nutrition

Heme vs Non-Heme Iron: The Facts

When I was vegetarian, I had a severe iron and B12 deficiency. I used to go to my doctor weekly for B12 injections and take iron supplements daily. It wasn’t until I went fully vegan that my nutrient deficiencies started to disappear.

You may be wondering how going vegan helped, but it did in tremendous ways! Many plant-based foods are rich in iron and beneficial nutrients, however there is a common misconception that you must consume animal products in order to maintain healthy iron levels. This is far from the truth, and the reality is that animal sources of iron have harmful effects on the body when compared to plant-based sources. So today I wanted to write a blog and present some interesting research on the topic!

What is Iron and Why is it Important?

Iron is an important mineral that helps to maintain healthy blood. A lack of iron is called iron deficiency anemia which is the most common nutritional deficiency, affecting about 4-5 million Americans per year. Iron deficiency occurs when our body doesn’t have enough iron to produce hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that is responsible for transporting oxygen to our body’s organs and tissues. Without enough iron, we are unable to produce healthy red blood cells to transport oxygen which leads to fatigue, dizziness and headaches.

Iron is necessary for healthy brain development and growth in children, as well as helping to maintain healthy red blood cells.

How Much Iron Do We Need?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults 19-50 years:

  • Men: 8 mg daily.
  • Women: 18 mg daily.
  • Pregnant Women: 27 mg daily.

The higher intake amounts for women and pregnancy are due to blood loss during menstruation and the rapid growth of the fetus during pregnancy.

Heme vs Non-heme Iron

Now that we have talked a bit about what iron deficiency anemia is and the recommended daily intake, let’s differentiate between the two forms of iron.

Iron from food comes in two forms: heme and non-heme. Heme is only found in animal flesh such as meat, poultry, and seafood. Non-heme iron is found in plant foods such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and leafy greens. Non-heme iron can also be found in animal flesh (animals consume plant foods with non-heme iron) and fortified foods. 

About 40% of the iron found in animal sources is heme iron and about 60% is non-heme iron. Additionally, when heme iron is heated during cooking processes, much of it is denatured.

Although both forms of iron provide benefit to the body, high heme intake is associated with increased risk of several cancers, including colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer and lung cancer.

Negative Health Effects Associated with Heme-Iron

The human body has no way to dispose of excess iron, which can lead to future health complications. As a result, excess iron is stored in our organs with the majority being put in our liver, heart, and pancreas. Too much iron in our organs can lead to damage and disease—eventually leading to life-threatening conditions such as liver disease, heart problems, diabetes, and certain types of cancers.

Because heme iron is absorbed at a higher rate (15%-35%) than non heme (2%-20%), it’s much easier to consume too much.

Cancer

Meat is one of the largest dietary sources of heme. Many studies have suggested that the high heme content in red meat is associated with several diseases, including heart diseases, diabetes and cancer.

Red meat (beef, lamb and pork) has 10 times the heme content compared to white meat such as chicken. Research has shown that an increased risk of several types of cancer is associated with diets high in red meat. On the contrary, consumption of substantial amounts of green vegetables is associated with decreased risk of colon cancer, likely because vegetables contain low levels of heme iron.

Significantly Increases your risk of Coronary Heart Disease

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is caused by plaque buildup in the wall of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Plaque is made up of cholesterol deposits and buildup causes the inside of the arteries to narrow over time. This process is called atherosclerosis.

Many studies have demonstrated a positive association between heme and coronary heart disease. The earliest evidence of this association was actually documented in 1994- findings included an increased risk of myocardial infarction among men consuming red meat as the main source of iron.

In another study, meat intake was used as a measure of dietary heme. Men who consumed meat six times a week compared to men who consumed meat less than once a week had a 60% increased risk of CHD.

Benefits of Non-Heme Iron

If you’re feeling confused as to where to get your iron from moving forward, I have one word for you- plants!! Plant based sources of iron are packed with beneficial antioxidants, nutrients and Vitamin C which aids in iron absorption. In addition, a plant-based diet has demonstrated the ability to protect our cells from inflammation and chronic diseases. Plant based sources of iron allow you to meet your nutritional requirements, without causing negative health effects.

Here are some of my favourite plant-based foods that are rich in iron:

  • Lentils: Lentils come in three varieties: brown, green, and red. Lentils are not only packed with iron, but also high in potassium, fiber, and folate (a B vitamin). One cup contains 6.6 milligrams of iron.
  • Tofu/Tempeh: Tofu and tempeh soy-based products are a big part of the vegan diet! Tofu has a higher iron content of 6.6 milligrams per half-cup. One cup of tempeh has 4.5 milligrams of iron.
  • Spinach: one cup of cooked spinach contains 6.4 milligrams of iron. Try adding spinach to your smoothies, pastas or salads to naturally increase your iron intake!
  • Beans: are an amazing source of iron! Kidney beans (5.2 milligram / cup), soybeans (4.5 milligrams / cup), and lima beans (4.5 milligrams / cup) have the highest iron content.  

 

Conclusion

When it comes to iron, plant based sources are much healthier because they typically contain antioxidants and other crucial nutrients. In addition, plant-based foods have anti-inflammatory effects whereas animal derived foods are one of the main causes of inflammation in the Western diet. Try plant-based sources instead!

Be sure to follow me on social media, and check out my services page if you would like to work together. Stay healthy and stay glowing! ✨

Sources

Ascherio A;Hennekens CH;Buring JE;Master C;Stampfer MJ;Willett WC; (n.d.). Trans-fatty acids intake and risk of myocardial infarction. Circulation. Retrieved November 11, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8281700/ 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, July 19). Coronary artery disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved November 11, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/coronary_ad.htm#:~:text=Print-,Coronary%20Artery%20Disease,This%20process%20is%20called%20atherosclerosis. 

Dutra, F. F., & Bozza, M. T. (1AD, January 1). Heme on innate immunity and inflammation. Frontiers. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2014.00115/full 

Hooda, J., Shah, A., & Zhang, L. (2014, March 13). Heme, an essential nutrient from dietary proteins, critically impacts diverse physiological and pathological processes. Nutrients. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3967179/#:~:text=High%20heme%20intake%20is%20associated,pancreatic%20cancer%20and%20lung%20cancer. 

Iron. The Nutrition Source. (2020, October 19). Retrieved November 10, 2022, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/iron/#:~:text=RDA%3A%20The%20Recommended%20Dietary%20Allowance,and%209%20mg%20for%20lactation. 

Kaluza, J., Wolk, A., & Larsson, S. C. (2013). Heme iron intake and risk of stroke. Stroke44(2), 334–339. https://doi.org/10.1161/strokeaha.112.679662 

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, January 4). Iron deficiency anemia. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/iron-deficiency-anemia/symptoms-causes/.

nutrition

5 Foods That Cause Bloating & What to Eat Instead

Bloating is one of the the most common adverse effects that many people experience after eating certain foods. Approximately one in ten Americans report that they regularly suffer from bloating even when they haven’t eaten a large meal.

Abdominal bloating is characterized by the stomach feeling full, tight, or swollen. Oftentimes, bloating is typically caused by one’s diet and is rarely a sign of a serious medical condition. So today I wanted to talk about some foods that can cause bloating and what to eat instead!

What exactly is bloating and what causes it?

We’ve all felt it after our digestive system is triggered by a certain food or beverage. So why exactly do we feel bloated?

Abdominal bloating occurs when the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is filled with air or gas. This is typically caused by a mild intolerance or allergy which causes excessive gas production, and as a result the air gets trapped within the intestines. The most common intolerances are wheat and dairy, scroll on to learn more!

Aside from eating particular foods, simple reasons for bloating can include:

  1. Overeating: Eating too much can make you feel uncomfortably stuffed. In addition, fats and animal products take longer to digest than proteins, which can keep the stomach feeling full for longer.
  2. Eating too fast: Drinking or eating too quickly can increase the amount of air that you swallow, which leads to buildup in the GI tract.
  3. Chewing gum: When you chew gum, you end up swallowing more air than usual which increases bloating. Also, sugar free gums can contain ingredients such as xylitol and sorbitol which can ferment in the gut.

Now that we’ve talked a little bit about what bloating is and some common triggers, let’s talk about some foods and better alternatives!

Top 5 Foods & Beverages to look out for

1. Wheat

Wheat contains a protein called gluten which is pretty well-known nowadays as the bad guy. Gluten can cause bloating, stomach pain, gas and diarrhea for some individuals. In addition, sensitivity to gluten can be due to celiac disease which affects about 1 percent of the American population. Although some people are not necessarily gluten intolerant or celiac, it still can negatively impact the digestive system.

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity affects up to 6 percent of the population according to a report in the World Journal of Gastroenterology. Gluten also contains little to no essential nutrients. Foods that commonly contain gluten include bread, pasta and baked goods. It’s also found in many grains such as wheat, barley and rye.

Alternatives to wheat that may not cause bloating include pure oats, quinoa, buckwheat, wild rice and coconut flours. 🌾

2. Dairy

Dairy includes a range of products from milk, cheeses, yogurts and baked goods. Although many people consume dairy daily in various foods and drinks, up to 75 percent of the world’s population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy and therefore are lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance is the impaired ability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Interestingly enough, affected individuals typically have difficulty digesting fresh milk, but can consume certain dairy products such as cheese or yogurt without discomfort. This is because these foods are processed using methods that break down much of the lactose.

Nonetheless, many people do experience adverse effects from dairy and animal products such as weight-gain, digestive issues and inflammation. In addition, there are much healthier sources of calcium that do not contain animal proteins and cholesterol.

Alternatives to dairy include plant-based milks such as soy, almond or rice milk. There are also plenty of plant-based cheeses and yogurts available so be sure to check your local grocery store! 🥤

3. Beans

Beans are full of fiber, protein, healthy carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Although beans are very healthy for you, they do cause bloating and flatulence (gas). This is because beans contain raffinose which is a non-digestible carbohydrate that is also found in cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Raffinose is poorly digested due to the the lack of an enzyme called alpha-galactosidase in the digestive tract.

As a result, raffinose can pass through both the stomach and small intestine, and enter the large intestine where it is fermented by gut bacteria. This causes the production of gases and therefore bloating.

But don’t let this discourage you from eating beans! They are still very healthy and can be enjoyed in moderation. Adzuki beans, mung beans and lentils can be a great alternative that is easier to digest! 🍲

4. Carbonated Beverages

Carbonated beverages such as sodas and sparkling water contain carbon dioxide which is what creates the bubbles. These bubbles may be fun and games while enjoying a drink, however the gas goes straight to your digestive tract, where it can cause bloating. In addition, many carbonated drinks contain artificial sweeteners, artificial flavours and colourants.

Alternatives to carbonated drinks include lemon water, fruit juices or tea. You would be surprised by how many tasty teas there are out there! 🫖

5. Artificial Sweeteners and Sugar

We all know that artificial sweeteners and sugars are bad for our health, however did you know that they can also cause bloating? Xylitol and sorbitol are amongst the most popular chemical sweeteners today that can be found in anything from candies to gum. These sweeteners provide no nutritional benefit and are not easily broken down in our digestive system. Therefore, they reach the large intestine unchanged where gut bacteria can feed on them. Research from BMC Obesity links these sweeteners with an unhealthy lifestyle and contributor to obesity. So not only does chewing gum cause bloating, the ingredients do too!

Alternatives to artificial sweeteners include dates, coconut sugar or raw honey. Instead of chewing gum, try a healthier alternative such as eating apple slices or a mint every so often. 🍃

Foods that Reduce Bloating

Since we talked about some foods that cause bloating, I wanted to quickly mention some foods that can naturally reduce the associated symptoms!

Foods that are naturally high in fiber, potassium and water content all have the natural ability to reduce bloating. Fiber is important because it helps to regulate digestion, while potassium helps regulate fluid balance and foods high in water content keep you hydrated.

However, it’s crucial to note that not all foods high in these nutrients reduce bloating. Apples are also high in fiber and water content, but can cause bloating because they contain fructose- a sugar that many people find it difficult to digest.

Pears can also cause bloating because they contain sorbitol which can ferment in the gut.

If you do enjoy apples and pears and they cause you to feel bloated, try boiling them first to make them easier to digest!

Takeaway

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog, I hope you learned something new! If you experience bloating, try eliminating certain foods from your diet and see if you are able to determine the culprit. Oftentimes, minor health problems can be solved with a quick change in diet!

If you’re interested in talking about nutrition or learning new ways to become healthier, feel free to book a free consultation with me! 👩🏻‍⚕️📲

Sources

Di Rienzo T;D’Angelo G;D’Aversa F;Campanale MC;Cesario V;Montalto M;Gasbarrini A;Ojetti V; (2013). Lactose intolerance: From diagnosis to correct management. European review for medical and pharmacological sciences. Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24443063/.

Gunnars, K. (2018, June 28). 11 proven ways to reduce or eliminate bloating. Healthline. Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-proven-ways-to-reduce-bloating#TOC_TITLE_HDR_4.

Igbinedion, S. O., Ansari, J., Vasikaran, A., Gavins, F. N., Jordan, P., Boktor, M., & Alexander, J. S. (2017, October 28). Non-celiac gluten sensitivity: All wheat attack is not celiac. World journal of gastroenterology. Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5677194/.

Raffinose. Raffinose – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. (2014). Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/raffinose.

Staff, F. E., & Rice, A. (2021, July 7). Bloating – bloated stomach – what causes bloating? familydoctor.org. Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://familydoctor.org/condition/bloating/.

Winther, R., Aasbrenn, M., & Farup, P. G. (2017, December 27). Intake of non-nutritive sweeteners is associated with an unhealthy lifestyle: A cross-sectional study in subjects with morbid obesity. BMC obesity. Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5745623/.

nutrition

5 Breakfast Foods That You Should Never Eat Again + Healthier Alternatives

We have all been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and rightfully so! It’s the first thing we eat after about 9 hours of resting and replenishes our body with glucose which powers our brain.

However, with such a fast paced society it’s easy to choose a quick and easy option that typically contains little nutrition or to just skip breakfast all together! So today I wanted to write a blog on why breakfast is so important, some popular breakfast foods to avoid and various healthier alternatives to fuel your day- so let’s get into it! ⚡️

Why is Breakfast Important?

As the name suggests, breakfast “breaks” the overnight fasting period. In the morning, we feel tired because our bodies lack glucose- the body’s main energy source. Without this important molecule, the body breaks down fatty acids in order to get the energy it needs. This in turn actually reduces energy levels and leads to excessive hunger later on in the day!

Research suggests that eating in the morning helps maintain a healthy weight because it prevents overeating and impulsive eating. When you skip breakfast, you’re more likely to be tempted to reach for a quick fix such as fast food or vending machine snacks.

The key is choosing a healthy, nutritious breakfast that will replenish your body and not overwhelm it ✨

Breakfast Foods to Avoid

1. Eggs

Having an egg or two for breakfast is surprisingly not that healthy. Just two eggs contain 369 mg of cholesterol and 190.4 mg of sodium. Research suggests that consuming high amounts of cholesterol and sodium contributes to obesity, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. It’s also useful to know that the daily recommended amount of sodium per day as set out by The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is less than 2,300 mg of sodium daily. This amount can easily be exceeded in the morning by having eggs, bacon and toast.

So just by skipping out on eggs for breakfast, you also skip out on unnecessary cholesterol, sodium and saturated fats! 🥳

2. Bacon

Bacon is by far one of the unhealthiest breakfast foods out there! With high amounts of sodium, cholesterol, fat, oils and nitrates- bacon should definitely be avoided for breakfast. In fact, The World Cancer Research Fund released a statement which advises the population to eat as little red meat or processed meats as possible. This is because there is a strong correlation between red or processed meats and colorectal cancer. There’s also evidence that eating meat and dairy causes inflammation within the body. Inflammation can manifest as pain, redness, swelling and acne.

If you’re looking to make a healthy food choice that will have immediate health benefits, leave bacon off of your plate tomorrow morning!

3. Cereal

Cereal is one of the most common breakfast foods and the first thing that many people eat in the morning to start their day! However, cereal is actually not that healthy for you as its highly processed and contains high amounts of refined sugars, additives, preservatives and even artificial colourants. Not to mention, most cereals are advertised as healthy so it’s hard to be completely sure.

If you enjoy eating cereal in the morning, try finding a brand that doesn’t contain colorants and ingredients such as BHT. There are also much healthier and more filling options below so be sure to scroll on down! 🙌🏼

4. Yogurt

I’m sure you’re surprised that yogurt is on this list considering it’s advertised as a low-fat nutritious breakfast. But the thing is that most yogurts are actually not very healthy for you at all! And, you should also be very careful if you ever see “Low-Fat” on food packaging. In the US, foods labelled “fat free” must have less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving, while “low fat” must adhere to 3 grams of fat or less per serving. Seems simple enough right? Well most fat free/low fat foods lack taste, so to make up for that, other ingredients are added such as sugar, flour, thickeners and other artificial ingredients.

Not to mention, dairy products are not environmentally sustainable and contain unfavourable “ingredients” such as white blood cells or pus excreted from the cow during the milking process. A litre of milk can contain up to 400,000 somatic cells before it is considered unfit for people to drink! Not very appetizing!

5. Breakfast Sandwiches

And lastly, let’s talk about breakfast sandwiches! Whether you make one at home or pick one up from Tim Horton’s before work- breakfast sandwiches contain a bunch of heavy ingredients that are bound to overwhelm your body. The typical sandwich contains white bread, eggs, bacon, cheese and sometimes even sausage. Just one Bacon Breakfast Sandwich from Tim Hortons has 1000 mg of sodium, 155 mg of cholesterol and barely any fiber at just 2 grams. Fiber is what makes us feel full, so not only will you still feel unsatisfied after a breakfast sandwich, you will also feel bloated and will be more likely to eat junk food later.

So just to put that into perspective- just one of these sandwiches accounts for 50% of your sodium intake without accounting for lunch, dinner or in between snacking!

There are much more healthier, filling and satisfying breakfast options!

Healthy Breakfast Options

1. Oatmeal

One of my personal favourites is oatmeal. It’s cheap, easy to make and can be made into so many different combinations! It’s also a great way to eat fewer calories and therefore lose weight. This is because oatmeal contains beta glucan which is a naturally occurring type of fiber that slows down digestion and keeps you feeling full for longer. One bowl also contains a healthy amount of vitamins and minerals such as manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, iron, zinc, folate and B vitamins!

So next time you go to the grocery store, grab oats instead of cereal! They’re much healthier and contain lots of healthy plant compounds and antioxidants 🌱

2. Fruit Smoothies

Fruit smoothies are surprisngly filling and will provide you with vitamins, minerals and even plant proteins! I typically use soy milk because it’s one of the healthiest plant milks and contains phytoestrogens which are greatly beneficial to our health. I also usually add 1-2 tablespoons of peanut butter to add protein and to make my smoothies more thick and creamy 😋

Check out my Breakfast Smoothie blog for three different healthy and tasty smoothies that you can try tomorrow morning! 🙌🏼☀️

3. Refried Black Beans

Refried black beans are a healthy and protein packed breakfast option! Just one cup contains 15 grams of plant proteins and 15 grams of fiber which is great for weight loss. Research suggests that diets high in fiber help maintain a healthy weight, support healthy digestion and lowers cholesterol levels. Refried black beans are also so tasty and inexpensive- one can costs just under one dollar!

Try frying up some onions, garlic, soy sauce and black beans for breakfast instead of two eggs which negatively impact your cholesterol levels 🙌🏼

4. Avocado Toast

Avocado toast is a nice and quick option when you have ripened avocados around! Avocados are a healthy source of unsaturated fats, potassium, fiber and other vital nutrients such as vitamin K. In fact, many controlled studies have demonstrated that avocados can reduce total cholesterol levels significantly, reduce blood trigylcerides by 20%, lower LDL cholesterol by up to 22% and increase HDL (the good) cholesterol by up to 11%.

Try putting some sliced avocado on some whole grain toast with olive oil, pink salt and turmeric for a healthy and delicious breakfast!

5. Fruit Bowl

You can never go wrong with a fruit bowl! Fruits are a nice and light breakfast that will provide your body with the perfect fuel! Melons, berries and fruits such as bananas all contain beneficial compounds, nutrients and vitamins that aid in healthy digestion. Fruit is also high in fiber and natural sugars which prevent blood sugar fluctuations.

If you’re looking to add more fruits to your diet, check out my tips for healthy eating on a budget! There are plenty of ways to add more nutrient dense foods to your grocery list that won’t necessarily cost you much more ☺️


Takeaway

I hope that this post has inspired you to start making healthier breakfast choices! It’s so important to realize how much our first meal impacts our entire day. Be sure to always start your mornings with the right fuel, and you will be able to tackle just about anything! ☀️😎

Thank you so much for reading and be sure to follow me on Instagram for more healthy eating posts 🌱

nutrition

Tips & Tricks for Healthy Eating on a Budget

Healthy eating is one of those things that many people may assume is expensive- but the reality is that it’s actually pretty affordable! As someone who has been plant based for 5+ years, I’ve had to navigate my way through different grocery stores to find fresh fruits, vegetables and other health foods. And let me tell you- I’ve learned a lot!

I used to spend a decent amount of money on foods like veggie burgers, fruit juices or even salad mixes but was finding that I was coming home with barely any food. When I got into reading ingredients on labels, I realized that most foods advertised as healthy literally costed pennies to make which inspired me to start buying ingredients rather than pre-made foods.

So today I decided to write a blog on some tips to help you make healthier choices at the grocery store on a budget!

1. Write out a list of recipes beforehand

One of the best ways to stay on budget and preplan healthy meals is to write down a list of recipes you would like to have throughout the week! I start by writing out the days of the week and what I plan on making each day. I then break down each recipe into ingredients that I will need- it’s the perfect way to buy the exact amount of everything without being wasteful!

For example, you could have black bean burgers for lunch one day this week, which would require you to buy basic ingredients such as black beans, soy sauce, onions and garlic which don’t cost very much. And same goes for writing down a recipe such as chickpea tuna– all you really need are chickpeas, some seaweed and plant based mayo which can be found at most grocery stores. The main thing is to start being mindful of the foods you buy, what you spend and what you’re choosing to eat weekly!

2. Get familiar with your local grocery stores

Another great way to eat healthy on a budget is to become familiar with your local grocery stores. There are certain stores that I would never buy produce from because it’s much too expensive (such as Sobeys, Metro or Loblaws) unless I really needed to. And other stores that I do most of my shopping at such as Fresh Co and No Frills. It’s important to get to know which stores are near you and becoming comfortable with the idea of shopping at multiple shops to find the best deals!

This also allows you to compare pricing. You’ll get used to to seeing the price point of foods you typically buy and allows you to spend more consciously!

3. Do the majority of your shopping in the fresh fruits and vegetables section

The reality is that the grocery store is full of processed foods and health items that claim to be good for you when you don’t need them to stay healthy. If you’re really looking to adapt to a healthy lifestyle, 80% of your grocery shopping should be done in the fresh fruits and vegetables section where most things are only a few dollars a pound. You can get a decent amount of bananas for $2.00 or a bag of carrots for less than $3.00!

I typically buy vegetables such as eggplants, onion, garlic, tomatoes, avocados, mushrooms and others, and it doesn’t cost very much. I also buy fresh fruits such as apples, bananas and oranges because they’re always in season and generally affordable! But as I mentioned, get familiar with your local grocery stores and check around for deals. You never know- maybe the bananas are cheaper at one store but the apples are cheaper at another!

4. Buy more beans and lentils

I’ve talked about the health benefits of black beans, lentils and even chickpeas in recent blogs but they’re also a great way to save money- they’re such a cheap health food! Packed with plant proteins and vital nutrients, beans are an amazing addition to your diet. There are two varieties: dried or canned. Dried beans are much cheaper but take longer to cook if you don’t have a pressure cooker. Whereas canned beans cost a little bit more, but still very affordable and are ready to use in recipes right away!

Whatever variety you choose, beans are a great addition to your diet and are affordable either way. I personally love dried lentils because they don’t take nearly as long to make as dried beans but are just as nutritious!

5. Check the price tab to compare pricing

A lot of people don’t know this (or maybe I just learned this late 😅) but the price tabs at the grocery story actually have a breakdown of price per weight. If you look closely under the price, you will see how many grams or millilitres an item is, plus how much it costs per weight/volume.

I find this particularly useful for bulk items to see if it’s actually worth it! A lot of the time when bulk items are on sale, it’s not much cheaper to buy more or the bigger size. And the little fine print under the price is the perfect way to find out!

I know this seems like pennies, but it’s honestly a great way to reduce your grocery bill and cut costs. We all know that things add up but taking the time to read pricing is a great way to make sure you’re putting your money to good use.

And above all: read ingredients

This one is important- if you’re looking to make healthier choices, always read the labels of anything you buy! I typically only buy items such as natural peanut butter, baking items and cooking seasonings but I always check the ingredients first. Knowing what you put into your body is a huge step to better health and allows you to be a more conscious consumer.

If you feel lost, keep in mind that most foods shouldn’t contain a list of ingredients and preservatives! You can also check out my blog on reading ingredients here.

Other helpful tips:

  • Avoid shopping when you’re hungry. I know this sounds ridiculously simple but it’s the best way to avoid impulse buys.
  • Avoid buying soft drinks, juices or pop. Making your own juice at home is much cheaper and healthier!
  • Don’t be afraid to buy ahead: if the avocados aren’t ripe yet but they’re a good price, buy them and ripen them by your window. Chances are the price will increase once they’re ready to use.

Takeaway:

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog on healthy eating! I hope that I inspired you to make some healthier choices this week because all it really takes is a bit of will power ☺️

Be sure to follow my Instagram page for updates and check out my other blog posts here. ☀️

nutrition

Balancing your Diet with Traditional Chinese Medicine Nutrition

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is such an interesting system! A lot of people don’t know this, but I have actually been studying Chinese Medicine since 2016, and am just finishing my final clinical hours to graduate (I’m actually super excited)! 🥳

I always found nutrition to be the most interesting aspect of TCM because it takes things such as taste, colour and temperature of foods in mind. As you may know, in our society most dieticians typically only take nutrient content and calorie amount in mind when constructing diet plans. Which is great, because it’s so important that we meet the dietary guidelines, however food can do so much more for us if we consider all aspects and qualities!

So today I decided to write a quick blog on Traditional Chinese Medicine nutrition, how it works and how I personally use it to help my clients balance their diets!

Yin and Yang

In Chinese Medicine, the concept of yin and yang is really important.

Yin is considered the light and is attributed to cold and deficiency. Whereas yang is considered the darkness and is more excess and hot.

Individuals who have a more yin constitution typically feel cold and tired most of the time, crave warmer foods and may have more specific symptoms such as night sweats or a pale tongue.

Individuals who have a more yang constitution typically feel hot, have trouble falling asleep, crave colder foods and have a red tongue which signifies heat within the body.

The interesting thing is that the tongue actually says so much about someone’s health and diet! A pale tongue means that there is cold within the body, and the patient should eat warmer foods such as cinnamon, soups or vegetable broths.

Whereas a red tongue means there is too much heat in the body, and the patient should eat colder foods such as cucumbers, salads or smoothies.

For more information on how tongue diagnosis works and tips on checking yours out at home, check out my blog Tongue Diagnosis: The Basics.

Balancing diet with temperature

Chinese Medicine practitioners use this very basis to come up with personalized diet plans. Yin and yang is huge and in my opinion, not mainstream enough!

From there, we can start using the temperature of foods to restore balance within the body. For example, as someone who has been vegan for 5+ years, I eat a lot of foods that are cold in nature. I used to always have cold hands and feet, I always felt tired and had pale dry skin.

Using moisturizer didn’t seem to make a difference and no matter how many sweaters I wore- I was still cold!

It wasn’t until I started studying Chinese Medicine when I learned about the concept of warming or cooling the interior. Which basically means to eat more foods based on temperature so that your organs have an optimal environment!

Because I balance my diet using temperature in addition to my dietary needs, I no longer have any negative symptoms and my digestive system has never been healthier.

This can be applied to people who experience pain as well! People who have pain typically have poor circulation, commonly known as blood stasis in TCM. Blood stasis results in a purplish tongue, pain and sometimes inflammation. Foods that move the blood (improve circulation) such as mung beans, black beans or green lentils would be greatly beneficial in this case!

Taste and colour

Taste is another interesting aspect that we look at! The five element theory attributes each organ to a taste, colour, season and element. The five element theory is mainly used when selecting an acupuncture treatment plan, but it can also come in handy when creating a personalized diet plan as well!

As you can see, each organ has a different colour. Meaning, we benefit from eating all of the colours that nature has to offer!

Here’s a quick breakdown of each colour, the connected organ and foods that are beneficial:

  • Green (liver): kale, bok choy, collards, cabbage, green lentils
  • Red (heart): tomatoes, cherries, red pepper, strawberries
  • Yellow (spleen): corn, potatoes, squash
  • White (lungs): onions, garlic, green tea
  • Black (kidneys): black beans, dark fruits, blueberries

Interestingly enough, green foods are high in antioxidants which help detoxify the liver and improves the quality of blood. Red fruits & veggies contain a compound called Lycopene which is what produces red pigmentation, and is also beneficial to our heart and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Yellow foods such as corn and potatoes contain starches that are beneficial to our gut microbe and white foods such as garlic or herbal teas can vent pathogens out of the lungs.

And lastly, dark foods such as black beans, blueberries and dark berries are high in antioxidants that are beneficial to our kidneys and water metabolism.

As you can see there are many overlapping theories and modern day nutritional facts that do support each other!

Check out the rest of the chart and try to incorporate more colourful foods into your diet this week!

Takeaway

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog on modern day nutrition and Chinese Medicine diet. I really hope I did a good job explaining certain concepts and didn’t lose you half way through haha!

The main thing I want you to takeaway is that there are plenty of ways to balance our bodies with food and nutrition! The earth has over 80,000 edible plants and herbs that aid our health and fight against disease. Start choosing fruits and veggies that are colourful, nutritious and always keep your health in mind above anything else!

“The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison”.

For personalized nutrition advice/health coaching, please click here to check out my services!

Healthy Living, nutrition

5 Tips to Boost your Overall Health Based on The Dietary Guidelines

I’m all about living a healthy lifestyle and I honestly think that the best way to start is by switching to healthier alternatives of your favourite foods. I recently started reading the Dietary Guidelines for Americans: 2015-2020 and was shocked by some of the current health statistics which inspired me to write this blog!

When I say “food is medicine” I really do mean it! Did you know that eating the right foods and getting enough physical activity can reduce conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis?

Eating the right foods is so crucial when it comes to achieving optimal health and genuinely feeling amazing everyday!

Here are some quick facts about Nutrition and Physical Activity Related Health Conditions in the US:

Obesity:

  • For more than 25 years, half of the adult population has been overweight or obese.
  • In 2009-2012, 65% of adult females and 73% of adult males were overweight or obese.
  • Obesity is most prevalent in individuals aged 40 or over and least prevalent in adults with the highest incomes.

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD):

  • In 2010, cardiovascular disease affected about 84 million men & women ages 20 years and older (35% of the population).
  • In 2009-2012, almost 56% of adults ages 18 years and older had either prehypertension (27%) or hypertension (29%).
  • In 2009-2012, 100 million adults ages 20 years or older (53%) had total cholesterol levels >200mg/dL.

Diabetes:

  • In 2012, the prevalence of diabetes (type 1 and type 2) was 14% for men and 11% for women ages 20 years or older. (90% of total diabetes in adults is type 2).
  • Among children with type 2 diabetes, about 80% were obese.

The harsh reality is that there are so many diseases and conditions that stem from years of eating an improper diet and not getting enough physical activity. But don’t lose hope!

All you have to do is follow these simple steps to boost your nutrient profile and your overall health 🙂

1. Make sure you’re getting enough exercise

Only 20% of adults meet the Physical Activity Guidelines. These guidelines establish how much exercise we should be doing daily/weekly in order to reduce the risk of the conditions mentioned above. Establishing and maintaining a regular physical activity schedule into your lifestyle can provide so many health benefits! Strong evidence shows that working out regularly helps individuals maintain a healthy weight, as well as lowers the risk of early death, stroke and high blood pressure.

Youth ages 6 to 17 years of age need at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day which should include aerobic, muscle-strengthening and bone strengthening activities.

Adults need a little over 2 hours of physical activity of moderate intensity and should do muscle-strengthening exercises on 2 or more days of the week.

Incorporating physical activity into your lifestyle can be easy and really fun! Try taking the stairs instead of taking the elevator, or even go for a nice family walk after dinner. Simple switches can really make a huge difference in your health a few years down the road!

Stay tuned for my next blog post which will have some fitness tips and workouts that you can do at home during the pandemic! 😉💪🏼

2. Follow a healthy eating pattern

A healthy eating pattern includes eating at an appropriate calorie level to support a healthy body weight and including a variety of nutrient rich foods in your diet to prevent deficiencies.

Individual calorie needs vary based on age, sex, height, weight and level of physical activity, however there are a few guidelines to take in mind when developing a healthy eating pattern:

  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars.
  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats.
  • Consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day.

Following these general guidelines is really important, but I don’t want you to start doing math and calculating your calories. I don’t even count my calories! The main thing to takeaway is to reduce your intake of foods that contain added sugars, saturated fats, trans fats and sodium.

3. Make simple switches

Which brings me to my next tip- make simple switches! This doesn’t mean that you will never get to eat fettuccine alfredo again, it just means adding veggies or maybe even using a plant based milk for the sauce instead! It’s so much fun to experiment with different foods and making swaps while cooking at home.

An easy way to start getting more nutrient rich vegetables into your diet is to make a salad with your dinner. Buy some iceberg lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and apples for a fresh inexpensive salad. Using olive oil, salt and lemon juice is also much healthier than using store bought salad dressings which contain GMO ingredients such as canola oil.

A great way to incorporate more fruits into your diet is to make a fruit smoothie in the morning or for lunch. Fruit smoothies contain high amounts of antioxidants and other vital nutrients! So many of us live busy lifestyles where eating 5 fruits a day may be time consuming and hard to keep up with. But making a smoothie combines ingredients like berries, bananas and mangos that contain nutrients that you otherwise wouldn’t get!

Check out my smoothie recipes for 3 inexpensive and healthy smoothies that you can make tomorrow morning☀️

4. Increase your intake of fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds

The average intake of fruits and vegetables in the US is largely below average which demonstrates the need for us to all start eating more foods from these food groups! I’m sure I’ve mentioned this already but fruits and vegetables are amazing for us and you can never eat too many! It’s really important to make sure that you’re eating a variety of fruits and veggies as they all contain different vital nutrients that are useful to our bodies in their own ways.

Here are some vegetable subgroups and examples, the goal is to increase your intake from each subgroup and make sure choosing different kinds from each category.

Even just choosing 3 additional items to add to your grocery list will make a positive impact on your health! Try grabbing some dark green vegetables next time you go grocery shopping, or even some red & orange vegetables. Have fun with it and always nourish your body.

5. Set Goals

Setting goals is important because it keeps you motivated, on top of things and sets a standard. I personally set 3 goals each morning which revolve around reading something new, meditating for at least 10 minutes and making a smoothie. Because of my routine, I am constantly improving my daily habits and lifestyle, while staying entertained!

I also set health related goals for myself- I make sure to get enough physical activity, I follow a healthy eating pattern and I try my best to incorporate fruits and vegetables into my diet whenever possible.

These goals are what keeps me healthy and feeling great every single day! I highly suggest developing some health oriented goals based on the guidelines that we discussed.

Doing more physical activity, eating more plant based foods and limiting your intake of added sugars, saturated fats, trans fats & sodium have all been proven to reduce nutrition related health conditions.


Takeaway

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog! If you have any questions at all, feel free to reach out to me through email: NaturalGlowellness@gmail.com or through my Instagram page. I love working with individuals to better their eating habits!⚡️

I also wanted to mention that all of the information in this blog is from the Dietary Guidelines For Americans: 2015-2020 Eighth Edition. A 2020-2025 Edition was just released on their website and has a free download. If you’re as interested in health and wellness as I am, I highly suggest it! It’s a great read and has some great facts about healthy eating! Just click the above highlighted link 😁

Good luck on your health journey!!

nutrition

Proteins: Why You Should Choose Plant-Based Sources

When you search the word “protein” on Google, what’s the first thing that comes up on images? Meat and eggs. I can understand why most people only think of animal products when it comes to proteins, but today I am here to change that and prove that there are so many amazing plant based sources of protein that contain all of the amino acids that we need!

This blog will get into what proteins are, the differences between plant and animal sources, the daily recommended amount and 5 high plant based sources of protein⚡️

What are proteins?

First things first, what exactly are proteins and why do we need them? Proteins are one of three macronutrients that the body requires to properly function. The other two are fats and carbohydrates. Proteins play an important role in various bodily processes such as fluid balance, blood clotting, immune system responses and hormone regulation. They are crucial building blocks in our bodies and are also responsible for muscle mass.

Proteins consists of large chains of amino acids- there are 20 of them in total. The human body is capable of synthesizing (or creating) 11 of them and the remaining 9 are known as “essential amino acids” that must come from our diet.

A common argument against consuming plant based proteins is that they are incomplete and must be paired together in order to create complete proteins. Complete proteins are foods that contain all of the 9 essential amino acids. They are typically associated with animal products, however many plant based foods are complete proteins as well such as quinoa, buckwheat, hemp and soy. In addition, it’s important to note that all 9 essential amino acids can be found in plant based foods, in varying amounts.

Meaning that if you follow a whole food plant based diet, you will have nothing to worry about as you will be consuming a wide variety of plants which all contain varying amounts of essential amino acids!

Animal Proteins vs Plant Proteins

Okay so now that we talked a bit about what proteins are and why they’re important, let’s get into why plant based sources are healthier than animal sources.

Plant based sources of protein tend to be lower in calories and fat than animal sources, and higher in fiber and essential nutrients. Therefore, by transitioning to plant based sources of protein, you will increase your nutrient profile and reduce your daily caloric intake.

Take a peanut butter sandwich and 3 eggs for example. Both are popular breakfast foods and you would be very surprised to find out that they contain about the same amount of protein but very different nutrient profiles. A peanut butter sandwich is packed with whole grains, healthy carbs and nutrients whereas eggs contain unnecessary cholesterol, sodium and animal fat.

Plant based sources also keep you feeling full for longer as they are higher in fiber which promotes healthy weight loss and digestion. In addition, when you consume animal products, your body undergoes oxidative stress which depletes the body of beneficial nutrients to neutralize cell damage.

How much protein should I consume?

With any nutrient, it’s possible to consume too much or too little. With protein, it’s no different. However, unlike other nutrients, proteins have a very interesting threshold that one must stay within in order to obtain just the right amount for their body weight and fitness desirability.

It’s very rare to become protein deficient in our society. Essentially all of our foods contain protein, it’s just a matter of choice between plant based sources vs animal sources. The tricky part is getting too much protein. So many body builders, gym fanatics and fitness coaches advocate for eating more protein to get more muscle mass. But getting more protein than the daily recommended amount hasn’t necessarily been proven to build more muscle mass.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, the amount of protein that each person should consume is based on their age, sex and level of physical activity.

The general guidelines for a healthy amount of protein ranges from 0.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight (2.2 lbs) to 2 grams for more active individuals.

Consuming more protein per kg of body weight has been linked to weight gain, constipation, and increased risk of cancer and heart disease. But this is mainly because most individuals associate protein with animal products, meaning that someone who is trying to obtain more protein will most likely do so through consuming animal products.

But as mentioned earlier, if you swap plant proteins in place of animal proteins, you will increase your nutrient profile and boost your metabolism at the same time.

5 Healthy & High Sources of Plant Based Protein

Here are 5 amazing sources of plant based proteins that are both healthy and delicious! Beans and lentils are great additions to add to any diet as they contain a healthy amount of protein, carbs and fiber. These nutrients and macronutrients are great for weight loss, better digestion and a faster metabolism!

  • Peanuts: Just one cup of peanuts contains about 25 grams of protein. But if snacking on them isn’t your thing- two tablespoons of peanut butter contains 8 grams of protein. Match that with 2 pieces of whole grain toast (4g protein each) and you already have a breakfast containing 16 grams of healthy plant based protein! 😋
  • Black Beans: Black beans are delicious and a great addition to any meal! Just one cup contains 15 grams of protein and lots of fiber which is great for weight loss.
  • Chickpeas: Chickpeas are one of the best plant based sources of protein with 39 grams per cup. Check out my chickpea tuna recipe for a creative way to incorporate them into your diet⚡️
  • Lentils: Lentils are so tasty and perfect for when it’s chilly out. My favourite thing to do is pressure cook one cup of dry lentils with soy sauce, onions, mushrooms and garlic. Just one cup of these bad boys contain 18 grams of protein.
  • Tempeh: Tempeh is the perfect substitute for bacon. If you’ve never tried it before- you definitely should! It can be found in the vegetarian/vegan section of most grocery stores. Just one block typically contains 19 grams of protein.

Conclusion

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog on proteins- I really hope that you learned something that will benefit your health! The main reason why I wrote this blog is to change the way that people think of protein! Animal sources are not the only sources of protein out there.

There are so many amazing plant based sources that contain all of the amino acids that we need! It’s just a matter of consciously making those swaps 🙂


Sources:

Macho-González, A., Garcimartín, A., López-Oliva, M., Bastida, S., Benedí, J., Ros, G., Sánchez-Muniz, F. (2020, July 20). Can Meat and Meat-Products Induce Oxidative Stress? Retrieved January 10, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7402184/

Hernandez-Alonso, P., Salas-Salvado, J., & Ruiz-Canela, M. (2015, April 07). High dietary protein intake is associated with an increased body weight and total death risk. Retrieved January 10, 2021, from https://www.clinicalnutritionjournal.com/article/S0261-5614(15)00091-6/fulltext

nutrition

5 Benefits of Going Plant-Based

Plant based diets have been a hot and trending topic for a few years now. Many people argue that it’s harder to obtain nutrients however current scientific research suggests otherwise. Diets low in animal products and high in plant based foods have been proven to be healthier and provide so many benefits! These benefits range from improving overall health to directly reducing pollution associated with animal agriculture. 

I have personally been plant based for 5 years now and have not looked back! I love the benefits that come with eating plants and I also love how much more energized I feel.

So, in order to motivate you with your health transition, I will be providing 5 reasons why a plant based diet is amazing for you and our planet. Remember, the goal isn’t to become vegan, it’s to become more plant based and conscious of where our food comes from 🙂 

1. You will reduce inflammation in your body

If you consume animal products such as meat and cheese, there is strong evidence that you probably have high levels of inflammation. Inflammation is beneficial when it’s against bacteria or foreign pathogens. However, the common Western diet causes chronic inflammation which alters the way that we feel and promotes disease in the long run. Inflammation can manifest as many things in the body such as pain, fatigue, swelling and redness. This is why diets that are high in animal products are typically linked to acne and rosacea. 

In contrast, a plant based diet is full of nutritious ingredients that contain helpful molecules like phytonutrients, antioxidants and fiber which reduce the effects of inflammation. 

Thus, when you enjoy a plant based diet, you are also able to enjoy the anti-inflammatory properties that come with it! 

2. You will lower your cholesterol levels

Cholesterol is crucial for us to survive and is necessary in a healthy diet. However, our bodies can produce more than enough for us to live and thrive. Therefore, we do not need to directly consume cholesterol in order to have it in our bodies. Unfortunately cholesterol is found in virtually all animal products making the population vulnerable to conditions associated with high levels of cholesterol in the blood. High levels of cholesterol promote heart disease, high blood pressure, and various other health conditions.

In contrast, a plant-based diet has no cholesterol (yep you read that right, NO cholesterol!) and very little saturated fats. Many studies have also shown that people who make the change to a plant based diet have reduced their blood cholesterol by more than 30%, decreasing their risk of certain conditions and diseases.

3. You will decrease your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes

Unfortunately, more and more people around the world are developing Type 2 Diabetes because of their diet. Type 2 diabetes used to be only associated with adults and was commonly referred to as Adult-Onset diabetes. However, in recent years more children are being diagnosed as Type 2 Diabetic due to improper diet and lack of exercise. Various studies have shown that animal products like red and processed meats can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Thus, you will radically reduce your chances of acquiring type 2 diabetes if you leave animal proteins behind. 

Whole plant-based diets are recommended as a powerful tool for preventing, managing, and reversing type 2 diabetes. 

4. You will reduce the amount of toxins and oxidative stress in your body

Many animal products need to be treated with chemicals in order to extend their shelf life and freshness. Two common chemicals known to have side effects used by the industry are sulfates and sodium-nitrate. Sulfates are commonly added to food items to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi, preserve color, and freshness. However, sulfates can produce asthma like symptoms according to the United States Food and Drug Administration. 

Sodium nitrate is commonly used as an additive in hotdogs, bacon, deli-meat, and jerky. This chemical is a bit more dangerous because it is associated with risk of heart disease. Many animal products are coated with chemicals that are only used to benefit the manufactures whereas a whole grain vegan diet will remove the vast majority of the chemicals associated with animal products. 

5. It’s the best thing you can do for the planet

Alright so if you’re like me, you care about the planet and the precious wildlife that inhabits it. Animal Agriculture is the leading cause of pollution, deforestation, habitat loss and ocean dead zones. It’s also responsible for the unnecessary slaughter of 3 billion animals each day. To put that into perspective, our human population would be extinct within days if we were killed at that rate- that’s crazy!

In the Amazon rainforest alone, cattle ranching surprisingly accounts for 80% of deforestation rates. Animal Agriculture is not sustainable because in addition to the land needed to actually raise the livestock, an extensive amount of land is used to grow animal feed. Water use is crucial because the animal needs it to survive, and it’s also needed to grow food for the animal. It’s estimated that you will need more than 2,000 gallons of fresh water in order to produce only one pound of beef in the United States. This means that one pound of beef has an equal amount of water that a human would need to drink in 3,785 days (10.3 years)!

By making the conscious change to a plant-based diet, you can reduce the demand for animal agriculture and directly help our environment. And by becoming plant-based, you will also save an average of 100 animal lives yearly, which feels pretty cool when you think about it! 😎

Here are some quick tips that helped me go plant based:

  • Documentaries are full of great and credible information! Check out the documentaries The Game Changers, What The Health, Cowspiracy and Forks Over Knives on Netflix.
  • Become more conscious of what you’re eating. Thinking of the process your food has to go through really helps you make better food choices.
  • Try doing your own research and have fun with it! I strongly encourage having a healthy relationship with food ⚡️

⚡️If you would like help in making healthier food choices, feel free to check out my one-on-one virtual health coaching service!⚡️


Sources

American College of Cardiology President: Why Cholesterol Still Matters. (2019, January 13). Retrieved from https://www.forksoverknives.com/wellness/why-cholesterol-still-matters/

A Vegan Diet for Diabetes Control. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.pcrm.org/news/health-nutrition/vegan-diet-diabetes-control

Barbaresko, J., Koch, M., Schulze, M. B., & Nöthlings, U. (2013). Dietary pattern analysis and biomarkers of low-grade inflammation: A systematic literature review. Nutrition Reviews,71(8), 511-527. doi:10.1111/nure.12035

Katherine Zeratsky, R. (2020, April 18). The unhealthy preservative hiding in processed meats. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/sodium-nitrate/faq-20057848

Ferdowsian, H. R., & Barnard, N. D. (2009). Effects of Plant-Based Diets on Plasma Lipids. The American Journal of Cardiology,104(7), 947-956. doi:10.1016/j.amjcard.2009.05.032

Lowering Cholesterol With a Plant-Based Diet. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.pcrm.org/good-nutrition/nutrition-information/lowering-cholesterol-with-a-plant-based-diet

McWilliams, J. (2014, December 15). We’re Eating Ourselves to a Warmer Planet. Retrieved from https://psmag.com/environment/gluttony-global-warming-eating-warmer-planet-96495

Pan, A., Sun, Q., Bernstein, A. M., Manson, J. E., Willett, W. C., & Hu, F. B. (2013). Changes in Red Meat Consumption and Subsequent Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. JAMA Internal Medicine,173(14), 1328. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6633

Perkins, S. (2018, December 17). Are Sulfates in Food the Same as Nitrates? Retrieved from https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/sulfates-food-same-nitrates-3150.html

Sutliffe, J. T., Wilson, L. D., Heer, H. D., Foster, R. L., & Carnot, M. J. (2015). C-reactive protein response to a vegan lifestyle intervention. Complementary Therapies in Medicine,23(1), 32-37. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2014.11.001

Sodium Nitrite: Indications, Side Effects, Warnings. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.drugs.com/cdi/sodium-nitrite.html

Type 2 diabetes. (2020, August 26). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-2-diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20351193 

What You Need to Know About Sulphites. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Food-technology/What-you-need-to-know-about-sulphites.aspx

7 Things That Happen When You Stop Eating Meat. (2019, July 02). Retrieved from https://www.forksoverknives.com/wellness/7-things-that-happen-when-you-stop-eating-meat/

nutrition

Carbohydrates: Everything you need to know

Carbohydrates also known as sugars are very important macronutrients. However, they are usually given a bad reputation because of their association with weight gain and diabetes. But the reality is that not all carbohydrates are bad for you, many of them are actually very important for your health because they fuel your brain and body with vital energy!

Knowing how to choose the proper carbohydrates for your diet is so important. Not all carbohydrates are made out of the same components, so not all of them will have the same effect on your body. Choosing the proper foods that provide your body with the right carbohydrates will benefit you in so many ways!

So, without further ado let’s dig into the benefits, the properties, the different types of carbs and how to differentiate the good from the bad!

What exactly are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates or Carbs are small molecules that are mainly made out of Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen atoms. Fiber, starch and sugar are all classified as carbs. They are broken down by our digestive system into smaller molecules such as glucose in order to provide us with the fuel that we need for our daily routines.

All sugars are considered carbohydrates, but the term “sugar” is only commonly used to describe small carbohydrates that have one or two sugar units. Carbohydrates are commonly broken down into three different categories depending on the number of sugar units:

  • The simple carbohydrates like glucose and fructose only consist of one sugar unit, and are commonly known as monosaccharides. 
  • A carbohydrate like sucrose, or lactose contains two sugar units and is classified as a disaccharide.
  • Other more complex carbohydrates like starch and glycogen are part of the polysaccharide and oligosaccharide groups.

Why do we need carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are important because they help fuel our body and organ systems with energy. When you eat a meal that contains carbohydrates, your body will use chemicals to break down the carbs into smaller pieces. From there, the sugars that your body has broken down will enter your bloodstream. As soon as the sugars enter the blood, your pancreas will release a hormone call insulin. Insulin is responsible for transporting sugars from your blood into your cells, where simple carbohydrates can be used as a great source of energy for your body and brain. Our central nervous system, cardiac muscles and kidneys all need carbohydrates to properly function!

This process is usually straight forward, however, unhealthy carbs can affect the rate that this process occurs. 

Simple sugars vs processed sugars

Diets high in simple sugars and processed sugars are strongly linked with coronary heart disease, diabetes and fatty liver. Simple carbohydrates unlike complex carbs are absorbed very fast, causing a quick and immediate burst of energy that we all are too familiar with! That’s because the rush that you feel after you eat something very sweet is caused by the high amount of added simple sugars, which are in the form of refined sugars and processed syrups. Refined sugars provide no nutritional value, they lack vitamins, minerals and fiber. These sneaky sugars are one of the reasons why carbohydrates are shunned and considered bad!

However, not all simple sugars are refined sugars, so not all sugars should be thought as bad.  

So, as I previously mentioned, simple sugars in the form of refined sugars are terrible because they are only added calories and should be a huge no no in your diet.

But not all simple sugars are actually bad for your health. Many simple sugars are very nutritious and are found in healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. These types of sugars are considered as naturally occurring carbohydrates, which are completely different than the bad ones! Unlike the processed simple sugars, natural carbs are full of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They are great fuel for your brain and digestive system!

 Well, the same goes for complex carbohydrates!

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates unlike simple carbohydrates are absorbed by your digestive system slowly, and provide a lower but steadier release of energy. However, complex carbohydrates can also be divided into two groups, refined and unrefined.

The complex carbohydrates that are considered refined, have no nutritional value. They have been stripped from all of their nutrients, similarly to the refined sugars that I previously mentioned. Refined carbohydrates such as white flour, pasta, pizza dough, and many processed breakfast cereals can have unhealthy effects on your blood sugar levels. This is because when you eat high amounts of complex carbs, your body quickly absorbs the sugars and releases insulin. Insulin is used to remove the excess amount of sugars from your blood, however the quick release of insulin can have negative effects like increased appetite, causing you to crave more food and ultimately making you gain weight. Research has also shown that refined grains can drastically affect your mood and energy levels. And if that is not enough, they also contribute to the build-up of fat, diabetes and heart disease.

Thus, understanding which complex carbohydrates are the best for you and your body is crucial for a healthy diet.

Carbs that are actually good for you

Don’t let all of the bad stuff that I mentioned about refined simple sugars and refined complex carbohydrates make you feel like you need to avoid carbohydrates! Carbohydrates are necessary for our health and the key is to avoid refined carbs.

Healthy complex carbohydrates are not rare, they are easy to find, so let me help you! 🙂

Here are some healthy sources of carbohydrates that have amazing nutrient profiles:

  • Chickpeas are a great source of protein and complex carbohydrates. One cup of these lil guys will set you up with 10 grams of fiber, which is one third of the recommended daily fiber intake. Chickpeas also provide your body with a healthy source of calcium and phosphate, two elements crucial for bone development. Click here to check out my chickpea tuna recipe which is a great source of healthy carbs!
  • Old-fashioned oats are also a great way to increase your daily source of healthy natural complex carbohydrates. Half a cup of oats will provide you with 27 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of proteins and various other minerals and vitamins. 
  • Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite sources of complex carbohydrates because they not only have 26 grams of healthy carbs, they also provide beta carotene which is an amazing antioxidant that takes care of you and your skin!! 
  • Black beans are super healthy for you. They will provide you with an incredible amount of nutrients that will help you feel full for longer compared to other foods. One cup of black beans will set you up with 41 grams of carbohydrates, 15 grams of fiber, 15 grams of protein, and various other nutrients that are crucial for your health and wellbeing. 
  • Quinoa is a perfect way to enjoy all of the benefits associated with whole grain foods for people who are intolerant to gluten. Yes, you read that right, quinoa is a seed not a grain. So, none of the problems associated with gluten will affect you if you stay on a quinoa vibe 😎
  • Lentils unlike quinoa and whole wheat bread are very cheap. They are a great source of protein, fiber, and carbohydrates. Lentils are also very low in fat, making them a great choice for a filling and healthy meal! 

Conclusion

I really hope that you learned something new about this very interesting macronutrient! Carbs are not bad for us at all, and it’s crucial to realize that there are good carbs (naturally occurring) and bad carbs (refined, processed).

In any case, read the ingredients of each food you consume and try your best to avoid anything that’s processed. Your mind and body will thank you 🙂

nutrition

The Power of Antioxidants

As you know, I love making smoothies and fresh fruit juices every morning! One of my favourite ingredients to put in my smoothies are mixed berries because they’re high in antioxidants. Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals in the body and decrease the risk of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease & cancer.

But before we get into the amazing benefits of antioxidants, we must first discuss free radicals and oxidative stress.

Free Radicals and Oxidative Stress

Free radicals are unstable molecules that are highly reactive. They are constantly being formed in our bodies and are necessary for certain functions such as helping our cells fight off infections. However, there must be a balance between free radicals and antioxidants, otherwise oxidative stress will occur.

Over a long period of time, oxidative stress can accelerate aging, damage DNA and even lead to cell death.

Certain lifestyle factors and dietary habits can promote free radical formation and therefore cause oxidative stress:

  • Smoking Cigarettes
  • Alcohol Consumption
  • Toxins
  • Air Pollution
  • Intense Exercise
  • Too much sun exposure
  • Dietary Habits- Red & Processed Meats
  • Antioxidant Deficiency

All About Antioxidants!

Alright so now that we have talked a lil bit about free radicals and oxidative stress, let’s talk about antioxidants! So as I mentioned earlier, antioxidants are molecules that fight off free radicals in our bodies preventing oxidative stress. Our bodies can generate antioxidants such as glutathione, but we should really be getting our source from fresh fruits and vegetables. Plant based foods are a great way to get your fix because they contain varying kinds of antioxidants such as Vitamins C and E.

Different Types

There are two types of antioxidants: water-soluble and fat-soluble.

Water soluble antioxidants work in the fluid inside and outside of cells, whereas fat-soluble antioxidants work largely in the cell membrane. The three most important dietary antioxidants include Vitamins C, E and flavonoids.

  • Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant that protects against oxidative stress induced damage. It’s also an essential nutrient that boosts our immunity and promotes the look of healthy skin.
  • Vitamin E is fat-soluble and also protects against oxidative stress. Vitamin E is great for the skin because it protects our cell membranes and helps neutralize free radicals.
  • Flavonoids are phytonutrients that are found in plant based foods. They’re beneficial in reducing oxidative stress, boosting immunity and promoting overall health.  

Plant foods that are high in antioxidants include berries (blueberries, strawberries, goji berries, raspberries), artichokes, kale, spinach and beans.

It’s so important to make sure that you are getting a decent amount of antioxidants daily! Antioxidants are crucial to our health and are an amazing skin food.

My favourite way to add antioxidants to my diet is making smoothies every morning! Even if berries aren’t in season, frozen berries are a great choice and they’re about the same cost wise.

Health Tip

Next time you go to the grocery store, grab a bag of frozen raspberries, mixed berries and blueberries. Throw some in a blender with some fresh bananas and soy milk and you now have the perfect skin food! 🙂

Sources

Publishing, H. H. (n.d.). Understanding antioxidants. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-antioxidants