep is crucial, often overlooked, factor when it comes to keeping your blood sugar stable. Make sleep more of a priority - it will do your blood sugar (and the rest of your physical and mental health) good.

Conclusion:

Your body is on a constant 24-hour quest to keep your blood sugar stable. The body has mechanisms in place to do this, but those mechanisms can get tired (resistant).  Long-term blood sugar issues can spell trouble.

There are many nutrition and lifestyle approaches you can take to help keep your blood sugar stable. Minimizing excessive carbs, and eating more fiber, exercising, reducing stress, and improving sleep are all key to having stable blood sugar (and overall good health).

Recipe (blood sugar balancing): Cinnamon Apples

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 apples, chopped
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Place chopped apples into a small saucepan with 2 tbsp water. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. After about 5 minutes the apples will become slightly soft, and water will be absorbed.
  2. Add 1 tbsp coconut oil. Stir apples and oil together.
  3. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring every minute or so.
  4. Add cinnamon, salt, and vanilla. Stir well.
  5. Cook for another few minutes, stirring until the apples reach your desired softness!

Serve and enjoy!

Tip: Keeping the peel on increases the fiber, which is even better for stabilizing your blood sugar.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/15-ways-to-lower-blood-sugar/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/research-review-blood-sugar

Adrenal Fatigue: What Is It?

Adrenal Fatigue.jpg

Stressed? Tired? Craving sugar? Can’t sleep?

All of these can be related to the constant stress we feel in our lives. We know that stress can have a huge impact on our health and wellness. And, since your adrenal glands produce stress hormones, adrenal fatigue (or “HPA Axis Dysregulation,”) is a popular theme lately.

Your adrenal glands look like walnuts that live on top of both of your kidneys. These important glands produce many hormones, including stress hormones.  But what happens when they become “overworked?”

You’ve heard of “adrenaline junkies,” right?

Well, Adrenaline and Cortisol are the stress hormones that give you the commonly known adrenaline rush; when you're totally alert and living in the moment. This feeling is known as your body's "fight or flight" response.  Some people (maybe you?) just love that intense feeling.

The release of hormones in the fight or flight response is your body's normal reaction to stress.  Stress can sometimes be positive, like when it helps you swerve and prevent a crash.After a short time, the flight or flight response dissipates, your body goes back to normal, and all is good.

But what would happen if you felt constant stress?

Like all day, every day? Like “chronic” stress?

It wouldn't feel like an awesome (once-in-a-while) "rush," anymore would it?  And what do you think happens to your poor adrenal glands when they’re constantly workingThey’d get fatigued, right?

Do I have adrenal fatigue?

When your adrenal glands start getting tired of secreting stress hormones day in and out, you can start getting other symptoms.  Symptoms like fatigue, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, weight loss or gain, joint pain, sugar cravings, even frequent infections like colds and the flu are signs that your adrenals are overworked.

First off, I have to tell you that there aren't medically accepted blood tests for adrenal fatigue. In fact, it's not recognized by most medical professionals until the point when your adrenals are so fatigued they almost stop working. At that point, the official diagnoses of Adrenal Insufficiency or Addison's Disease may apply.

However, if you do have symptoms, you should see your doctor to rule out other conditions. He or she may even be open to discussing adrenal fatigue, or at the very least, wellness strategies that can help to reduce your stress (and symptoms).

What to do if I have these symptoms?

There are many actions you can take to reduce your stress and improve your health and energy levels.  Ideally, if you think stress is starting to burn you out, stress reduction is key. There are tons of ideas how you can reduce your stress. My favourites are meditation, walking in nature, light exercise, more sleep, or taking a bath.

Of course, I also recommend reducing sugar and processed food intake and eating more fruits and vegetables. Better nutrition can only help your body. So go ahead and do it.

Conclusion:

Your adrenal glands produce hormones in response to stress. After long-term daily stress, they may get tired.  Adrenal fatigue is a controversial disease that doesn’t have a true diagnostic test, nor specific telltale symptoms.

The most important thing you can do is to get tested to rule out other potential conditions. You can also try stress reduction techniques like meditation, walks in nature, light exercise, more sleep, or even a lovely bath.

Recipe (Stress-reducing bath salt): Lavender Bath Salts

For 1 bath

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups epsom salts
  • 10 drops lavender essential oil

Instructions:

  • As you're running your warm bath water, add ingredients to the tub.
  • Mix until dissolved.

Enjoy your stress-reducing bath!

Tip: You can add a tablespoon of dried lavender flowers.

References:

https://www.thepaleomom.com/adrenal-fatigue-pt-1/

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/adrenal-fatigue-real/