Eating… Mediterranean Style

I absolutely adore the Mediterranean diet! So naturally I’m thrilled that it seems that study after study shows that it’s great for health on so many different levels.

 

And it is!

 

But what exactly does it mean? Is adding a glass of red wine to dinner enough? Does it require a cucumber salad every day? Do I have to give up my favourite foods?

 

In this post, I give you a simple list of Mediterranean diet foods to eat, and foods to ditch. And a couple of important lifestyle factors to consider too.

 

And I have a non-salad one-dish dinner recipe for you to try!

 

Mediterranean Diet 101

 

The Mediterranean diet is one of the most studied diets out there.

 

It’s based on the traditional foods that people who lived around the Mediterranean Sea ate about 50 years ago. Back then, in the mid 20th century, researchers noted that people in Spain, Greece, and Italy lived longer and healthier than Americans. And they had lower levels of heart disease, the #1 killer.

 

So, they set out to find what was so healthy in this part of the world. And the research keeps coming in. And it’s pretty impressive.

 

Eating a Mediterranean diet is linked with

  • Less overweight and obesity (it’s better than low-fat diets)
  • Better blood sugar control (for diabetes and metabolic syndrome)
  • Lower risk of heart disease and stroke (and blood markers like cholesterol and triglycerides)
  • Reduced risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases
  • Fewer cancers (breast & colorectal)
  • Less premature death

 

Overall, it’s simply really good for you.

 

PRO TIP: Recent research even links the Mediterranean diet to better gut microbes! This makes sense when you feed your friendly gut microbes their favourite foods including fibre, fruit, and vegetables.

 

Here’s another bonus: Many people who start eating a Mediterranean diet can stick with it long-term.

 

How’s that for a healthy whole-foods health-promoting not-so-restrictive diet?

 

What to eat and drink on a Mediterranean diet

 

The Mediterranean diet is chock full of healthy whole foods.

 

Foods like:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Fish and seafood
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Herbs and spices

 

These foods are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats, and fibre. And they’re often eaten in social settings where the food (and the company) is enjoyed.

 

The go-to beverage for the Mediterranean diet is water. Coffee and tea are also regularly consumed (without the addition of lots of cream and/or sugar). And yes, red wine (about 1 glass per day) is very commonly enjoyed.

 

Some foods and drinks that are eaten in moderation include:

  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Cheese and yogurt

Red meat, unfermented dairy (e.g., milk), butter, and salt are rarely consumed, if at all.

 

What to ditch on a Mediterranean diet

 

There are many foods and drinks that are not part of the Mediterranean diet. Not surprisingly, this includes many highly processed and unhealthy foods like:

  • Desserts
  • Processed meats
  • Sauces and gravies
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages or fruit juices
  • Refined grains and oils (including hydrogenated oils)
  • Too much salt
  • Added sugars

 

And if alcohol is a problem, you can also ditch the wine.

 

The Mediterranean diet also incorporates a different lifestyle. Some things to ditch are being too sedentary, eating alone, and being overly stressed.

 

Conclusion

 

The Mediterranean diet is a very healthy way of eating. It is a whole-foods diet based mainly focussed on plant foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains). It also contains fish, olive oil, and herbs and spices.  The Mediterranean diet is high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats, and fibre; all of which are health-boosting from your head to your heart… and the rest of your body.

 

Don’t forget that health involves more than just food. The Mediterranean lifestyle also incorporates regular exercise, eating with people whom you care about, and overall enjoyment of life.

 

Do you think you could add or ditch certain foods to get closer to the Mediterranean diet? Do you have a favourite recipe that embodies this way of eating? I’d love to know! Add it to the comments below.

 

Recipe (Mediterranean): One Pan Roasted Dinner

Serves 4

 

4 cod fillets
2 handfuls asparagus, ends removed
1 cup black kalamata olives, drained
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced lengthwise
4 handfuls cherry tomatoes, halved

3 tbsp olive oil, extra virgin2 tsp dried dill2 dashes freshly ground black pepper1 lemon, sliced

 

Instructions

Preheat oven to 450ºF and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.Place the fillets in the middle of the pan. Add the asparagus, olives, garlic, and tomatoes around the fish.

Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with dill and pepper. Slice lemon and place one onto each fillet. Squeeze juice from the rest of the lemon onto the vegetables.Roast in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Check if fillets are opaque all the way through and flake easily with a fork. If not, then cook for another few minutes.

Serve & enjoy!

 

Tip: You can substitute another fish for the cod (e.g., salmon).

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References:

 

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm

 

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000110.htm

 

http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mediterranean-diet-meal-plan

 

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/5-studies-on-the-mediterranean-diet#section3

 

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801v

 

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/866254

 

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/870593

Nordic Seed Bread

As promised, here is the recipe I use to make this DELICIOUS “bread”.

NORDIC SEED BREAD

I need to preface this by letting you know that I’ve tried a few different recipes and ended up combining them to make my own.  The short summary is that you need 5 1/2 cups of whatever combination of nuts & seeds in this recipe plus the 6 eggs.

Ingredients:
1 C. Almonds (I used some whole and some sliced.)
1 C. Sunflower Seeds
1 C. Pumpkin Seeds
1/2 C. Hazelnuts or chopped Walnuts
1/2 C. Whole Flaxseeds
1/2 C. Sesame Seeds
1/2 C. Poppy Seeds or chopped Pecans
1/2 C. Chia Seeds
6 Whole Large Eggs

 

How To Make It:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and line a loaf pan with parchment paper.  If you don’t have any, you can lightly coat the inside of a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.  Personally I prefer the parchment paper as it makes clean up a breeze!

Place all of the nuts and seeds together in a large bowl.

Add the eggs and stir to combine.

Pour the mixture out into the prepared loaf pan and place it into the oven to bake for 55-65 minutes.  Remove loaf from the oven and give it a tap – the bread should sound hollow when it is cooked.  Remove the pan from the oven once done and set aside to cool for a few minutes.

Turn the pan upside down onto a plate to remove the bread.

Once it has cooled it is easier to slice.  I leave mine whole and just slice off what I need each day.  The loaf will keep up to one week, stored in an airtight container on the counter or in the fridge.

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This recipe is sooooo good!  You can enjoy it “sweet” with cream cheese and jam, or you can enjoy is “savory” with smoked meats & cheese.  You’ll love it!

 

 

How About a Lovely Cuppa…?

Tea has some great health benefits. Its antioxidant abilities make it heart-healthy and reduce the risk of developing cancer and diabetes.

 

But, does the type of tea matter? Is green tea that much better than black tea? And what difference does adding milk and/or sweeteners do to it?

 

I give you the goods on the green tea vs. black tea. And the healthiest way to drink your tea.

 

Yup, we’re talking tea today. But I’m not going to give you a recipe to drink tea. Nope, not this week. This week I have a special (and awesome) way to eat your tea.

 

Green Tea vs. Black Tea

 

Tea is said to be the most popular beverage in the world. It’s been consumed for thousands of years by millions, perhaps billions, of people.

 

Tea has also been shown to have many health benefits. And some of these benefits are thought to be related to tea’s antioxidant properties. These properties are from its flavonoids known as “catechins.” Flavonoids are anti-inflammatory and have a range of health benefits that I talk about in this post.

 

Green tea vs. black tea – What’s the difference?

 

What do green and black teas have in common?

 

First of all, they both come from the camellia sinensis shrub that’s native to China and India. Green tea contains slightly more health-promoting flavonoids than black tea. How is this?

The difference lies in how they’re processed.

 

If the leaves are steamed or heated, this keeps them green. The heat stops oxidation from turning them black. Then they’re dried to preserve the colour and flavonoids which are the antioxidants.

 

Hence you have green tea.

 

If the leaves are not heated, and are crushed and rolled, then they continue to oxidize until they’re dry. This oxidation uses up some of the flavonoids’ antioxidant power, so black teas have slightly less ability to combat free radicals than green tea does.

 

PRO TIP: Adding milk to your tea reduces the antioxidant ability.

 

Both green and black teas contain about half of the caffeine in coffee. That translates to about 20-45 mg per 8 oz cup.

 

Green tea vs. black tea – Health Benefits

 

Tea drinking, in general, seems to be associated with good health.

 

Heart health – For one thing, both green and black tea drinkers seem to have high levels of antioxidants in their blood compared with non-tea drinkers. Green and black tea drinkers also have lower risks of heart attacks and stroke. Drinking green tea, in particular, is associated with reduced triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL oxidation, all of which are risk factors for heart conditions.

 

Overall, drinkers of green and black tea seem to have a lower risk of heart problems. Green tea has also been shown to reduce risk factors (i.e., blood lipid levels) a bit more than black tea has.

 

Cancers – Antioxidants also reduce the risk of many cancers. Studies show that both green and black teas can reduce the risk of prostate cancer (the most common cancer in men). Also, green tea drinkers have a lowered risk of breast and colorectal cancers. Black tea is being researched for its potential to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.

 

Overall, antioxidant flavonoids in tea seem to help reduce the risk of some different cancers. Green tea may have a slight edge over black tea, but both seem to be associated with lower cancer risk.

 

Diabetes – Both green and black teas can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. They also reduce diabetes risk factors, like elevated blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. For example, some studies have shown that both green and black teas can help reduce blood sugar levels. Other studies have shown that green tea can also improve insulin sensitivity.

 

Once again, green tea seems to have a slight edge over black tea, but both are blood sugar friendly (just don’t overdo the sweetener).

 

Conclusion

 

Both green and black teas are from the same plant, but are processed differently. Green tea retains more of the beneficial antioxidants than black tea does; but both are associated with better health than non-tea drinkers.

 

Overall, both green and black teas are healthy drinks, and tea drinkers, in general, seem to have fewer health conditions than non-tea drinkers. Green tea seems to have a slight edge over black tea when it comes to measurable risk factors of some common diseases.

 

When you enjoy your tea, try to minimize or even eliminate adding milk and/or sweeteners; these reduce some of the health-promoting properties of tea.

 

I’d love to know: Are you a tea drinker? Which tea is your favourite? How do you like to enjoy it? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Recipe (Green tea): Matcha Energy Bites

Serves 6 (makes 12-18 bites)

 

1 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
4 tbsp almond flour
1 tbsp matcha green tea

2 tbsp honey or maple syrup

1 tbsp coconut oil

 

Instructions

Add all ingredients into food processor and pulse until blended.

Shape into 1-1.5″ balls.

 

Serve & enjoy!

 

Tip: If you use sweetened coconut, then you can eliminate the honey/maple syrup.

 

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References:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/brewing-evidence-for-teas-heart-benefits

 

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/what-you-should-know-about-tea

 

http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-green-tea

 

http://www.healthline.com/health/know-your-teas-black-tea#benefits3

 

http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/matcha-green-tea

 

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/caffeine-in-green-tea

 

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/tea-a-cup-of-good-health

 

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/tea

When the Winter Blues Come to Call

Firstly, I need to share with you that I hate coughing. I really HATE coughing. Why? Well, I’m sure it’s annoying for anyone, but I had bronchitis for an entire summer when I was 8 or 9 yrs old and my dad was a chainsmoker to make it worse. All my friends were out having fun, enjoying the time off school and I was bedridden for 2 months. Cough cough cough. Our family doctor even made several house calls that summer, taught us a bit of herbalism, and had to teach me how to cough properly so I wouldn’t throw up or choke. Ugh.

Anyway, how does that tie into a post about the winter blues? Well in addition to less daylight hours, lots of people get a bit run down over the holidays then get knocked flat by colds & flu in January, which can really do a number on our moods. I was doing great until I had a few consecutive interrupted/short sleeps and then I caught this damn cough that’s been hanging on for a cpl weeks now. I’m not gonna sugarcoat it, it’s got me feeling pretty blue today. I’m doing everything I can to heal quickly (& considering the fact that some people I know have had it for a month I’m doing great!). But part of the blue feeling I’m experiencing tonight is a sense of isolation. In addition to my keeping to myself while coughing, there’s been sadness and loss in my world and amongst those I care about, and I’ve been helping someone who’s going through a really rough time. Yes, I’m still seeing people at work (not contagious, don’t worry), and my kids are at home with me, but the social side of my life has been much quieter than usual. I’m missing my people soooo much but I know if I push myself too far I’ll relapse & that just doesn’t make sense, does it?

How am I coping? Staying cozy at home (pj’s & fuzzy blankets), hanging with my cutie-cat Dharma, making healthy comfort foods, chatting on the phone, and getting to bed early.

Self care, especially when we are feeling blue and recovering from illness, is so important! Make yourself a priority… you can catch up on all the fun later.

Take it easy & be well!

 

If you feel like you need a little help shifting your Mindset into a more positive place, check out my free 5-Day Mindset Challenge by clicking HERE.

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It’s Cold Season! Arrrgh! What Can You Do?

Oh, the dreaded common cold. There are lots of natural ways to keep your body and immune system strong throughout the year. Things like nutrition/foods, lifestyle, and habits.

 

But, getting sick is still a possibility.  I’m living this RIGHT NOW! Everyone around me was sick in December and I did fantastic at following tips 1-5 below to help keep my immune system strong and then… I had 3 consecutive terrible sleeps where I was woken up multiple times (for multiple reasons) and that is likely what did me in.  Something my clients know about me is that I know how much proper sleep affects all aspects of our wellbeing and keeping the common cold at bay is definitely one of them. I’ve been following tips 6 & 7 for the past week and this cold is definitely on its way out!  WooHoo!

 

I wanted to share with you my best tips to help you prevent getting sick, and how to recover quickly… naturally.

 

Plus, I have a recipe for a natural cough remedy, free of drug store medications.

 

I’m Sick.  What Can I Do (Naturally)?

 

Getting a common cold doesn’t have to be so… common. There are things you can do naturally to make getting sick less likely.

 

But, if you do happen to get sick, there are things you can also do to help support your body to fight it off.

 

Good hand hygiene and overall healthy habits can reduce your risk of getting sick in the first place. And good nutrition can help your immune system fight off a cold quicker. Imagine your germ-fighting immune cells all hungry and tired, versus them being nourished and full of energy.

 

And that’s what this post is all about.

 

First I’ll give you some tips to reduce your risk of getting sick in the first place. Then, I’ll let you in on some of my strategies to recover from that cold you may still get from time to time.

 

Natural tips to reduce your risk of sickness

 

Here are some great ideas to incorporate into your daily life to reduce your risk of getting sick.

1 – Wash your hands. A lot. Your hands can trap and transport all kinds of microbes that cause sickness. And I’m not just talking about colds here, but lots of different germs.

 

NOTE: Antibacterial soap is not recommended! Not only is it no more effective than regular soap and water, but it can contribute to antibiotic resistance.

 

2 – Get enough nutrients. I know this is way oversimplified, but I would be remiss to exclude it. Every cell in your body, including your immune cells, need enough of all the essential nutrients. The more nutrition you have, the better and stronger you will be, especially with vitamins A, C, and E. Vitamin A-rich foods include carrots, sweet potato, and organ meats. Vitamin C-rich foods include bell peppers and citrus. Vitamin E-rich foods include nuts, seeds, and leafy greens.

 

3 – Probiotic foods. Helping our health-promoting gut microbes with more of their probiotic friends is in order here to help keep the immune system strong. Try 1-2 servings/day of fermented foods and drinks like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kefir, and kombucha.

 

4 – Prebiotic foods. Feeding those friendly gut microbes their favourite foods can help them to grow and flourish. They love fibrous foods like onions, asparagus, berries, bananas, sweet potatoes, whole grains, and seeds. Aim for 2-3 servings/day.

 

5 – Get enough sleep. Did you know that our immune system cycles with our circadian system? When we sleep our immune cells produce antibodies to fight infections. Try to get at least 7 hours every single night, even when you’re feeling great.

 

 

Natural tips to recover from that sickness

 

When you do get an infection, not only do you need more nutrients to fight it off, but your body also has a harder time absorbing and using the nutrients you take in. Sometimes this is because of reduced hunger, sometimes due to gastrointestinal reasons. Either way, nourishing your body is even more important. When you do get sick, make sure you are implementing tips 1-5 plus the tips below that are crucial for getting over a common cold.

 

6 – Drink lots of fluids. Being sick can be dehydrating. Fluids like water, chicken soup, and green tea are warm, hydrating comfort drinks. Chicken soup is a source of electrolytes, especially if homemade from a real chicken with lots of vegetables. Green tea has been shown to boost some of our immune cells, and this can help to better fight off the invading germ.

 

7 – Rest and recover. When your body is fighting an infection, it’s busy working hard for your health. Give it a break and relax while you’re feeling under the weather.

 

Conclusion

 

There are lots of things we can do to stay healthy and reduce infections naturally. Washing your hands is a proven way to reduce your risk. And staying healthy in all other ways helps a lot. Getting enough nutrition, eating probiotic and prebiotic foods, and getting enough sleep are key year round.

 

If you do get sick, keep up all of your good habits above, and make sure to add some warm, healthy fluids, and extra rest.

 

What do you do when you get sick? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Recipe (Throat soothing): Honey Lemon Ginger Cough Drops

½ cup honey
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp freshly grated ginger root

Instructions

Put ingredients into a small saucepan.

 

Stir frequently until it becomes foamy. Be careful because the honey can burn easily.

 

Remove from heat and continue to stir until the foam reduces.

 

Put the saucepan back on the heat.

 

Repeat this until a candy thermometer reads 300F.

 

Drop a bit into a glass of ice water. If the mixture forms a hard, crunchy ball, it’s ready! If not, keep stirring and heating for another minute or two and try with the ice water again.

 

Once a hard ball forms from a drop into the ice water, let the saucepan cool until the foam has reduced.

 

Drizzle the candy into a candy mold or onto oiled parchment paper.

 

Let cool at room temperature until the cough drops are hard.

 

Pop out of the mold or break into pieces, and store in an airtight container.

Tip: You can sprinkle them with vitamin C powder to keep them from sticking together.

 

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References:

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/what-to-eat-when-sick

 

https://www.thepaleomom.com/natural-approaches-to-cold-flu-season/

 

http://nutritionfacts.org/video/preventing-the-common-cold-with-probiotics/

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dExiRwh-DQ

 

http://www.who.int/gpsc/clean_hands_protection/en/

Why Am I Still Hungry When I JUST Finished Eating?

If you often feel hungry after eating, it could be the specific food you ate. Did you know that some foods have been proven to help keep you feeling fuller longer? And others stop you from feeling even as full as plain white bread?

 

Today I’m diving into what’s known as the satiety index. It’s a measurement of how full food makes you feel. This is great to know if you want to stave off some of those hunger feelings and cravings.

 

Plus, I’m betting you’ll be surprised at the one food that ranks top of the list. The one, super common, but often bland, food that can help keep you fuller longer. But don’t worry, I have a very un-bland recipe that you are sure to enjoy.

 

What is the Satiety Index?

 

Have you ever notice that some foods keep you feeling full longer? And others give you the munchies an hour later? That can make the advice to “stop eating when you feel full” a bit tricky if you’re picking foods that aren’t filling.

 

That’s a phenomenon called satiety. It’s the feeling of fullness, of being satisfied and satiated. It’s is the opposite of hunger and appetite.

 

The satiety index is a rating of foods that have been tested for the satiating effect in a 240 calorie (1,000 kJ) portion size. The scale scores foods based on whether people feel extremely hungry, hungry, semi-hungry, no feeling, semi-satisfied, satisfied, or extremely satisfied. Similarly to the glycemic index, the response to white bread was set to be 100. Foods that are more filling have numbers higher than 100. Foods that are less filling have numbers lower than 100.

 

Characteristics of foods with a high satiety index

There are a few common characteristics of highly satiating foods.

 

  • Foods that are more filling (i.e., have a high satiety index) tend to have more protein. Protein is considered to be more filling than either carbohydrates or fats.
  • They also tend to have more fibre. Because fibre is not digested, it provides bulk. This bulk tends to help you feel full longer because it slows down emptying of the stomach and digestion time.
  • Highly satiating foods tend to have more volume for the same amount of calories; this means they tend to take up more space with water or air.
  • They tend to have less fat.
  • Highly satiating foods are also generally whole and less processed.

 

If you think about the feeling of fullness, it makes you not want to eat at that moment. It wards off the feeling of hunger. Eating more foods that have a higher satiety index are more filling, and therefore can help you to eat less overall.

 

This is one strategy to use if you feel hungry all the time, or if you’re trying to lose weight.

 

What foods keep you feeling full for longer?

 

Some foods that score higher than white bread (100) on the satiety index are:

  • Boiled potatoes (323);
  • Fish (225);
  • Oatmeal/Porridge (209);
  • Oranges (202);
  • Apples (197);
  • Brown rice pasta (188);
  • Beef steak (176);
  • Baked beans (168);
  • Eggs (150);

 

Some foods that score lower than white bread (100) on the satiety index are:

  • Ice cream (96);
  • Chips (91);
  • Yogurt (88);
  • Peanuts (84);
  • Mars bar (70:
  • Doughnuts (68);
  • Cake (65);
  • Croissant (47).

 

If you want to feel full and more satiated, then choose foods from the first list that score more than 100.

 

Conclusion

 

The satiety index is a measure of how filling and satisfying food makes you feel. The higher the score, the fuller you feel. Eating foods that score higher on the satiety index can help reduce food intake.

 

Foods that are very satisfying (satiating) tend to be protein-rich, fibre-rich, lower in fat, whole, less processed foods. Things like boiled potatoes, fish, oats, fruit, meat, and legumes.

 

Foods that are not very satiating tend to be higher in carbohydrates, fat, and are more processed; things like ice cream, chips, doughnuts, cakes, and croissants.

 

If you want to feel full longer, then choose more foods that are highly satiating and fewer foods that are not.

 

Recipe (Highly satiating): Not your average boiled potatoes

Serves 6-8

 

2 lbs mini potatoes

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup vegetable stock

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 tbsp fresh chives (or 1 tsp dried)

1 tbsp fresh parsley (or 1 tsp dried)

½ tbsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)

OR

2 tbsp fresh dill

 

Instructions

In large pot place potatoes, garlic, stock, salt & pepper. Cover and bring to boil and simmer for 15 minutes.

 

Check for doneness by piercing gently with a fork. Add more water if needed.

When done toss with herbs.

 

Serve & enjoy!

 

Tip: You can drizzle with a touch of olive oil if you like.

 

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References:

 

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

 

http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/15-incredibly-filling-foods#section1

 

http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods-you-can-eat-a-lot-of

 

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/15701207_A_Satiety_Index_of_common_foods

Need a Mood Boost? A different take on the saying “you are what you eat”.

You Are What You Eat.

 

Well, yeah, but have you given any thought to how what you are eating is making you feel?

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There’s, no question that what you eat can affect how you feel, right?  I’m sure you’ve noticed at least once, how after you’ve binged on some highly processed, super salty or sugary foods that your mood may have taken a real tumble.

 

Mental health and brain health are complex. So are the foods we eat, and the ways our bodies interact with those foods.  While, we don’t know the exact mechanisms how food and nutrition help, we know a few ways food impacts our moods.

 

First, what we eat becomes the raw materials for our neurotransmitters. “Neurotransmitters” are biochemical messengers that allow our nerve cells to communicate (ever heard of serotonin?). They are important not just for thinking and memory, but also for mental health.

 

Second, what we eat affects our blood sugar. And having unstable blood sugar levels can contribute to mood swings.

 

Let’s talk about mood-boosting and mood-busting foods.

 

Mood-boosting foods

 

Some nutrient deficiencies look like mental health problems; this includes deficiencies in B-vitamins, vitamin D, and the mineral selenium. So, getting enough vitamins, minerals, (and other things like antioxidants) are key. These nutrients not only reduce inflammation but also fuel the biochemical reactions in our bodies. Including those that create neurotransmitters. So make sure you’re eating a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. In fact, studies show that people who eat the most fruits and vegetables are the happiest.

 

Also pay special attention to vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin), as it’s not naturally occurring in too many foods. Selenium is an essential mineral found in Brazil nuts, walnuts, cod, and poultry. Try to add some of those to your weekly diet.

 

Second, make sure you get enough protein. Protein is your body’s main supply of amino acids. Amino acids are very important for mood issues because they are the building blocks of neurotransmitters. Protein also helps to regulate blood sugar. I recommend eating protein with every meal; this includes dark green leafy vegetables, eggs, poultry, and meat.

 

Third, complex carbohydrates like sweet potato and quinoa are great too. They allow better absorption of key amino acids like tryptophan. Tryptophan is used by your body to make serotonin (your “happy hormone”) and melatonin (your “sleepy” hormone). So, if you want to relax, try these in the evening.

 

Fourth, fish and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids (nuts, seeds, and algae) are also mood-boosting. Omega-3s are definitely “brain food” and may help to ease some symptoms.

 

FUN FACT: One study showed that giving one multi-vitamin and one omega-3  fish oil tablet per day to prison inmates reduced the incidence of violent behavior by 50%!

 

 

Last but not least, make sure you’re hydrated. Mild dehydration can cause mood issues as well.

 

 

Mood-busting foods

 

You won’t be surprised to hear me say processed foods are mood-busters, right? One study suggests that eating a lot of processed foods devoid of nutrients can increase your chances of becoming depressed by as much as 60 percent! This is on top of the research that shows nutrient deficiencies can look like mental health problems.

 

“But it makes me feel good!”

 

Yes, some of these mood busters can make you feel better temporarily. Some big food companies study how to maximize the “pleasure” centers with the perfect amount of sugar, salt, and fat. Not to mention the color, texture, and taste; they can light up our taste buds and make us feel good… for now.

 

A few other things to avoid are:

  • Alcohol (nervous system depressant)
  • Caffeine (may worsen anxious feelings and ability to sleep)
  • Sugar (messes with your blood sugar and can worsen inflammation).

 

Conclusion

 

Bad moods can lead to bad eating habits; and, bad eating habits can lead to bad moods. If you need a mood boost, stick to minimally processed nutrient-dense whole foods. Things like fresh fruit and vegetables (including leafy greens), nuts and seeds, eggs, fish, poultry, and meat. Avoid common mood-busting foods like alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.

 

And remember, sometimes “feel good” junk foods, only make you feel good temporarily. So, try my newest recipe for fruit salad, below.

 

Recipe (mood boosting): Fruit Salad

Serves 6-8

 

1-2 cups watermelon, cubed

1-2 cups cantaloupe, cubed

1-2 cups blueberries, fresh

1-2 cups blackberries, fresh

1-2 cups green grapes

 

Instructions

Place all fruit in a large bowl and gently toss.  Seriously, it’s just that easy!

 

Serve & enjoy!

 

Tip: Substitute or add any ready-to-eat fruit, like chopped peaches, or raspberries.

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References:

 

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/food-and-mood

 

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/how-to-fight-depression-naturally-with-nutrition

 

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/foods-increase-happiness/

3 Ways to Avoid Overeating at Meals (Thanksgiving, Christmas, & New Year’s… Oh my!)

Sometimes those holiday feasts are just amazing!!!

And it’s not just the abundance of delicious food but also the people, the decorations, and the ambiance.

It is way too easy (and common) to indulge on those days.

But it doesn’t always stop there.

Sometimes we overeat on regular days.  Or at regular meals.  Or All. The. Time.

Here are three tips to avoid overeating at meals.

(Psst, turn these into habits and ditch the willpower!)

Tip #1: Start with some water

When your stomach is growling and you smell amazingly delicious food it’s too easy to fill a plate (or grab some samples with your bare hands) and dive into the food.

But did you know that it’s possible to sometimes confuse the feeling of thirst with that of hunger?  Your stomach may actually be craving a big glass of water rather than a feast.

Some studies have shown that drinking a glass or two of water before a meal can help reduce the amount of food eaten.  And this super-simple tip may even help with weight loss (…just sayin’).

Not only will the water start to fill up your stomach before you get to the buffet, leaving less room for the feast but drinking enough water has been shown to slightly increase your metabolism.

Win-win!

Tip #2: Try eating “mindfully”

You’ve heard of mindfulness but have you applied that to your eating habits?

This can totally help you avoid overeating as well as having the added bonus of helping your digestion.

Just as being mindful when you meditate helps to focus your attention on your breathing and the present moment being mindful when you eat helps to focus your attention on your meal.

Do this by taking smaller bites, eating more slowly, chewing more thoroughly, and savouring every mouthful.  Notice and appreciate the smell, taste and texture.  Breathe.

This can help prevent overeating because eating slower often means eating less.

When you eat quickly you can easily overeat because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full.

So take your time, pay attention to your food and enjoy every bite.

Bonus points: Eat at a table (not in front of the screen), off of a small plate, and put your fork down between bites.

Tip #3: Start with the salad

 

You may be yearning for that rich, creamy main dish.

But don’t start there.

(Don’t worry, you can have some…just after you’ve eaten your salad).

Veggies are a great way to start any meal because they’re full of not only vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and health-promoting phytochemicals but they also have some secret satiety weapons: fiber and water.

Fiber and water are known to help fill you up and make you feel fuller.  They’re “satiating”.

And these secret weapons are great to have on your side when you’re about to indulge in a large meal.

Summary:

Have your glass of water, eat mindfully, and start with your salad to help avoid overeating at meals.

 

Recipe (Water): Tasty (and beautiful) Pre-Meal Water Ideas

If you’re not much of a plain water drinker or need your water to be more appealing to your senses here are five delicious (and beautiful looking) fruit combos to add to your large glass of water:

  • Slices of lemon & ginger
  • Slices of strawberries & orange
  • Slices of apple & a cinnamon stick
  • Chopped pineapple & mango
  • Blueberries & raspberries

Tip: You can buy a bag (or several bags) of frozen chopped fruit and throw those into your cup, thermos, or uber-cool mason jar in the morning.  They’re already washed and cut and will help keep your water colder longer.

 

 

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/7-health-benefits-of-water/

http://summertomato.com/the-science-behind-mindful-eating-what-happens-to-your-body-during-a-mindful-meal

 

 

Eating Away at Inflammation

Inflammation. It’s not just for health headlines.

 

It’s a fact.

 

Scientists are measuring levels of inflammation in our bodies and finding that it can be pretty bad for our health; this is especially true when it’s chronic (i.e. lasts a long time).

 

Inflammation has been linked to obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes, just to name a few.

 

But, instead of writing all about what it is, how it’s measured, and where it comes from; why don’t I focus on some foods packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants that are proven to help reduce it?

 

Here are my top anti-inflammatory food recommendations:

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #1: Berries, Grapes, and Cherries

 

Why save the best for last? Perhaps the most amazingly delicious anti-inflammatory foods are a sweet favourite of yours?

 

Berries, grapes, and cherries are packed with fiber, and antioxidant vitamins (e.g. vitamin C) and minerals (e.g. manganese).

 

Oh, and did I forget to mention their phytochemicals (phyto=plant)? Yes, many antioxidants such as “anthocyanins” and “resveratrol”  are found in these small and delicious fruits.

 

In fact, berries, grapes, and cherries may be the best dietary sources of these amazingly healthy compounds.

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #2: Broccoli and Peppers

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains the antioxidant “sulforaphane.” This anti-inflammatory compound is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.

 

Bell peppers, on the other hand, are one of the best sources of the antioxidants vitamin C and quercetin.

Just make sure to choose red peppers over the other colours.  Peppers that are any other colour are not fully ripe and won’t have the same anti-inflammatory effect.

 

I pack these two super-healthy vegetables together in this week’s recipe (see below).

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #3: Healthy Fats (avocado, olive oil, fatty fish)

 

Fat can be terribly inflammatory (hello: “trans” fats), neutral (hello: saturated fats), or anti-inflammatory (hello: “omega-3s), this is why choosing the right fats is so important for your health.

 

The best anti-inflammatory fats are the unsaturated ones, including omega-3s. These are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

 

Opt for fresh avocados, extra virgin olive oil, small fish (e.g. sardines and mackerel), and wild fish (e.g. salmon). Oh and don’t forget the omega-3 seeds like chia, hemp, and flax.

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #4: Green Tea

 

Green tea contains the anti-inflammatory compound called “epigallocatechin-3-gallate”, otherwise known as EGCG.

 

EGCG is linked to reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, and Alzheimer’s.

 

Drinking steeped green tea is great, but have you tried matcha green tea? It’s thought to contain even higher levels of antioxidants than regular green tea. WooHoo!!!

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #5 – Turmeric

Would a list of anti-inflammatory foods be complete without the amazing spice turmeric?

 

Turmeric contains the antioxidant curcumin.

 

This compound has been shown to reduce the pain of arthritis, as well as have anti-cancer and anti-diabetes properties.

 

I’ve added it to the broccoli and pepper recipe below for a 1-2-3 punch, to kick that inflammation.

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #6: Dark Chocolate

 

Ok, ok. This *may* be slightly more decadent than my #1 pick of berries, grapes, and cherries.

 

Dark chocolate, with at least 70% cocoa is packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants (namely “flavonols”). These reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping your arteries healthy. They’ve even been shown to prevent “neuro-inflammation” (inflammation of the brain and nerves). Reducing neuro-inflammation may help with long-term memory, and reduce the risk of dementia and stroke.

 

Make sure you avoid the sugary “candy bars.” You already know those aren’t going to be anti-inflammatory!  I love my chocolate treats super dark, slightly bitter & barely sweet!

 

Conclusion

 

There are just so many amazingly delicious and nutritious anti-inflammatory foods you can choose. They range from colourful berries, vegetables, and spices, to healthy fats, and even cocoa.

 

You have so many reasons to add anti-inflammatory foods to your diet to get your daily dose of “anti-inflammation.”

 

Recipe (Broccoli, Pepper, Turmeric): Anti-inflammatory Quinoa

Serves 2

 

¾ cup dry quinoa (pre-rinsed)

2 tbsp coconut oil1 medium onion, diced1 bell pepper, chopped1 dash salt½ tbsp turmeric1 dash black pepper

2 cups broccoli, chopped

In a saucepan place 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the quinoa and simmer until the water is absorbed (about 10-15 minutes).

 

Melt coconut oil in a skillet. Add diced onions, turmeric, pepper and salt, and lightly sauté for a few minutes.

 

Add broccoli and lightly sauté for 5-6 minutes, until it becomes softened.

 

Add the cooked quinoa and stir everything together.

 

Serve & enjoy!

 

Tip: Add some cayenne pepper or curry spice for an extra spicy kick.

 

 

 

References:

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/13-anti-inflammatory-foods/

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4717884/

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-green-tea/

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/matcha-green-tea/

 

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

 

http://leesaklich.com/foods-vs-supps/foods-vs-supplements-the-turmeric-edition/

Feeling the Burn… Eating, Activity, & Heartburn

Heartburn – Can I Help it with Foods and Lifestyle?

 

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.

 

Tip #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.

 

Tip #2 – How and when to eat

Eat slowly. Use meal times to release stress. Chew your food very well. 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.

Tip #3 – Lifestyle techniques

 

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.

 

Conclusion

 

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

1 small bag of mini potatoes

4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Instructions

 

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.

 

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

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:

 

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/get-rid-acid-reflux/

 

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/heartburn-reflux-gerd

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/heartburn-acid-reflux-remedies/

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