Category Archive Diet

5 Healthy Snack Ideas for Fatigue

The words “fatigue” and “sugary snacks” often appear in the same sentence.

Let me give you my best fatigue-fighting snacks that aren’t just nutritious but also delicious!

What’s my criteria you ask?

They have to be nutrient-dense whole foods where a little goes a long way; foods that contain protein, healthy fats and/or fibre.

Here are my 5 healthy snack ideas for fatigue:

1 – Nuts

It’s true – nuts contain fat, but they are NOT fattening!

Well, I’m not talking about the “honey roasted” ones, of course. Those probably are fattening.

Studies show that people who eat nuts tend to be healthier, leaner and have more energy.

By the way, nuts also contain protein and fibre, which means a small amount can go pretty far in terms of filling you up. Not to mention the vitamins and minerals you can get from nuts.

Did you know that almonds have been shown to help with weight loss? At least 10% of the fat in them is not absorbed by the body, and almonds can also help to boost your metabolism!

Tip: Put a handful of unsalted/unsweetened nuts into a small container and throw it in your handbag.

2 – Fresh Fruit

As with nuts, studies show that people who tend to eat more fruit, tend to be healthier. (I’m sure you’re not too surprised!)

Yes, fresh fruit contains sugar, but whole fruits (I’m not talking juice or sweetened dried fruit) also contain a fair bit of water and fibre; not to mention their nutritional value with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Fibre is something that not only helps to fill you up (known as the “satiety factor”) but also helps to slow the release of the fruit sugar into your bloodstream and reduce the notorious “blood sugar spike” followed by the energy crash.

Win-win!

Try a variety of low glycaemic index fruit (apples, pears, berries, etc.) and pair that with a handful of nuts.

Tip: Can’t do fresh? Try frozen. Plus, they’re already chopped for you.

3 – Chia seeds

This is one of my personal favourites…

Chia is not only high in fibre (I mean HIGH in fibre), but it also contains protein and omega-3 fatty acids (yes THOSE omega-3s!). As well as antioxidants, calcium, and magnesium.

Can you see how awesome these tiny guys are?

They also absorb a lot of liquid, so by soaking them for a few minutes, they make a thick pudding (that is delicious and fills you up).

Tip: Put two tablespoons in a bowl with ½ cup of amond milk and wait a few minutes. Add in some berries, chopped fruit or nuts, and/or cinnamon and enjoy!

4 – Boiled or poached eggs

Eggs are packed with nutrition and most of it is in the yolk.

They contain a lot of high-quality protein and a good amount of vitamins and minerals.

And recent research shows that the cholesterol in the yolks is NOT associated with high elevated cholesterol or heart disease risk.

Yup, you read that right!

Tip: Boil a bunch of eggs and keep them in your fridge for a super-quick (and nutritious) snack!

5 – Vegetables dipped in hummus

I don’t need to tell you how great these are for you, but just maybe I need to sell you on the delicious “snackability” of these nutrition powerhouses.

Veggies contain fibre and water to help fill you up, and you don’t need me to tell you about their vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, right?

You can easily open a bag of baby carrots and/or cherry tomatoes and give them a quick rinse (they’re already bite-sized).

Tip: Use a bit of dip. Have you put almond butter on celery? How about trying my new hummus recipe below?

For personalised healthy snack ideas, contact Kate to book an appointment.

Conclusion:

Go ahead and try one, or more, of these healthy snacks. Prepare them the night before if you need to. They will not be “tasteless,” like “cardboard,” or “completely unsatisfying.” Trust me.

Recipe (Vegetable Dip): Hummus

Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients

1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained & rinsed

⅓ cup tahini

1 garlic clove

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 pinch sea salt

1 pinch black pepper

Instructions

Put all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth. You may need to thin it out with a bit of water, so add it 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time and blend.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Don’t like sesame? Use an avocado in place of the tahini.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/20-most-weight-loss-friendly-foods/
https://authoritynutrition.com/foods/almonds/
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/encyclopedia/food/almonds/
https://authoritynutrition.com/is-fruit-good-or-bad-for-your-health/
https://authoritynutrition.com/foods/apples/
https://authoritynutrition.com/fresh-vs-frozen-fruit-and-vegetables/
https://authoritynutrition.com/11-proven-health-benefits-of-chia-seeds/
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/encyclopedia/food/eggs/

How Much Sugar is Too Much?

It’s official! Organisations and governments are (finally) declaring a maximum amount of daily sugar intake.

While this is a step forward, there are still a few problems. One – they don’t all agree with each other. And, two, I don’t necessarily agree with them either.

We all know sugar is NOT a health food. It isn’t full of nutrition, and excess consumption is not associated with great health.

The problem is that sugar is everywhere. It’s naturally occurring. It’s also added to just about every processed food there is. And this “added sugar” is a factor in many chronic diseases we see today. Sugar is inflammatory. Too much is associated with weight gain, fatigue, brain fog, candida overgrowth, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and cavities. Too much sugar is a huge health risk, no matter how you look at it.

So let’s talk about how much sugar is “too much.”

Added sugar vs. naturally occurring sugar

What do some of the officials say?

Before we talk about the “official” numbers (and why I don’t agree with them), you need to know the difference between “added” sugar and “naturally occurring” sugar.

Fruit and other healthy whole foods contain sugar. They also contain water, fibre, vitamins, minerals, and other phytochemicals. They are good for you. Eating fruits and vegetables is a well-proven way to reduce your risks of many chronic diseases.

“Added sugars,” on the other hand, are concerning. In 2013, the American Heart Association calculated that about 25,000 deaths per year were due to sweetened beverages. “Added sugars” are also in baked goods, sweets, soups, sauces and other processed foods. You can find sugar on the ingredient list as many names, often ending in “-ose.” These include glucose, fructose, sucrose, etc.

So, “Total sugars” = “Naturally occurring sugars” + “Added sugars.”

The “official” change is the new Nutrition Facts tables. You may remember that they declare the amount of sugar, but don’t give it a %DV (% daily value); this means, they’ve never had a “benchmark” maximum daily value to use. They haven’t declared how much is too much. Now, they are implementing a %DV for sugar.

The %DV is based on 100 g/day of total sugar. Unfortunately, this number is large because it includes both naturally occurring and added sugars. The %DV is in-line with the Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation’s recommendations of no more than 90g of total sugars per day.

In 2008, the average daily total sugar intake in the USA was 76.7 grams per day; this is less than these two benchmarks. Yet, it doesn’t seem that people are getting healthier. I’d argue that 100g per day total sugar is still too high.

In the USA, the labels are changing too. They are not declaring “total” sugars but will differentiate between naturally occurring and added sugars. They have decided on a maximum of 50g of “added” sugars each day. Unfortunately, this is still more than the American Heart Association’s recommended maximum of 24 g/day added sugar for women, and 36 g/day added sugar for men.

What is a better daily sugar goal?

While these official numbers are a step in the right direction, they’re not what I would recommend.

For one thing, I’d ditch as many processed food as possible, regardless of their sugar content. There are a ton of studies that show that processed foods are bad for your health. Period. I wouldn’t recommend eating your “daily value” of sugar from sweetened processed foods. I don’t recommend even 50g of “added” sugar per day. Get your sugar from whole, unprocessed fruits first.

Secondly, you don’t even need to max out your daily sugar intake. I promise! Try to reduce your sugar intake below these “official” amounts for an even better goal.

Tips to reduce your sugar intake

Here are some of my most popular recommendations to reduce your sugar intake, so you don’t get too much:

  • Reduce (or eliminate) sugar-sweetened beverages; this includes soda pop, sweetened coffee/tea, sports drinks, etc. Instead, have fruit-infused water. Or try drinking your coffee/tea “black” or with a touch of cinnamon or vanilla instead.
  • Reduce (or eliminate) your desserts and baked goods and bake your own instead. You can easily reduce the sugar in a recipe by half. Or try my delicious (no added sugar) dessert recipe below.
  • Instead of a granola bar (or other sugary snack), try fruit, a handful of nuts, or veggies with hummus. These are easy grab-and-go snacks if you prepare them in a “to-go” container the night before.

Let me know in the comments your favourite tips to reduce your sugar intake!

To learn more about how to reduce sugar in your diet and healthy replacement foods, contact Kate for a free 15 minute consultation.

Recipe (No added sugar): Ice Lollie

Serves 1

Ingredients

¾ cup almond milk (unsweetened)

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp cacao powder (unsweetened)

½ banana, frozen

Ice cubes

Instructions

Add everything into a blender except ice. Blend.

Add a handful of ice cubes and pulse until thick and ice is blended.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Double the recipe to share.

References:

https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-labelling-changes.html?_ga=2.256456139.1337838755.1500915116-364691916.1498677123
https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm#images
http://www.heartandstroke.ca/get-healthy/healthy-eating/reduce-sugar
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Added-Sugars_UCM_305858_Article.jsp#.WXYtbYjys2w
https://authoritynutrition.com/how-much-sugar-per-day/
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/truth-about-sugar
http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-break-the-sugar-habit-and-help-your-health-in-the-process
http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-spot-and-avoid-added-sugar

Creating a Mindset for Health

So much of health is all about habits and actions, but where do these all stem from? What if we don’t have to make as many changes as we think we do? What if there was one powerful thing that makes a lot of difference?

That thing is mindset.

Mindset is sometimes called “the story we tell ourselves.” It’s our attitude toward things in our life. And we have control over our mindset.

And research is showing that it may be far more powerful than we thought.

Very interesting health mindset study

Here’s a quick story about a fascinating study.

Researchers at Stanford University looked at a bunch of people’s health and wellness lifestyle habits, as well as health markers.

What they found was that the people who thought they were a lot less active than they actually were, had a higher risk of death than the general public. And, they also had up to 71% higher risk of death than people who thought they were more active. Even if the story they told themselves about being “not very active” wasn’t true!

How is this even possible that people who simply thought they were less active had higher risks, even if it wasn’t true?

There are a couple of ideas why. Firstly, one is that maybe if we feel like we’re less active, it may make us feel more stressed. And stress isn’t good for our mental or physical health. Secondly, there may be a bit of a mind-body connection where the body embodies what the mind visualises.

Researchers don’t know why, but what matters is that there is a good mindset.

This means that our mindset, the way we think about ourselves and our habits is extremely important…just as important as actually having good habits.

So, let me give you a couple of strategies to boost your mindset for health.

Health mindset strategy 1 – Aim for good enough

Almost no one eats perfectly seven days a week (not even me, and I’ll be the first to admit it). It’s inevitable that obsessing over the quality and quantity of everything we eat or drink isn’t necessarily a great mindset to have.

It can bring on binging, shame, and guilt – none of these are great ways to get healthy. We want to get healthier by making better choices and building better habits. And these are usually best done incrementally – one step at a time.

So, instead of having a black and white approach where everything is good or bad, why not try aiming for good enough to empower ourselves to make better choices, instead of perfect choices.

If it helps, tell yourself that you’re doing an experiment. Allow yourself to try out a new habit or way of eating and give yourself permission to experiment with it, instead of aiming for perfection. Sometimes you need to use this mind trick to get yourself over the hump of getting started and sticking to it.

Health mindset strategy 2 – Stop making trade-offs

When you try to “earn” a gluttonous weekend by eating clean during the week, you’re making a trade-off. You’re telling yourself that, as long as you’re good most of the week, you can go wild on the weekend.

And that’s not awesome because the mindset is jumping from one extreme to the other. You’re controlling what you do all week, and possibly thinking about how to indulge over the weekend. A better mindset is to live as though you’re trying to do well every single day. Like you care about your health and wellness. Caring about your health can still include the occasional treat. When you’re consistently doing your best, that’s good enough.

For support in creating a mindset for health contact Kate for a free 15 minute phone consultation.

Conclusion

Creating a mindset for health can be a powerful tool for better physical health. There’s a proven mind-body connection that research can measure.

Thinking positively, and dropping the black/white and good/bad labels, can help you reach your health goals.

How is your mindset for health? Which of these tips resonate with you the most? How are you going to implement them in your life? Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe (Hydrating mindset refresher): Chia Berry Water

Serves 1

Ingredients

1 tbsp chia seeds
¼ cup raspberries
¼ tsp mint
2.5 cups water

Instructions

Add the water, mint & raspberries to your blender and blend until combined (add ice, if desired). Fill your favourite water bottle with the mixture and add chia seeds. Shake before drinking.

Serve & enjoy! This is a great source of fiber and a refreshing tasty drink to have during the day.

References:

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/weekend-overeating

How to Reduce Stress Hormone Levels Naturally

STRESS!!!

Its causes are absolutely everywhere. Would you agree?

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.

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?

Do you experience any of these? Well, then read on because I have a list of foods, nutrients and lifestyle recommendations to show you how to reduce stress hormone levels 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; 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 fibre.

To learn more about foods and nutrients to reduce stress hormone levels, contact Kate for a free 15 minute consultation.

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. There are many proven ways of how to lower stress hormone levels 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!

Recipe (High fibre prebiotic): De-Stressing Chocolate Pudding

Serves 6

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.

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

How To Keep Your Blood Sugar Level Stable

Oh, the words “blood sugar level.” 

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.

Many people with ME/CFS have a blood sugar imbalance that is leading to symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, dizziness and sugar cravings. When I was ill with my CFS and went to see a Naturopathic Nutritionist, her test revealed that I was on the edge of being diabetic! I was able to balance my blood sugar level with nutrition.

Why keep my blood sugar stable? 

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

When blood sugar is too low, this is referred to as “hypoglycaemia.” 

When blood sugar is too high, it is referred to as hyperglycaemia.  Prolonged periods of elevated blood sugar levels (chronic hyperglycaemia) can lead to “insulin resistance.”  

Insulin resistance is when your cells are just so bored of the excess insulin that they start ignoring (resisting) it, and that keeps your blood sugar levels too high. 

Insulin resistance and chronic hyperglycaemia can eventually lead to diabetes type 2. 

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

Foods for stable blood sugar 

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

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

Also eating protein and healthy fat foods which break down slowly and don’t cause blood sugar spikes. Foods like meat, fish, eggs, tofu, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.

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

To learn more about how to use foods and supplements to balance your blood sugar level, contact Kate for a free 15 minute discovery call.

Lifestyle tips for stable blood sugar 

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

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

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

Conclusion 

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

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

Recipe (blood sugar balancing): Cinnamon Apples 

Serves 4 

Ingredients

2 apples, chopped 

1 tbsp coconut oil

½ tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon

⅛ tsp sea salt

¼ tsp vanilla extract 

Instructions

Place chopped apples into a small saucepan with 2 tbsp water. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. After about 5 minutes the apples will become slightly soft, and water will be absorbed. 

Add 1 tbsp coconut oil. Stir apples and oil together.  

Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring every minute or so. 

Add cinnamon, salt, and vanilla. Stir well. 

Cook for another few minutes, stirring until the apples reach your desired softness! 

Serve and enjoy! 

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

References: 

https://authoritynutrition.com/15-ways-to-lower-blood-sugar/
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/research-review-blood-sugar

Foods to Avoid if you Get Migraines

Migraine headaches can be terrible. The pain, vision problems (including aura), nausea, etc. can be debilitating; especially if they stick around for hours or even days.

Migraines affect about 15% of adults, so they’re fairly common. Many people with CFS/ME get regular migraine headaches. And, while the exact cause is not known, there are lots of known triggers. Many foods and drinks are common triggers of migraines. You may have noticed certain foods, and drinks trigger your migraines. Sometimes the migraine comes on within an hour of the food/drink. Other times it may happen several hours, or up to a day later. Avoiding these triggers can help.

One of the main ways these foods and drinks trigger migraines is by their action on the blood vessels in the brain. When the brain’s blood vessels constrict and then dilate (widen), this seems to cause migraines. Many of the foods I’m listing below affect the constriction and dilation of blood vessels during a migraine

If you or someone you care about suffers from migraines, this post lists common triggers. Avoiding these can be a great tool to reduce these uber-painful headaches. You may be sensitive to one, or many of these foods and drinks. They act as migraine triggers in some people, but not all. You can find out by eliminating them and seeing if avoidance helps you.

Foods to avoid if you get migraines

The first food that commonly triggers migraines is hard cheese like cheddar and Swiss cheese; this is because they contain “tyramine” which is from an amino acid in the protein found in cheese. Other foods high in tyramine include those that are aged, cured, dried, smoked or pickled. These include sauerkraut and tofu.

The second most common migraine-triggering foods are cured or processed meats. Things like hot dogs, lunch meats, and bacon are in this category; this is because of their nitrates and nitrites that can dilate those blood vessels in the brain. Even if these are not a trigger for you, it’s best to eliminate them from your diet because of the other health issues they’re associated with like colon cancer.

I wish I had better news, but the third common migraine triggering food is chocolate. The evidence is conflicting, as some studies show a link and others don’t. You may or may not be sensitive to chocolate’s effects on the brain; you have to eliminate it to find out.

Artificial flavours like monosodium glutamate (MSG) can also trigger migraines. MSG is often found in Chinese food and is a common migraine trigger. There is not a lot of research on this, but it’s something to consider eliminating from your diet to see if it makes a difference.

If you would like more information of foods to avoid if you get migraines, contact Kate for a free 15 minute call to see if we’re a good fit to work together.

Drinks to avoid if you get migraines

Alcohol is a common trigger for headaches and migraines. Red wine and beer seem to be the most common culprits. We’re not sure why, but it may be red wine’s compounds such as histamine, sulfites, or flavonoids. Also alcohol is dehydrating which could contribute to headaches.

Ice and ice-cold water have also been shown to trigger headaches and migraines. So try not to eat or drink things that are too cold.

Artificial sweeteners like Aspartame are another common trigger. Aspartame is in diet coke and other processed foods to make them taste sweet without adding sugar. As with MSG, there is not a lot of research on its effects with migraines. But again, it is something to consider eliminating from your diet and see if that makes a difference.

Conclusion

There are many common food and drink triggers for migraines. Maybe one, or more of these trigger migraines for you. The best way to know is by eliminating them from your diet for a few weeks and see how that works.

The list includes hard cheeses, processed meats, chocolate, alcohol, ice water, and artificial flavours and sweeteners.

Do any of these trigger migraines for you (or someone you care about)? Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe (migraine-calming tea): Migraine-Calming Fresh Herbal Tea

Serves 1

Ingredients

5 washed mint leaves (or a tea bag)

2 cups of boiled water

Instructions

Steep mint leaves (or tea bag) for 5-10 minutes.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Let the tea cool down a bit before drinking it.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/9-common-migraine-triggers/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27714637
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/elimination-diet-infographic
https://examine.com/nutrition/scientists-just-found-that-red-meat-causes-cancer–or-did-they/
https://examine.com/nutrition/does-aspartame-cause-headaches/

Healthy Fats and Dangerous Fats

All fat is NOT created equal! There are healthy fats and dangerous fats.

Health-building fats support your brain, hormones, immune system, heart health, and moods. Health-busting fats pretty much bust all of these (brain, hormones, immune system, heart health, and moods). So, this is why the information I’m sharing today is so important.

Fat is one of the three critical macronutrients; along with protein and carbohydrates. Some fats are super-health-boosting; and, others are super-health-busting.

Also you need healthy fats to absorb fat soluble vitamins including vitamins A, D, E and K.

As a general rule, the fats from whole foods that are the least processed will be the healthiest for you. But, you already knew that, right?

So let me give you a definitive list of the fats to use, and the fats to ditch.

Health-boosting fats

Health-boosting fats are found in:

  • Nuts and seeds (hemp, flaxs, and chia)
  • Oily fish e.g. salmon, sardines and mackerel
  • Pasture-raised/grass-fed animals
  • Eggs
  • Olives
  • Avocados
  • Coconuts.

I love “virgin” oils, and here’s why. Getting the oil out of a whole food involves some processing. Sometimes it’s by squeezing, or heating. Other times it’s by using chemical solvents. The word “virgin” is used to show minimal processing (and no solvents!).

According to the World Health Organisation’s Codex Alimentarius:

Virgin fats and oils are edible vegetable fats, and oils obtained, without altering the nature of the oil, by mechanical procedures, e.g., expelling or pressing, and the application of heat only. They may be purified by washing with water, settling, filtering and centrifuging only.”

For example, Extra virgin olive oil must:

  • Be cold pressed
  • Not contain any refined olive oil
  • Possess superior quality based on chemical composition and sensory characteristics.

Don’t you think these standards ensure higher quality? I sure do!

Plus, the minimal processing helps to maintain some of the quality of delicate fat molecules, as well as their antioxidants. Win-win!

Health-busting fats

Health-busting fats are found in:

  • Seed and vegetable oils like sunflower, safflower, soybean and corn oils
  • Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils
  • Margarine.

Hydrogenated oils are particularly bad; this is because they contain small amounts of “trans” fats. Studies show that trans fats lead to insulin resistance, inflammation and belly fat. They also drastically raise the risk of heart disease. Lose-lose!

Finally don’t forget, we’re not just talking about buying bottles of these fats for home cooking. We’re also looking at the processed foods that contain them.

How to get more health-building fats

Firstly, you have my permission to ditch any foods in your cupboards that contain sunflower oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, corn oil, or any hydrogenated oil.

Secondly, try substituting one of the health-building oils whenever you have a recipe that calls for the other stuff. Try flaxseed oil or extra virgin olive oil in your salad dressing, coconut oil in your cooking, and rapeseed oil in your baking.

Finally, make healthier versions of your go-to processed foods. I’ll help you out now with my super-simple mayonnaise recipe below. It’s way better for you than the unrefrigerated stuff you find at your grocery store.

Recipe (healthy fat): Mayonnaise

Makes about 1 ½ cups

Ingredients

1 large or extra large egg

2 tsp lemon juice

½ tsp salt

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic

1 cup olive or avocado oil

Instructions

Add all ingredients except oil to your food processor. Process until creamy (about 10 seconds).

With the food processor running, add a few drops of oil into the egg mixture. Every few seconds add a few more drops. Continue until the mixture starts to thicken.

Now you can do a slow drizzle. Stop pouring, every once in a while checking that the oil gets fully incorporated.

Store leftovers in a covered container in the fridge for up to 1-2 weeks.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Use this in place of mayonnaise for egg, salmon, chicken salads, etc.

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-healthy-fats

https://authoritynutrition.com/extra-virgin-olive-oil/

https://authoritynutrition.com/saturated-fat-good-or-bad/

http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/labelling/food-labelling-for-industry/fats-and-oils/eng/1392751693435/1392751782638?chap=5

https://eatingrules.com/cooking-oil-comparison-chart/

3 Must Eat Breakfast Foods

Do you love your breakfast? Do you have a short list of “go-to” recipes? Would you like a bit of inspiration to start eating breakfast again? Check out my 3 must eat breakfast foods.

Getting some protein at each meal can help with blood sugar management, sustaining energy levels through the day and weight loss. This is because protein helps you feel fuller longer and releases energy slowly through the day. So I’m going to show you how to get the protein, as well as some veggies and healthy fats that will be your soon-to-be favourite new “go-to” breakfast foods.

Breakfast Food #1: Eggs

Yes, eggs are the “quintessential” breakfast food. And for good reason!

No, I’m not talking about processed egg whites in a carton. I mean actual whole “eggs”.

Egg whites are mostly protein while the yolks are the real nutritional powerhouses. Those yolks contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats.

Eggs have been shown to help you feel full, keep you feeling fuller longer, and help to stabilise blood sugar and insulin.

Not to mention how easy it is to boil a bunch of eggs and keep them in the fridge for a “grab and go” breakfast when you’re running short on time.

And…nope the cholesterol in eggs is not associated with an increased risk of arterial or heart diseases.

One thing to consider is to try to prevent cooking the yolks at too high of a temperature because that can cause some of the cholesterol to become oxidised. It’s the oxidised cholesterol that’s unhealthy for the heart.

The healthiest way to cook eggs is to poach them in boiling water for 5 minutes so the egg yolk is still runny. Frying, scrambling and boiling are also ok too.

Breakfast Food #2: Nuts and/or Seeds

Nuts and seeds contain protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Nuts and/or seeds would make a great contribution to breakfast.

You won’t be fooled by “sugared” nuts, sweetened nut/seed butters, or chia “cereals” with added sugars – you know I’m talking about the real, whole, unsweetened food here.

Nuts and seeds are also the ultimate fast food if you’re running late in the mornings. Grab a small handful of almonds, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds as you’re running out the door; you can nosh on them while you’re commuting.

Not to mention how easy it is to add a spoonful of nut/seed butter into your morning breakfast smoothie.

They’re also great in granola or muesli, or chopped up on your porridge.

Hint: If you like a creamy latte in the mornings try making one with nut or seed butter. Just add your regular hot tea and a tablespoon or two of a creamy nut or seed butter into your blender & blend until frothy.

Breakfast Food #3: Veggies

Yes, you already know you really should get protein at every meal including breakfast; but this also applies to veggies. You know I would be remiss to not recommend veggies at every meal, right?

Veggies are powerhouses of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fibre, and water. You can’t go wrong adding them into every single meal of the day so if you don’t already you should definitely try them for breakfast!

And no, you don’t need to have a salad or roasted veggies for breakfast if you don’t want to but you totally can! You wouldn’t be breaking any “official” breakfast rules or anything like that.

Adding some protein to leftover veggies is a great combination for any meal. Including breakfast.

If you like me to look over your diet and give you more healthy breakfast ideas, book an appointment on the contact page here.

I’ve included a delicious recipe below for you to try (and customise) for your next breakfast.

Recipe: Veggie Omelette

Serves 1

1 teaspoon coconut oil

2-3 eggs

¼ cup veggies (grated zucchini and/or sliced mushrooms and/or diced peppers)

Pinch salt, pepper and/or turmeric

Add coconut oil to a frying pan and melt on low-medium heat (cast-iron pans are preferred).

In the meantime grab a bowl and beat the egg(s) with your vegetables of choice and the spices.

Tilt pan to ensure the bottom is covered with the melted oil. Pour egg mixture into pan and lightly fry the eggs without stirring.

When the bottom is lightly done flip over in one side and cook until white is no longer runny.

Serve & Enjoy!

Tip: Substitute grated, sliced, or diced portion of your favourite vegetable. Try grated carrots, chopped broccoli or diced tomato.

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/eggs-worse-than-fast-food

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/encyclopedia/food/eggs/

https://authoritynutrition.com/eating-healthy-eggs/

https://authoritynutrition.com/12-best-foods-to-eat-in-morning/

Pros and Cons of Elimination Diets

Our digestive system is a huge portal into our bodies. Lots of things can get in there that aren’t always good for us. And because the system is so complex (knowing which tiny molecules to absorb, and which keep out), lots can go wrong. And that’s one reason why 70% of our immune system lives in and around our digestive system.

This makes food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances a huge contribution to an array of symptoms all over our bodies. Things like autoimmune issues, inflammation, and even our moods can be affected by what we eat. If you have digestive issues, chronic fatigue (ME/CFS) or any other unexplained symptoms, you may consider trying an elimination diet.

An elimination diet is one where you strategically eliminate certain foods to see if you react to them. It can help immensely when trying to figure out if a particular food is causing symptoms because you’re sensitive to it.

You generally start out by eliminating the most common food allergens for a few weeks. Then you slowly add them back one at a time and note any symptoms (better or worse).

Let’s go over the pros and cons of this diet.

Pros of elimination diets

The main benefit is that, by tuning into your body’s reactions to certain foods, you can pinpoint sensitivities and intolerances that you may not otherwise know of. Experiencing results first-hand can be very motivating when it comes to sticking to eliminating a certain food.

Elimination diets can be less expensive, and in some cases more reliable, than standard food intolerance testing.

It can also be very empowering to be in control of what you eat, learn about food and the compounds they contain, and try new recipes that exclude eliminated foods. Having a good plan makes things much easier (even exciting). If you love grocery shopping, cooking from scratch, and trying new recipes, you’re going to draw on all these skills.

These diets can be customisable, which is a great pro (see first con below).

Cons of elimination diets

You may not figure out everything you’re sensitive to. That’s why testing for food intolerances can be a good idea. Your plan should be strategically created to ensure that the most common food allergens are eliminated. This will give you the highest likelihood of success. It can become complicated if you let it.

It’s a commitment for around 4-6 weeks, if not longer (which can be difficult for some people).

If you’re not used to tracking all foods and all symptoms every day, you’re going to have to start doing it.

You may find that you’re intolerant to one of your favourite foods, or even an entire group of your favourite foods.

When you’re eliminating certain foods (or parts of foods, like gluten), it can be HARD! You almost need to prepare all of your foods, snacks and drinks yourself from scratch. If you don’t take full control like this, it can be so easy to accidentally ingest something that you’re cutting out. And at that point, you might need to start all over again.

Conclusion

Elimination diets can be a very useful tool to identify food sensitivities. They can be empowering and customised.

However, they can be difficult to adhere to and, sadly, you may find out that you’re sensitive to your favourite foods.

Have you done an elimination diet? What was your experience? Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe (Elimination diet friendly): Steamed Salmon & Vegetables

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 medium courgettes, sliced thinly

½ pint mushrooms, sliced

2 tsp olive oil

4 tsp water
2 boneless, skinless salmon fillets, no more than 1 ¼ “ thick

½ clove garlic, diced

2 dashes salt & pepper

Instructions

Preheat oven to 200C (450F).

Toss vegetables with olive oil. Tear two sheets of parchment paper and fold in half. Open the sheets and place half of the vegetables onto each sheet on one side of the fold.

Add 2 teaspoons of water and place a fillet on top. Top with garlic, salt, and pepper.

Fold the other half of each sheet over the fish, and tightly crimp the edges.

Put packets flat on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Remove from oven and check to ensure fish flakes easily with a fork (be careful the steam is hot).

Open each pack and place onto plates.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can mix up the vegetables or herbs, following your elimination diet protocol.

References:

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/elimination-diet

http://www.dietvsdisease.org/11-warning-signs-you-have-a-food-intolerance/

Foods and Lifestyle Tips for Heartburn

Many people with ME/CFS experience digestive issues including 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 acid reflux, occurs when the strong acid in your stomach creeps up into your oesophagus.

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 oesophagus!

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

But your oesophagus 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 oesophagus 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 afterwards. These triggers may be different for everyone; but often include onions, garlic, chocolate, citrus fruits, 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 fibre 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.

If you want to learn more about nutrition and supplements to stop heartburn, contact Kate for a free 15 minute chat. Click HERE for contact details.

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 oesophagus 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 oesophagus (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:

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

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