The Real Deal About Artificial Flavours

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.  

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3 Common Preservatives You're Eating Right Now

Preservatives.jpg

So what's the big deal about preservatives anyways?  Well, let's talk about a few common ones and why you may want to avoid them.

A food preservative is a substance added to foods to make them last longer, you know, preserves them. Preservatives are added to foods that go bad quickly and have found themselves in all kinds of products in our grocery stores.

Preservatives work to preserve food in a few different ways. Some prevent the growth of
bacteria and mold. Others prevent delicate fats from going rancid. And there are so many preservatives out there. While preservatives added to foods should be
“approved,” this doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to be safe for everyone always. And it doesn’t mean that the food is healthy either.

Foods with preservatives are more-processed, less-nutritious foods to begin with - not exactly
health foods. So, even if you don’t mind preservatives, you probably should cut down on these
kinds of foods, anyway.  So, let’s learn more about a few common food preservatives.

Salt

That’s right - salt. Salt was the original preservative.

FUN FACT: The term “salary” is from the Latin word for salt. It’s thought that it came from the
ancient Romans who would pay employees, allowing them to buy salt. Either that, or it was for
their work conquering and/or guarding salt mines/roads. Either way, salt was sought because of its ability to preserve food before the advent of refrigeration. Even things like fish and pork were salt cured  in order to prevent them from going bad.

In today’s day and age, with fridges and freezers in every home and grocery store, and
refrigerated trucks, salt is not needed for food preservation as much. But our taste buds still
seem to crave it on an epic scale. The average American eats over 3,400 mg of sodium per
day, well over the recommended 2,300 mg/day. Much of that is because it’s found in processed
foods.

According to Harvard Health:
"reducing dietary salt (table salt that is only sodium, chloride and iodine) will lower
blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, and save lives." So, salt is one of those all-too-common food preservatives that most of us will do better with
less of.

Nitrites (nitrates and nitrosamines)

Now you may have heard of these guys in the news lately. Nitrites are preservatives added to processed meats. They're not bad in and of themselves, but they do turn into harmful chemicals called nitrosamines.

Nitrosamines are carcinogens found in cigarette smoke. Nitrites form nitrosamines when they're cooked at high heat, and sometimes even when exposed to the high acid environment of the stomach.  Nitrites are added to meats to keep the pink-red colour and prevent “browning.” Mostly in bacon,ham, sausages and lunch meats. Since nitrites can change into nitrosamines, nitrites are one-step away from being the “bad guys.”  Another interesting thing is that processed meats have been linked with colon cancer. Because
of the nitrites? Perhaps, but either way, nitrosamines are a confirmed health-buster.

Since nitrosamines (from nitrites) are the bad guys and are formed by cooking nitrites at high
heat, what are nitrates?  Nitrates are naturally found in many healthy foods like vegetables. They’re especially high in beets. Sometimes our enzymes or gut bacteria change these healthy nitrates into nitrites.  However, they rarely form nitrosamines because they’re two-steps away from becoming these “bad guys.”

BHA & BHT

Have you seen on packages “BHA/BHT has been added to the package to help maintain
freshness” ? Perhaps on cereal packages or in gum? Guess how these compounds maintain
freshness? Because they’re preservatives.

BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are antioxidants added to many processed, packaged foods. The main way BHA and BHT work is by preventing fats from going rancid. But are they safe?

Well, they're approved for use as a preservative at small doses, however,
some studies show they can cause cancer in animals at high doses. Again, they're added to all kinds of processed, pre-packaged foods, so it's wise to avoid them nonetheless.

Conclusion

There are a lot of preservatives in our food supply. These compounds work by preventing the
growth of bacteria and mold, or by preventing fats from going rancid. And they're mostly found in processed foods. So ff you want to avoid them...then eat fresh foods!  Those foods that don't have ingredients, but ARE ingredients. (ie. fruits, veggies, whole grains etc.)

Now, I haven't even scratched the surface on preservatives, but hopefully this information makes you want to read all your food ingredient labels now.  Let me know
in the comments below if you'll be keeping an eye out for them.

Now here's a great, preservative-free recipe to satisfy those chip cravings!

Simple Kale Chips

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of kale, washed and dried
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 dashes salt
  • 2 dashes garlic powder

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 300F and place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Take the washed and dried kale and rip them into chip-sized pieces and place in a large bowl.
Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and garlic powder. Mix until the kale pieces are evenly covered.  Place kale onto prepared sheet in an even layer. Bake for 10 minutes.
Flip over the kale to cook the other sides of the pieces. Bake for another 10 minutes until the
edges just start turning brown. Watch them closely, or you'll have burnt kale chips.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can use any spice combo, so try onion powder, paprika, or even turmeric.


References:

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

https://authoritynutrition.com/are-nitrates-and-nitrites-harmful/

https://authoritynutrition.com/9-ways-that-processed-foods-are-killing-people/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-endocrine-disruptors

http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/salt-and-your-health

https://examine.com/nutrition/scientists-just-found-that-red-meat-causes-cancer--or-did-they/

https://authoritynutrition.com/chewing-gum-good-or-bad/

http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/labelling/food-labelling-for-industry/list-of-ingredients-and-allergens/table/eng/1369857665232/1369857767799

How to Read the New Nutrition Facts Tables

Nutrition Labels.jpg

You can find the Nutrition Facts table on the side of most packaged foods. It’s often found close to the ingredient listing.  The purpose of it is to help consumers make better nutrition decisions. When people can see the number of calories, carbs, sodium, etc. in food, they should be able to eat better, right?

Whether you like the Nutrition Facts table or not, let’s make sure you get the most out of it, since it’s here to stay!

Here’s my four-step crash course on reading the Nutrition Facts table.

Step 1: Serving Size

The absolute most important part of the Nutrition Facts table is to note the serving size. Manufacturers often strategically choose the serving size to make the rest of the table look good. Small serving = small calories/fat/carbs. So, it's tricky.

All the information in the table rests on the amount chosen as the serving size. And, since every manufacturer chooses their own, it’s often difficult to compare two products. So you'd better brush up on your math skills!

In Canada, in the next few years (between 2017-2022), serving sizes will be more consistent between similar foods. This will make it easier to compare foods. The new labels will also have more realistic serving sizes to reflect the amount that people eat in one sitting, and not be artificially small.

Let’s use an example - plain, unsalted walnuts from Costco.

walnuts.JPG

As you can see, right under the Nutrition Facts header is the serving size. That is a ¼ cup or 30g. This means that all the numbers underneath it are based on this amount.

FUN EXPERIMENT: Try using a measuring cup to see exactly how much of a certain food equals one serving. You may be surprised at how small it is (imagine a ¼ cup of walnuts).

Step 2: % Daily Value

The % Daily Value (%DV) is based on the recommended daily amount of each nutrient the average adult needs. Ideally, you will get 100% DV for each nutrient every day. This is added up based on all of the foods and drinks you have throughout the day.

NOTE: Since children are smaller and have different nutritional needs if a type of food is intended solely for children under the age of 4, then those foods use a child’s average nutrition needs for the %DV.

The %DV is a guideline, not a rigid rule.  You don’t need to add all of your %DV up for everything you eat all day. Instead, think of anything 5% or less to be a little; and, anything 15% or more to be a lot.

NOTE: Not every nutrient has a %DV. You can see it's missing for things like cholesterol, sugar, and protein. This is because there isn't an agreed "official" %DV for that nutrient. The good news is that the new Nutrition Facts tables will include a %DV for sugar. Keep your eyes out for that.

Step 3: Middle of the table

(e.g. Calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, carbohydrates, and protein)

Calories are pretty straight forward. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts has 200 calories.  Fat is bolded for a reason. That 19 g of fat (29% DV) is total fat. That includes the non-bolded items underneath it. Here, 19 g of total fat includes 1.5 g saturated fat, (19 g - 1.5 g = 17.5 g) unsaturated fat, and 0 g trans fat. (Yes, unsaturated fats including mono- and poly-unsaturated are not on the label, so you need to do a quick subtraction).

Cholesterol, sodium, and potassium are all measured in mg. Ideally, aim for around 100% of potassium and sodium each day. It's easy to overdo sodium, especially if you grab pre-made, restaurant foods, or snacks. Keep an eye on this number if sodium can be a problem for you (e.g. if your doctor mentioned it, if you have high blood pressure or kidney problems, etc.).

Carbohydrate, like fat, is bolded because it is total carbohydrates. It includes the non-bolded items underneath it like fiber, sugar, and starch (not shown). Here, 30 g of walnuts contain 3 g of carbohydrates; that 3 g are all fiber. There is no sugar or starch. And as you can see, 3 g of fiber is 12% of your daily value for fiber.

Proteins, like calories, are pretty straight forward as well. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts contains 5 g of protein.

Step 4: Bottom of the table

(e.g. vitamins & minerals)

The vitamins and minerals listed at the bottom of the table are also pretty straightforward. The new labels will list potassium, calcium, and iron. Yes, potassium will drop from the middle of the table to the bottom, and both vitamins A & C will become optional.

Manufacturers can add other vitamins and minerals to the bottom of their Nutrition Facts table (this is optional). And you'll notice that some foods contain a lot more vitamins and minerals than others do.

Conclusion

I hope this crash course in the Nutrition Facts table was helpful. While you can take it or leave it when it comes to making food decisions, but it’s here to stay. And it will change slightly over the next few years.

Do you have questions about it? Have you seen the new labels with a %DV for sugar? If so, leave me a comment below.

Meanwhile, enjoy a quick whole food snack that is surprisingly tasty!

Recipe: Delicious and Super-Easy Walnut Snack

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 8 walnut halves
  • 4 dates, pitted

Instructions:

  • Make a "date sandwich" by squeezing each date between two walnut halves.
  • Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Try with pecans instead. (ps. this is my fave!)

References:

http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/eating-nutrition/label-etiquetage/changes-modifications-eng.php

https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/understanding-food-labels/percent-daily-value.html

http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/eating-nutrition/label-etiquetage/regulatory-guidance-directives-reglementaires/daily-values-valeurs-quotidiennes/guide-eng.php#p1

How to Improve Gut Health

Gut Health.jpg
Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”

And while this may not be 100% true for every disease in every person, more and more research shows that our gut (digestive system) has a bigger role in many diseases than we used to think. And we're not just talking about heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, IBS, IBD, etc. We're talking about all kinds of issues like allergies, pain, mood disorders, and nutrient deficiencies.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Our gut is the portal to the outside world. It's here where we take in disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. We also take in nutrients (and toxins) through our gut. The nutrients we ingest and absorb are the building blocks of every single part of our body. We're just learning the connections between our gut and other areas of our body, like our brain (have you heard of "the gut-brain axis"). Not just our gut per se; but, its friendly resident microbes too. These guys also have newly discovered roles in our gut health and overall health.

So, let's talk about the roles that our gut and our gut microbes play in our overall health. Then I'll give you tips to improve your gut health naturally.

The Gut’s Role in Your Overall Health

Our gut’s main role is as a barrier. To let things in that should get in, and to keep things out that should stay out. Think of “absorption” of nutrients as things we want to let in; and “elimination” of waste as things we want to pass right through and out.

This seemingly simple role is super-complex! And it can break down in so many places.

For one thing, our guts can "leak." Yes, like a long tube with holes in it, it can allow things to get into our bloodstream/bodies that can wreak havoc (bacteria, undigested food, and toxins). You name it, whatever you put into your mouth can be absorbed by your gut and get into your bloodstream, even if it's not supposed to. And when your gut wall gets irritated, it can "leak." When this happens, you get inflammation, which is a starting point for many diseases that don't seem linked to the gut but have a sneaky connection there.

FUN FACT: About 70% of our immune system lives in and around our gut.

A healthy gut is not a leaky gut. It maintains its barrier and shuttles things through to be eliminated. Maintaining a healthy gut barrier is the first pillar of gut health.

The second main part of your gut are the billions of friendly health-promoting microbes. Gut microbes help us digest and absorb nutrients. They fight off disease-causing microbes, make some vitamins for us, and have all kinds of other health benefits, like mental health benefits, reducing inflammation, and stabilizing blood sugar.  So, keeping your gut microbes happy is the second pillar of gut health!

How to Improve Gut Health

There are a lot of natural ways to improve gut health. Let’s start with what to stop. It’s always best to eliminate the cause, so let’s stop giving our guts junk to deal with. How about eliminating added sugars, processed foods, and alcohol? Try that for a few weeks, and you may be amazed at how much better your body (and gut) feels.

You may also want to eliminate other gut irritants. Dairy and grains contain common compounds known to irritate some people’s guts. Sometimes you only need to eliminate them for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference for your health.

By eating nutrient-dense foods, we allow ample macro- and micro-nutrients into our gut to maximize the chance for absorption. These nutrients help our bodies build and repair our gut, and every other body part as well. Some of the most nutrient-dense foods include dark leafy greens, colourful fruits and veggies, liver, and fish.

The second pillar of gut health is our microbes. By ingesting probiotic-rich foods and drinks, we can help to replenish our gut microbes. These are found in fermented foods like kombucha, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Make these a part of your daily diet.

Whole foods are full of gut-friendly fiber. Not eating enough fiber increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Fiber plays lots of roles in our gut, including whisking away some of those pesky bad bacteria and toxins so they can be eliminated. Fiber also helps to feed our friendly resident microbes that help us absorb and digest our food better. What foods have a lot of fiber? Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even cacao.

And don’t forget the uber-important lifestyle factors like getting enough sleep, stressing less, and getting the right amount (and intensity) of exercise for you. It’s easy to forget some of the simple, but key links there are between what we do with our bodies and how well they function.

What to Remember

The function of your gut is key to your overall health. There are two pillars of gut health: maintaining a good barrier and maintaining healthy gut microbes.

The main ways to improve both of these naturally is by eating nutrient-dense whole foods. Foods filled with nutrition, probiotics, and fiber. And eliminating common gut irritants like added sugar, processed foods, and alcohol.

Try making your own fermented foods at home to get more probiotics in your diet.  Things like Kombucha (ps. I teach classes on how to make your own) are easy to make (and will save you  a bunch of $$$) Here's a great (and super simple) recipe to get you started:

Fermented Carrots

Serves 12

Ingredients:

  • 1 L warm water
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 4 carrots, medium, peeled, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed (optional)
     

Instructions:

  • Make a brine by dissolving the salt in water.
  • Place carrots into a clean canning jar, packing them in tight. Make sure to leave about 1 inch of head space at the top.
  • Fill the jar with brine, making sure to cover the carrots completely. Weigh the carrots down to make sure they don't float (you can use a "fermenting weight").
  • Close the jar and let it sit at room temperature for 1-4 days. The longer it sits, the more the flavor will develop. Feel free to open and taste.
  • Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Use this as a side dish, or even a snack.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/does-all-disease-begin-in-the-gut/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-nutrition-gut-health

http://neurotrition.ca/blog/your-gut-bugs-what-they-eat-and-7-ways-feed-them

 

Five Cholesterol Myths and What to Eat Instead

You knew there was a bit of an over-emphasis (borderlining obsession) about cholesterol, right? But, before we jump into some myths let's make sure we're on the same page when it comes to what exactly cholesterol is.

Myth #1: “Cholesterol” is cholesterol

While cholesterol is an actual molecule what it is bound to while it's floating through your blood is what's more important than just how much of it there is overall.  In fact depending on what it's combined with can have opposite effects on your arteries and heart.  Yes, opposite!

So cholesterol is just one component of a compound that floats around your blood.  These compounds contain cholesterol as well as fats and special proteins called “lipoproteins”.  

They're grouped into two main categories:

  • HDL: High Density Lipoprotein (AKA “good” cholesterol) that “cleans up” some of those infamous “arterial plaques” and transports cholesterol back to the liver.
  • LDL: Low Density Lipoprotein (AKA “bad” cholesterol) that transports cholesterol from the liver (and is the kind found to accumulate in arteries and become easily oxidized hence their “badness”).

And yes, it's even more complicated than this.  Each of these categories is further broken down into subcategories which can also be measured in a blood test.

So “cholesterol” isn't simply cholesterol because it has very different effects on your body depending on which other molecules it's bound to in your blood and what it is actually doing there.

Myth #2: Cholesterol is bad

Cholesterol is absolutely necessary for your body to produce critical things like vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun, your sex hormones (e.g. estrogen and testosterone), as well as bile to help you absorb dietary fats.  Not to mention that it's incorporated into the membranes of your cells.  Talk about an important molecule!

The overall amount of cholesterol in your blood (AKA “total cholesterol”) isn't nearly as important as how much of each kind you have in your blood.

While way too much LDL cholesterol as compared with HDL (the LDL:HDL ratio) may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease it is absolutely not the only thing to consider for heart health.

Myth #3: Eating cholesterol increases your bad cholesterol

Most of the cholesterol in your blood is made by your liver.  It's actually not from the cholesterol you eat.  Why do you think cholesterol medications block an enzyme in your liver (HMG Co-A reductase, to be exact)?  'Cause that's where it's made!

What you eat still can affect how much cholesterol your liver produces.  After a cholesterol-rich meal your liver doesn't need to make as much.

Myth #4: Your cholesterol should be as low as possible

As with almost everything in health and wellness there's a balance that needs to be maintained.  There are very few extremes that are going to serve you well.  People with too-low levels of cholesterol have increased risk of death from other non-heart-related issues like certain types of cancers, as well as suicide.

Myth #5: Drugs are the only way to get a good cholesterol balance

Firstly, don't start or stop any medications without talking with your doctor.

And while drugs can certainly lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol they don't seem to be able to raise the “good” HDL cholesterol all that well. Guess what does?

Nutrition and exercise, baby!

One of the most impactful ways to lower your cholesterol with diet is to eat lots of fruits and veggies.  I mean lots, say up to 10 servings a day.  Every day.

cholesterol.jpg

Don't worry the recipe below should help you add at least another salad to your day.

You can (should?) also exercise, lose weight, stop smoking, and eat better quality fats.  That means fatty fish, avocados and olive oil. And ditch those over-processed hydrogenated “trans” fats!

Summary:

The science of cholesterol and heart health is complicated and we're learning more every day.  You may not need to be as afraid of it as you are.  And there is a lot you can do from a nutrition and lifestyle perspective to improve your cholesterol level.


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

Makes about ¾ cup

  • ½ cup hemp seeds
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • dash salt and/or pepper

Blend all ingredients together until creamy.  Serve on top of your favourite salad and Enjoy!

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

References:

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

http://summertomato.com/how-to-raise-your-hdl-cholesterol

https://authoritynutrition.com/top-9-biggest-lies-about-dietary-fat-and-cholesterol/

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

You totally want to ditch your scale, don't you? You may have this weird kind of relationship with your “weight”.  I mean, it doesn't define you (obviously). What you weigh can matter but only to a certain extent.

Waist circumference.jpg

Let's look at your waist circumference (well...you look at yours and I'll look at mine).

Waist Circumference (AKA “Belly Fat”):

Do you remember the fruity body shape descriptions being like an “apple” or a “pear”?  The apple is kinda round around the middle (you know – belly fat-ish, kinda beer belly-ish) and the pear is rounder around the hips/thighs.  THAT is what we're talking about here.

Do you know which shape is associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea, blood sugar issues (e.g. insulin resistance and diabetes) and heart issues (high blood pressure, blood fat, and arterial diseases)??

Yup – that apple!

And it's not because of the subcutaneous (under the skin) fat that you may refer to as a “muffin top”.  The health risk is actually due to the fat inside the abdomen covering the liver, intestines and other organs there. This internal fat is called “visceral fat” and that's where a lot of the problem actually is.  It's this “un-pinchable” fat.  

The reason the visceral fat can be a health issue is because it releases fatty acids, inflammatory compounds, and hormones that can negatively affect your blood fats, blood sugars, and blood pressure.  And the apple-shaped people tend to have a lot more of this hidden visceral fat than the pear-shaped people do.

So as you can see where your fat is stored is more important that how much you weigh.

Am I an apple or a pear?

It's pretty simple to find out if you're in the higher risk category or not. The easiest way is to just measure your waist circumference with a measuring tape.  You can do it right now.

Women, if your waist is 35” or more you could be considered to have “abdominal obesity” and be in the higher risk category.  Pregnant ladies are exempt, of course.  For men the number is 40”.  Of course this isn't a diagnostic tool.  There are lots of risk factors for chronic diseases.  Waist circumference is just one of them.  If you have concerns definitely see your doctor.

Tips for helping reduce some belly fat:

  • Eat more fiber.  Fiber can help reduce belly fat in a few ways.  First of all it helps you feel full and also helps to reduce the amount of calories you absorb from your food.  Some examples of high-fiber foods are brussel sprouts, flax and chia seeds, avocado, and blackberries.
  • Add more protein to your day.  Protein reduces your appetite and makes you feel fuller longer.  It also has a high TEF (thermic effect of food) compared with fats and carbs and ensures you have enough of the amino acid building blocks for your muscles.

  • Nix added sugars.  This means ditch the processed sweetened foods especially those sweet drinks (even 100% pure juice).

  • Move more.  Get some aerobic exercise.  Lift some weights.  Walk and take the stairs.  It all adds up.

  • Stress less.  Seriously!  Elevated levels in the stress hormone cortisol have been shown to increase appetite and drive abdominal fat.

  • Get more sleep.  Try making this a priority and seeing how much better you feel (and look).


Recipe (High fiber side dish): Garlic Lemon Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Serves 4

  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts (washed, ends removed, halved)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • dash salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400F.  In a bowl toss sprouts with garlic, oil, and lemon juice.  Spread on a baking tray and season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes.  Toss. Bake for another 10 minutes.

Serve and Enjoy!

Tip:  Brussel sprouts contain the fat-soluble bone-loving vitamin K.  You may want to eat them more often.

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/research-abdominal-fat-and-risk

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/visceral-fat-location

http://www.drsharma.ca/inspiring-my-interest-in-visceral-fat

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-definition/abdominal-obesity/

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/weights-poids/guide-ld-adult/qa-qr-pub-eng.php#a4

https://authoritynutrition.com/6-proven-ways-to-lose-belly-fat/

https://authoritynutrition.com/20-tips-to-lose-belly-fat/

What the Heck Happened to My Metabolism?

You may feel tired, cold or that you've gained weight.  Maybe your digestion seems a bit more “sluggish”. You may be convinced that your metabolism is slow.

  • Why does this happen?  
  • Why do metabolic rates slow down?
  • What can slow my metabolism?

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

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

metabolism.jpg

Examples of common reasons why metabolic rates can slow down:

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

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

Low Thyroid Hormones

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

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

Your Dieting History

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

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

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

Your Size and Body Composition

In general, larger people have faster metabolic rates.  This is because it takes more energy to fuel a larger body than a smaller one.  However, you already know that gaining weight is rarely the best strategy for increasing your metabolism.

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

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

Which leads us to...

Your Activity Level

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

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

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

Lack of Sleep

There is plenty of research that shows the influence that sleep has on your metabolic rate.  The general consensus is to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Pssst...check out my previous blog post.

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


Recipe: Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding (Selenium-rich)

Serves 4

  • ½ cup Brazil nuts
  • 2 cups water
  • Nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth (optional)
  • ½ cup chia seeds
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cacao powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

Blend Brazil nuts in water in a high-speed blender until you get smooth, creamy milk.  If desired, strain it with a nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth.  Add Brazil nut milk and other ingredients into a bowl and whisk until combined.  Let sit several minutes (or overnight) until desired thickness is reached.

Serve & Enjoy!

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

References:

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

See Ya...Sleeping Through the Night

Have you said “See ya later" to sleeping through the night?

See ya sleep.jpg

Are you feeling exhausted or “running on stress hormones” all day?

Do not fear, I have some great tips (and an amazing recipe) for you!

The science of sleep is fascinating, complicated and growing. Sleep is this daily thing that we all do and yet we're just beginning to understand all of the ways it helps us and all of the factors that can affect it.

Lack of sleep affects just about everything in your body and mind.  People who get less sleep tend to be at higher risk for so many health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer; not to mention effects like slower metabolism, weight gain, hormone imbalance, and inflammation.  And don't forget the impact lack of sleep can have on moods, memory and decision-making skills.

Do you know that lack of sleep may even negate the health benefits of your exercise program? (AAACK!!)

OMG – What aspect of health does sleep not affect??

Knowing this it's easy to see the three main purposes of sleep:

  • To restore our body and mind.  Our bodies repair, grow and even “detoxify” our brains while we sleep.

  • To improve our brain's ability to learn and remember things, technically known as “synaptic plasticity”.

  • To conserve some energy so we're not just actively “out and about” 24-hours a day, every day.

Do you know how much sleep adults need?  It's less than your growing kids need but you may be surprised that it's recommended that all adults get 7 - 9 hours a night.  For real! Try not to skimp! (Don't worry, I have you covered with a bunch of do-able tips below.)

Tips for better sleep:

  • The biggest tip is definitely to try to get yourself into a consistent sleep schedule.  Make it a priority and you're more likely to achieve it.  This means turning off your lights 8 hours before your alarm goes off.  Seven. Days. A. Week.  I know weekends can easily throw this off but by making sleep a priority for a few weeks your body and mind will adjust and thank you for it.

  • Balance your blood sugar throughout the day.  You know, eat less refined and processed foods and more whole foods (full of blood-sugar-balancing fiber).  Choose the whole orange instead of the juice (or orange-flavoured snack).  Make sure you're getting some protein every time you eat.

  • During the day get some sunshine and exercise.  These things tell your body it's daytime; time for being productive, active and alert.  By doing this during the day it will help you wind down more easily in the evening.

  • Cut off your caffeine and added sugar intake after 12pm.  Whole foods like fruits and veggies are fine, it's the “added” sugar we're minimizing.  Yes, this includes your beloved chai latte.  Both caffeine and added sugar can keep your mind a bit more active than you want it to be come evening. (HINT: I have a great caffeine-free chai latte recipe for you below!).

  • Have a relaxing bedtime routine that starts 1 hour before your “lights out” time (that is 8 - 10 hours before your alarm is set to go off).  This would include dimming your artificial lights, nixing screen time and perhaps reading an (actual, not “e”) book or having a bath.

So how many of these tips can you start implementing today?


Recipe: Caffeine-Free Chai Latte - for your afternoon coffee break

Serves 1-2

  • 1 bag of rooibos chai tea (rooibos is naturally caffeine-free)
  • 2 cups of boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter (creamy is preferred)
  • 2 dates (optional)

Cover the teabag and dates (if using) with 2 cups of boiling water and steep for a few minutes.  Discard the tea bag & place tea, soaked dates, tahini & almond butter into a blender. Blend until creamy.  Serve and Enjoy!

Tip:  You can try this with other nut or seed butters to see which flavour combination you like the best.  Cashew butter anyone?

References:

http://www.thepaleomom.com/gotobed/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/hacking-sleep