Category Archive Nutrition

How to Improve Gut Health

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

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

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

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

Our Gut’s Role in Our Overall Health

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

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

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

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

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

If you have leaky gut and would like to heal it once and for all, contact Kate for a free 15 minute consultation call.

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

So, keeping your gut microbes happy is the second pillar of gut health!

How to Improve Gut Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Probiotic-Rich Fermented Carrots Recipe

Serves 12

Ingredients

1 L warm water
4 tsp salt
4 carrots, medium, peeled, sliced

1 clove garlic, smashed (optional)

Instructions

Make a brine by dissolving the salt in water.

Place carrots into a clean canning jar, packing them in tight. Make sure to leave about 1 inch of head space at the top.

Fill the jar with brine, making sure to cover the carrots completely. Weigh the carrots down to make sure they don’t float (you can use a “fermenting weight”).

Close the jar and let it sit at room temperature for 1-4 days. The longer it sits, the more the flavour will develop. Feel free to open and taste.

Serve & enjoy!

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

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/does-all-disease-begin-in-the-gut/
http://neurotrition.ca/blog/your-gut-bugs-what-they-eat-and-7-ways-feed-them

How to Get Enough Vitamin D

When we think of “vitamins,” we know they’re super-important for health.

But vitamin D is special.

It’s difficult to get enough vitamin D; vitamin D is, therefore, a very common deficiency, especially in people with CFS.

So, let’s talk about how much of this critical fat-soluble vitamin we need, and how you can get enough. The three ways to vitamin D are exposure to the sun, consuming vitamin D containing food, and through supplements.

Why is vitamin D important, and how much do we need?

Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium from our food and acts like a hormone to help us build strong bones. Vitamin D helps to moderate the immune system, which is often low in people with ME/CFS. It can also help with cellular growth, and help to prevent mood imbalances such as depression and seasonal affective disorder.

Not getting enough vitamin D can lead to bone diseases like osteomalacia. Inadequate vitamin D can also increase your risk of heart disease, autoimmune diseases, certain cancers, and even death. The “official” minimum amount of vitamin D to strive for each day is merely 400-600 IU. Many experts think that this is not nearly enough for optimal health.

To ensure you get adequate amounts of vitamin D, you can implement any combination of the three vitamin D sources mentioned above on a weekly basis.

How can I get enough vitamin D from the sun?

Your skin makes vitamin D when it’s exposed to the sun; that’s why it’s referred to as the “sunshine vitamin.”How much vitamin D your skin makes depends on many things. Location, season, clouds, clothing, all affect the amount of vitamin D your skin can produce from the sun. One standard recommendation is to get about 20 minutes of sun exposure between 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. to the face, arms, legs, or back. This should be done without sunscreen, at least twice a week. Of course, we should always avoid sunburns and of course in some locations (and seasons of the year) it’s not easy to get sun exposure.

So, how can we get enough vitamin D in other ways?

How can I get enough vitamin D from food?

Vitamin D is naturally found in fatty fish, liver, and egg yolks. Some mushrooms make vitamin D when they’re exposed to the sun.

Some foods are “fortified” (which means vitamin D has been added) with vitamin D. These include milk, some orange juices, breakfast cereals, and yogurt. It will say on the label how much vitamin D has been added per serving.

Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, you can increase absorption of it from your food if you eat it with some fat (healthy fat, of course).Between sun exposure and food, it still may be difficult to get even the minimum of 400 IU of vitamin D each day; this is why vitamin D supplements are quite popular.

If you want to learn more about how to get enough vitamin D from foods and supplements, contact Kate by visiting her contact page and sending a message or having a free 15 minute phone call.

How can I get enough vitamin D from supplements?

It’s easy enough to just “pop a pill” or take some cod liver oil (which also contains vitamin A). Either of these can ensure that you get the minimum amount of vitamin D, plus a bit extra.

But before you take vitamin D containing supplements, make sure you check that it won’t interact with other supplements or medications you may be taking. Always read your labels, and ask a healthcare professional for advice.

Do not take more than the suggested dosage on the label of any vitamin D supplement, except under medical care.

The maximum amount recommended (for the general population) is 4,000 IU/day. Too much vitamin D can raise your blood levels of calcium (to an unsafe level), and this can affect your heart and kidneys.

The best thing, if you’re concerned, is to ask your healthcare professional to do a blood test and make a recommendation about how much vitamin in supplement form is right for you. Your healthcare practitioner may recommend higher amounts of vitamin D supplementation for a short time while under their care.

Conclusion

In conclusion, vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin which; many people have a hard time maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D. There are three ways to get enough vitamin D: sun exposure, through certain foods, and in supplements.

I’ve given you some ideas how you can get the minimum 400-600 IU or vitamin D daily.

If you’re concerned, it’s best to request a blood test that tests your vitamin D levels to be sure what’s right for you. Always take supplements as directed.

Recipe (vitamin D): Super-Simple Grilled Salmon

Serves 4

4 wild salmon fillets

1 bunch asparagus

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 black pepper

1/4 tsp dried parsley

1/4 tsp. dried dill

4 tbsp olive oil

Preheat the oven broiler and raise the oven rack. Place parchment paper on a baking sheet and place fish on top, skin-side down. Surround with a single layer of asparagus.

Sprinkle the fish and asparagus with sea salt, pepper, parsley, and dill. Drizzle with olive oil.

Broil for 8-10 minutes until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Serve with a side of rice or quinoa.

References:

http://thewellnessbusinesshub.com/yes-nutrient-deficiencies-heres-proof-can/
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/reference/table/ref_vitam_tbl-eng.php
https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-vitamin-d
https://authoritynutrition.com/vitamin-d-101/
http://neurotrition.ca/blog/brain-food-essentials-sardines

Natural Tips to Recover from Cold and Flu

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

But, if you do happen to get ill, 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 ill in the first place. And good nutrition can help your immune system fight off a cold more quickly. 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.

Many people with ME/CFS have underlying viruses such as Epsteinn Barr virus and cytomegalovirus. So the tips below can help you to boost your immune system.

First I’ll give you some tips to reduce your risk of getting ill 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 getting a cold

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

1 – Wash your hands. A lot. Your hands can trap and transport all kinds of microbes that cause illness. 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, broccoli and citrus fruits. 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, or 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 Cold and Flu

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 ill, 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 ill 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 ill, 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 a cold? Leave a comment below to let me know.

Recipe (Throat soothing): Honey Lemon Ginger Cough Drops

Ingredients

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.

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/

What to do About Leaky Gut

Leaky gut is also known as increased intestinal permeability. It’s when the cells lining our intestines (gut) separate a bit from each other. They’re supposed to be nice and tightly joined to the cell beside it; this is to allow certain things into our bodies (like nutrients), and keep other things out.

When the tight junctions between intestinal cells weaken it can cause the gut to be more permeable – leakier – than normal. When this happens, it allows things into our bodies that should not get in; things like large pieces of protein, toxins, or even bacteria and waste.

When substances that shouldn’t be there get into our bloodstream through the “leaks” in our gut, our immune system kicks in. These leaked bits mimic a food allergy, and our body reacts accordingly. It mounts a response to try to attack the invaders, and this causes inflammation.

Leaky gut is associated with a number of issues including food allergies, Coeliac disease, autoimmune diseases (e.g., Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Hashimoto’s, asthma, type 1 diabetes, acne, eczema), joint pain, and neurological problems (e.g., multiple sclerosis). Some research shows that leaky gut might contribute to or worsen these conditions.

Also leaky gut is common in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). It can be caused by the roots of a Candida overgrowth piercing holes in the gut lining. In addition it can be caused be deficiencies of nutrients such as omega 3, zinc and glutamine.

While some of our gut permeability may have a genetic factor, there are lifestyle habits that contribute as well. Too much sugar or alcohol, and not enough fibre can make things worse. Even certain compounds in foods (e.g., gluten, lectins, casein, fructose) and food additives (e.g., MSG) can weaken tight junctions.

So, what should we eat, and ditch, for optimal gut health?

Avoid or reduce these

There are certain foods that irritate the gut or can cause those loosened junctions to get even looser.

Some of these include:

  • Foods that you’re allergic to
  • Foods with added sugar
  • Foods containing MSG
  • Foods with sugar alcohols (e.g., sorbitol)
  • Gluten-containing grains (e.g., wheat, rye, barley)
  • High-lectin foods (e.g., grains, legumes)
  • Nightshades (e.g., eggplant, peppers, tomato)
  • Dairy (which contains casein & lactose)
  • Excessive alcohol

It’s a good idea to reduce these foods and if leaky gut is a confirmed issue for you, avoid them until the leaky gut has been addressed.

If you’re ready to learn what to do about leaky gut, contact Kate for a free 15 minute discovery call.

Eat more of these

There are also a bunch of foods that support gut health, including the intestinal cells themselves, as well as our friendly gut microbes. Many of these also reduce inflammation.

Things like:

  • Probiotic-rich fermented foods (e.g., sauerkraut, kimchi)
  • Prebiotic fibre-rich foods which help our gut microbes produce butyrate (e.g., leafy greens, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds)
  • Glutamine-rich foods (e.g., bone broth, meat)
  • Quercetin-rich foods (e.g., citrus, apples, onions)
  • Curcumin-rich turmeric
  • Indole-rich foods (e.g., broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, mustard greens)

These are all nutritious foods that can help with gut health and overall health.

It’s not just what you eat that can affect your gut. Other lifestyle habits can help too.

Try:

  • Eating slower and chewing better to help break down food better
  • Eating when hungry, and stopping when satisfied
  • Going to the bathroom when you need to (don’t hold it for longer than necessary)
  • Getting more high-quality sleep
  • Better stress management

All of these are great healthy habits to get into, gut problems or not.

Conclusion

To help keep our guts (and our bodies) in optimal condition, there are a lot of foods we should eat (and lots we should reduce).

Sticking with nutrient-dense unprocessed foods is always a good plan, whether you have gut issues, other concerns, or feel completely healthy.

And, don’t forget the importance of a healthy lifestyle like good eating habits, sleep, and stress management.

Which of these foods have you added or reduced? Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe (Gut supporting): Braised Greens with Turmeric

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 bunches leafy greens (kale, chard, collards), washed and chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

½ tsp turmeric

2 dashes salt and pepper

Instructions

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add the greens and a splash of water.

Sauté until the greens start to wilt.

Remove from heat and sprinkle with lemon juice, turmeric, salt and pepper.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Serve this as a side dish (hot or cold), or add to soup.

For more information about what to do about leaky gut, contact Kate for a free 15 minute discovery call.

Antioxidant Foods to Reduce Fatigue

Antioxidants are just that: they fight (anti) oxidation.

The chemical process of oxidation is like rusting metal. A molecule loses electrons and creates the infamous free radicals.  Oxidation is also the reason why apples, bananas, and avocados go brown when the skin is broken, and they’re exposed to air – they’re getting oxidised.

Free radicals in the body cause inflammation and can contribute to diseases like cancers, diabetes, and heart disease (to name a few). So, the antidote to oxidation is the antioxidant. Vitamins like vitamins A, C, and E are examples of antioxidants. So are other compounds in foods like carotenoids and phenols. These compounds sacrifice their electrons to stop the oxidation process; this why squirting some lemon juice on your sliced apples, bananas and avocados slows down the browning process.

But don’t think that all oxidation in the body is bad. It’s not. Your body naturally oxidizes compounds all the time when it’s doing healthy things like metabolizing nutrients or exercising.

As with many things in life and health, the key is maintaining a good balance. In this case, as the balance between oxidation and antioxidation.

We can throw off that balance with exposure to too much alcohol, smoking, or environmental pollutants. Even over-exercising or too much sun exposure can create too much oxidation.

The best sources of antioxidants to combat this effect are nutritious whole foods, like colourful fresh produce, e.g., blueberries, purple cabbage, etc. In fact, the more colourful and darker the plant is, the higher levels of antioxidants it usually has.  Chemicals that give the plants their deep colours are often the antioxidants themselves.

Antioxidant Foods to Reduce Fatigue

Let me list out a bunch of antioxidants and the foods they’re found in:

  • Vitamin A – Found in liver, dark leafy greens (e.g., kale), orange fruits and veggies (e.g., mangoes, carrots & squashes)
  • Vitamin C – Rich in bell peppers, citrus, berries, and leafy greens
  • Also vitamin E – Found in leafy greens, nuts (e.g., walnuts), and seeds (e.g., sunflowers)
  • Carotenoids (e.g., beta-carotene, lycopene, etc.) – Found in tomatoes, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, and salmon
  • Phenols – Found in green tea, black tea, coffee, cocoa, red wine, and berries

Blueberries are probably one of the most studied antioxidant foods. They contain a range of phytochemical (i.e., plant chemical) compounds and are very high in anthocyanins (the blue-coloured compound).

Furthermore the antioxidant capacity can be measured in a laboratory; this is called the “oxygen radical absorption capacity,” or “ORAC.” And blueberries have one of the highest ORAC levels.

If you’re ready to learn more about how antioxidants can reduce your symptoms of fatigue, contact Kate for a free 15 minute call.

Antioxidant Foods vs. Supplements

While antioxidant supplements have been tested, their results haven’t been as good as many hoped. Compared with eating a nutrient-dense antioxidant-rich colourful array of plants, antioxidants supplements have fallen short.

Many studies of antioxidant supplements haven’t shown any benefit against heart disease, cancer, or other diseases. And these are diseases that are known to be reduced in people who eat a lot of foods that are naturally full of antioxidants.

In fact, too much of any individual antioxidant, like when overdoing supplements, can be harmful. Too much vitamin A is linked to increased risk of hip fractures and prostate cancer. Too much beta-carotene increases the risk of lung cancer in smokers. In addition, too much vitamin E increases the risk of prostate cancer, lung infections, heart failure, and even death.

One of the reasons why we think that antioxidant foods work oh-so-much better than antioxidant supplements is because of synergy.  The concept of synergy means that by taking one component out of healthful food (i.e., the antioxidant), it loses the effect it has when combined with all the other healthy components it came with from nature. This is the difference between eating a whole orange and taking a vitamin C supplement. The orange is going to have more than just vitamin C, and many of those compounds will work together for overall health better than just isolating one and having higher-than-normal doses of it.

Conclusion

Overall there are antioxidant vitamins (A, C & E) and other antioxidants like carotenoids and polyphenols. They’re highest in colourful fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some meats, tea, coffee, and cocoa.

Also you can’t replace a diet full of nutrient-dense antioxidant-rich whole foods with supplements. So stick with the foods.

Which antioxidant-rich foods and drinks are your favourites? Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe (Antioxidant-rich): Blueberry Smoothie

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

1 banana

A pinch of cinnamon

Handful baby spinach leaves

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

Directions

Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Use any greens you have on hand in place of the spinach, if you wish.

If you would like more information on how antioxidants can reduce your symptoms of fatigue, contact Kate for a free 15 minute call.

References:

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/encyclopedia/food/antioxidants

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/soreness-and-blueberries

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-coffee

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/supplements-a-scorecard

https://examine.com/nutrition/4-science-based-superfoods-you-should-be-eating/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/family-health-guide/swan-song-for-antioxidant-supplements-the

How to Read Nutrition Facts Tables

The Nutrition Facts table is on the side of most packaged foods. It’s often found close to the ingredient listing.

The purpose of it is to help consumers make better nutrition decisions. When people can see the number of calories, carbs, sodium, etc. in food, they should be able to eat better, right?

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

Here’s my four-step crash course on how to read the Nutrition Facts table.

Step 1: Serving Size

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

All the information in the table rests on the amount chosen as the serving size. And, since every manufacturer chooses their own, it’s often difficult to compare two products.

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

Let’s use an example – plain, unsalted walnuts.

As you can see, right under the Nutrition Facts header is the serving size. That is a ¼ cup or 28 g. This means that all the numbers underneath it are based on this amount.

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

Step 2: % Daily Value

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

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

The %DV is a guideline, not a rigid rule.

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

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

Step 3: Middle of the table (e.g. Calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, carbohydrates, and protein)

Calories are pretty straight forward. Here, a ¼ cup (28 g) of walnuts has 190 calories.

Fat is in bold for a reason. That 1 g of fat (29% DV) is total fat. That includes the non-bold items underneath it. Here, 19 g of total fat includes 1.5 g saturated fat, (19 g – 1.5 g = 17.5 g) unsaturated fat, and 0 g trans fat. (Yes, unsaturated fats including mono- and poly-unsaturated are not on the label, so you need to do a quick subtraction).

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

Carbohydrate, like fat, is in bold because it is total carbohydrates. It includes the non-bold items underneath it like fibre, sugar, and starch (not shown). Here, 30 g of walnuts contain 4 g of carbohydrates; that 2 g are all fibre. There is no sugar or starch. And as you can see, 2 g of giber is 8% of your daily value for fibre.

Proteins, like calories, are pretty straight forward as well. Here, a ¼ cup (28 g) of walnuts contains 4 g of protein.

Step 4: Bottom of the table (e.g. vitamins & minerals)

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

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

Conclusion

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

Recipe: Delicious and Super-Easy Walnut Snack

Serves 1

Ingredients

8 walnut halves

4 dates, pitted

Instructions

Make a “date sandwich” by squeezing each date between two walnut halves.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Try with pecans instead.

 

References:

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

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

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

 

5 Tips for Better Sleep

Have you said “bye bye” to sleeping through the night?

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

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

The science of sleep is fascinating, complicated and growing

Sleep is this daily thing that we all do and yet we’re just beginning to understand all of the ways it helps us and all of the factors that can affect it.

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

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

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

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

  • To restore our body and mind. Our bodies repair, grow and even “detoxify” our brains while we sleep.
  • To improve our brain’s ability to learn and remember things, technically known as “synaptic plasticity”.
  • To conserve some energy so we’re not just actively “out and about” 24-hours a day, every day.

Do you know how much sleep adults need? It’s less than your growing kids need but you may be surprised that it’s recommended that all adults get 7 – 9 hours a night. For real!

Try not to skimp!

(Don’t worry, I have you covered with 5 tips for better sleep below.)

5 Tips for Better Sleep

  • The biggest tip is definitely to try to get yourself into a consistent sleep schedule. Make it a priority and you’re more likely to achieve it. This means turning off your lights 8 hours before your alarm goes off. Seven. Days. A. Week. I know weekends can easily throw this off but by making sleep a priority for a few weeks your body and mind will adjust and thank you for it.
  • Balance your blood sugar throughout the day. You know, eat less refined and processed foods and more whole foods (full of blood-sugar-balancing fibre). Choose the whole orange instead of the juice (or orange-flavoured snack). Make sure you’re getting some protein every time you eat.
  • During the day get some sunshine and exercise. These things tell your body it’s daytime; time for being productive, active and alert. By doing this during the day it will help you wind down more easily in the evening.
  • Cut off your caffeine and added sugar intake after 12pm. Whole foods like fruits and veggies are fine, it’s the “added” sugar we’re minimizing. Yes, this includes your beloved chai latte. Both caffeine and added sugar can keep your mind a bit more active than you want it to be come evening. (HINT: I have a great caffeine-free chai latte recipe for you below!). And if you really want to get real, cut the added sugar all together!
  • Have a relaxing bedtime routine that starts 1 hour before your “lights out” time (that is 8 – 10 hours before your alarm is set to go off). This would include dimming your artificial lights, nixing screen time and perhaps reading an (actual, not “e”) book or having a bath.

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

Try the caffeine-free chai latte for your afternoon “coffee break” below:

Caffeine-Free Chai Latte Recipe

Serves 1-2

Ingredients

  • 1 bag of rooibos chai tea (rooibos is naturally caffeine-free)
  • 2 cups of boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter (creamy is preferred; no added sugar or oils)
  • 2 dates (optional)

Instructions

Cover the teabag and dates (if using) with 2 cups of boiling water and steep for a few minutes.

Discard the tea bag & place tea, soaked dates, tahini & almond butter into a blender.

Blend until creamy.

Serve and Enjoy!

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

References:

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

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

Diet for IBS

If you are suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you may be thinking “what can I eat for IBS?”Below I describe the best diet for IBS.

IBS is an umbrella term used to describe a set of symptoms. There are 2 types of IBS:

  • Spastic colon-type IBS – where gripping pain is common and alternating constipation and diarrhoea.
  • Painless diarrhoea-type IBS – there is urgent diarrhoea usually upon rising and often after a meal.

Common Symptoms

  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Bloating
  • Flatulence
  • Headaches
  • Cramps
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Causes

  • Food intolerances – most commonly to wheat, dairy, coffee, tea and citrus fruits. Although an intolerance can be present to any unsuspecting food.
  • Stress – your digestion shuts down during periods of stress leading to a lack of digestive enzymes and stomach acid. This can lead to incompletely digested food irritating the gut.
  • Parasites – 49% of people with IBS are known to have the parasite Blastocystis hominis. And 20% of people with IBS have the parasite Dientamoeba fragilis.
  • Gut dysbiosis – an imbalance of the good and bad bacteria present in your gut and/or overgrowth of Candida.. This can be triggered by a poor diet that has insufficient fibre, and is high in alcohol, fatty fats and sugar. Also taking antibiotics will upset this balance.
  • Other diseases – occasionally the symptoms of IBS can be mistaken for a more serious underlying condition such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or diverticulitis. So it is very important to go and see your doctor.

Diet for IBS

Foods to Avoid for IBS

  • Refined wheat – is high in gluten, which can be irritating to the gut and is usually the biggest factor in IBS.
  • Cow’s milk – comes next.
  • Flour – from any sources gunks up the bowel in sensitive individuals.
  • Eggs,
  • Citrus fruits – especially oranges
  • High tyramine foods – such as cheese, port, red wine, sherry, beef, liver, herring, sauerkraut and yeast extracts.
  • Melted cheese – is very hard for the body to digest. Avoid at all costs.
  • Refined foods – such as white rice, pasta, cakes, pastries, alcohol, fried fodds, high-sugar foods and those foods high in saturated animal fat found in meat and dairy all deplete good bacteria in the gut and help feed the bad guys.

Foods to Eat for IBS

  • There are plenty of alternatives to wheat e.g. wheat-free bread, amaranth, spelt, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, oat and rye crisp breads, and rice and corn cakes, which are delicious.
  • You can now buy lentil-, corn-, rice- and potato-based pastas.
  • Try organic rice,almond or oat milk , or try goat’s or sheep’s milk instead of cow’s milk.
  • Eat more brown rice which is cleansing and healing to the digestive tract. As well as potatoes, fish, lean poultry, fruits and vegetables.
  • Peppermint, fennel, chamomile and rosemary teas can enhance digestion and ease discomfort.
  • Instead of orange juice, try low-sugar diluted apple, pear or pineapple juice.

Also the FODMAP diet can help with IBS.

References:

  • Courteney, H. (2008). 500 of the Most Important Health Tips You’ll Ever Need. 3rd edn. London: CICO Books. pp. 212-214

 

For more information on diet for IBS, contact Kate to book a consultation today.

Nutrients for Underactive Thyroid

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that releases hormones. Thyroid hormones help your body regulate a few things – not a big deal – just the metabolism of ALL cells. And this is critical for having the energy to live your life.

(Yes, your thyroid IS a big deal!)

Furthermore it’s estimated that at least 3.7% of UK adults have an underactive thyroid.

When you don’t have enough thyroid hormone, you have what’s called hypothyroidism. This can result in the slowing down of your metabolism and chronic fatigue. Some of the other symptoms can include weight gain, forgetfulness, dry hair and skin, constipation and feeling cold.

You can get a diagnosis of underactive thyroid from a blood test from your health professional.

How does the thyroid become underactive?

There are many reasons why your thyroid may become underactive. The most common is autoimmunity, where the immune cells attack other cells in the body. In this case, the cells of the thyroid gland.

It can also be the result of low levels of iodine, which is an essential mineral.

Below I explain about nutrients for underactive thyroid.

Nutrients for underactive thyroid

Enough iodine from food – you will find iodine naturally in fish and seafood. Other foods that contain iodine are navy beans, potatoes, and eggs. Sometimes levels of natural iodine depend on the amount of iodine in the soil. Also you will find that iodine is also added (i.e., fortified) to some foods.

Enough selenium from food – selenium is another essential mineral to support the thyroid. Selenium-rich foods include Brazil nuts, mushrooms, meat, and fish.

Enough protein – One of the common symptoms of thyroid issues is fatigue. If this is the case, one thing you can eat more of is protein. Protein keeps you feeling full for longer and has plenty of B vitamins to support your adrenals and energy production.

Gluten-free – Try going gluten-free. There is evidence of a link between underactive thyroid and gluten sensitivity. There may be a “cross-reactivity” where the immune cells that are sensitised to gluten can attack the thyroid cells by mistake. This is essentially how autoimmunity works and can affect more than just your thyroid. Also you could request to get tested for coeliac disease if you are experiencing thyroid issues.

Lifestyle upgrade – additionally tiredness and fatigue are very common when it comes to thyroid issues. In this case, it’s important to get enough quality sleep and reduce stress.

Conclusion

If you have concerns about your thyroid, then ask to be tested. That along with asking for testing for coeliac disease can help to confirm your best plan to move forward in good health.

Foods to support your thyroid include iodine- and selenium-containing foods and gluten-free foods. Don’t forget to eat enough protein to help boost your metabolism.

If you want to supplement with iodine, you should work with a qualified health professional.

Also regular exercise, quality sleep, and stress-reduction are all part of the holistic approach to supporting your thyroid.

Do you or someone you know have concerns about your thyroid? What diet and lifestyle factors have you got the most benefit from? Let me know by commenting below.

Contact

Finally for more information on using nutrition to support your thyroid, contact Kate for a free 15 minute phone consultation.

References:

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

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/the-best-diet-for-an-underactive-thyroid/

http://www.who.int/elena/titles/iodine_pregnancy/en/

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/meal-plan-for-hypothyroidism-and-weight-loss/

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/meal-plan-for-hypothyroidism-and-weight-loss-week-2/

Nutrition for Supporting the Adrenal Glands

With the stressful pace of modern living in the West, the adrenal glands can struggle to keep up! Your adrenal glands secrete adrenaline and other stress hormones to help you to cope with stress. When you are feeling exhausted, your adrenals give you the energy to keep going!

With constant stress, your adrenals are continuously being stimulated until they crash. This is when you can experience adrenal fatigue.

Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue include:

  • Unable to get out of bed in the morning
  • Feeling constantly exhausted
  • Craving salty foods
  • Feel wired in the evening and unable to sleep.

People with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME) often have adrenal fatigue leaving them bed bound.

So how can you use nutrition for supporting the adrenal glands?

Nutrition for Supporting the Adrenal Glands:

  • Vitamin C – boosts your adrenal glands
  • B vitamins – give you energy and help your adrenals to keep going.
  • Himalayan Pink Salt – salt supports your adrenal glands. Also Himalayan pink salt is rich in other minerals to support your adrenals. Add a pinch of this salt to all your meals.
  • Potassium – is another mineral that boosts your adrenal glands. Also it balances the sodium:potassium ratio in your cells to allow more nutrients into the cells. You can get potassium from foods including bananas, mangoes, spinach, sweet potato, acorn squash and coconut water.
  • Ashwaganda – is a herb to that helps you adapt to stress.

Foods to Avoid for Adrenal Fatigue:

  • Caffeinated foods and drinks – such as tea, coffee and chocolate all drive your adrenals to exhaustion and are best avoided.
  • Sugary foods – such as cakes, biscuits and sweets all spike your blood sugar and soon after you crash as your blood sugar drops. This puts a strain on your adrenal glands.

For more information on using nutrition for supporting your adrenal glands, contact Kate for a free 15 minute phone chat.