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

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

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/

Finding Stability… with my blood sugar!

How Do I Keep My Blood Sugar Stable?

 

Oh, the words “blood sugar.”

 

Does it conjure up visions of restrictive eating, diabetes medications, or insulin injections?

 

Blood sugar is the measure of the amount of sugar in your blood. You need the right balance of sugar in your blood to fuel your brain and muscles.

 

The thing is, it can fluctuate. A lot.

 

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

Eating my Damn Breakfast… and other meals…

I’ve lived with anxiety since I was 8 years old. I’ve developed my own ways of dealing with it, and have learned much from working with a variety of health professionals as well as through my own self-study.  I’ve got a good selection of things in my “tool kit” to help with cope with anxiety issues when they arise.

 

In the past year I noticed something new about my anxiety experiences.  While I’ve always been aware that WHAT I eat impacts my moods and my ability to cope with what life throws my way, and while I’ve been doing my best to eat regularly throughout my day to help keep my low blood pressure in check, I DIDN’T realize how much putting off eating was impacting my emotional & mental health.  When I don’t eat enough and/or regularly I’ve definitely felt my anxiety getting the better of me. Continue reading “Eating my Damn Breakfast… and other meals…”

Momma, Feed Your Brain!

The Gut-Brain Connection: How To Feed Your Brain

 

If there was ever a call for “digestive health,” this is it!

 

gut brain.pngYes, it’s true. Your gut is considered your “second brain.”

 

There is no denying it anymore.

 

And because of the new scientific discoveries about the vagus nerve, the enteric nervous system, and the amazing influence your gut microbes can have, it’s no wonder what you eat feeds not only your body but can directly affect your brain. Continue reading “Momma, Feed Your Brain!”

Busy or Not, Breakfast is a Must!

Sometimes I’m just too busy to have a proper sit-down breakfast #momlife, and sometimes I’m just not hungry… BUT I always make sure I have something in me to start my day off on the right foot and smoothies are my go-to when nothing else is likely to happen.

It is blueberry season in my neck of the woods right now so I’ve stocked up and have an abundance of these amazing little antioxident loaded gems, both fresh & frozen now. (Antioxidants protect your body from free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can damage your cells and contribute to aging and diseases)

This super simple, totally tasty smoothie is something you can enjoy year-round AND the kids love it too! Continue reading “Busy or Not, Breakfast is a Must!”

To Cook, or Not to Cook. That is the question…

Raw vs. Cooked – Which Contains More Vitamins and Minerals?

 

Let’s finally put an end to the debate of raw vs. cooked.

 

Of course, in the grand scheme of a well-balanced, nutrient-dense, varied, whole foods diet, the cooked vs. raw debate isn’t that critical for most people.

 

Where this can become a consideration is for vitamin and mineral deficiencies (or “insufficiencies”). These may be due to digestion or absorption issues, or avoidance of certain foods (due to allergies, intolerances, or choice).

 

And I’ll tell you that the answer isn’t as simple as “raw is always better” or “cooked is always better.”  Continue reading “To Cook, or Not to Cook. That is the question…”

Feeling Snacky? Me too!

Five Weight-Loss Friendly Snacks You Will Love

 

The words “weight-loss” and “snacks” can appear in the same sentence…

But that might also bring thoughts of “tasteless,” “cardboard,” and “completely unsatisfying.”

 

Right?

 

Let me give you my best weight-loss friendly snacks that aren’t just nutritious but also delicious!

 

What’s my criteria you ask? Continue reading “Feeling Snacky? Me too!”

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