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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How to Naturally Lower Your Stress Hormone Cortisol

stressed.jpg

STRESS!!!

Its causes are absolutely everywhere and seem to be increasing all the time. Would you agree?

And our natural “fight or flight” stress response can sometimes go a little overboard. It’s supposed to help us escape injury or death in an emergency and then return to normal after we’ve fought or flew. But, that doesn’t happen too much in our society - it becomes a long-term reaction. It becomes chronic. (and that's not a good thing!)

You’ve probably heard of the main stress hormone, called “cortisol.”  It’s released from your adrenal glands in response to stress. It’s also naturally high in the morning to get you going, and slowly fades during the day so you can sleep.

Did you know that too-high levels of cortisol are associated with belly fat, poor sleep, brain fog, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and even lowers your immunity? Does any of this sound like you? Well, then read on because I have a list of foods, nutrients and lifestyle recommendations to help you lower this stress hormone naturally!

Foods and Nutrients to Lower Cortisol

  • Let’s start with one of the biggies that increase your cortisol… sugar! Reducing the sugar we eat and drink can be a great step toward better health for our minds (and bodies).
  • High doses of caffeine also increase your cortisol levels. If coffee makes you feel anxious and jittery, then cut back on the amount of caffeine you ingest.
  • Also, being dehydrated increases cortisol. Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day, especially if you feel thirsty.
  • Eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods - you know, fruits, veggies, whole grains! This doesn't just help reduce stress hormone, it helps all aspects of your health.
  • Lower your cortisol levels with tea and dark chocolate (not the sugary milky kind!). Have a bit to unwind.
  • Don’t forget your probiotics and prebiotics! There is so much new research about the gut-mind connection, and how taking care of your friendly gut microbes is key! Make sure you’re eating probiotic rich fermented foods and getting a healthy dose of prebiotic fiber.

Lifestyle techniques to Lower Cortisol

It’s not just food, but there are things you can do with your time that can lower cortisol.

  • Reduce your stress with mindfulness. Many studies show that reducing stressful thoughts and worry reduces cortisol.
  • Get enough exercise (but don’t overdo it). While intense exercise increases cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels.
  • Get enough sleep! Getting adequate sleep is way too underrated. Sleep reduces cortisol levels and also helps improve your overall health in so many ways.
  • Relax and have fun. Things like deep breathing, massages, and listening to relaxing music all reduce cortisol.
  • Be social and bust loneliness. Would you believe me if I told you that science has shown health risks from social isolation and loneliness? It’s true! Maintaining good relationships and spending time with people you like and who support you is key.

Conclusion

Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can have several negative impacts on your health. And there are many proven ways to reduce levels of cortisol naturally.  In terms of foods and nutrients, have less sugar and caffeine. And have more water, fruit, tea, dark chocolate, probiotics, and prebiotics.

Lifestyle factors are HUGE when it comes to cortisol. To lower yours, exercise (but not too much), get more sleep, relax, and have more fun.  In the comments below, let me know your favourite ways to bust the stress hormone cortisol!

So now that you know what needs to happen to lower those cortisol levels, why not relax with a bowl of chocolate pudding!  (it's good for you...I swear!)

De-Stressing Chocolate Pudding

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 3 ripe avocados
  • ¼ cup cacao powder (unsweetened)
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 dash salt

Instructions:

Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.  Yep, that's it!

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Try adding a pinch of cinnamon for a deeper flavour.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/ways-to-lower-cortisol/

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

https://authoritynutrition.com/16-ways-relieve-stress-anxiety/

https://www.thepaleomom.com/managing-stress/

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response

3 Common Preservatives You're Eating Right Now

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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

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/