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 Herbs to Spice up your life this Winter

With the seasons changing and the temperatures decreasing, it’s important to make the appropriate changes to your diet. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we use warming herbs in the winter, and cooling herbs in the summer months in order to create a balance within the body. So today I wanted to write a quick blog on 5 different herbs that you can add to your diet in order to warm your interior, boost your immunity and promote optimal health this winter season! ❄️

I just want to start off by saying that herbal medicine that originates from the Traditional Chinese Medicinal system is a lot different than how most people think of herbal indications. Take cinnamon for example, we generally think of cinnamon as beneficial because it has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. We also associate it with its ability to reduce inflammation.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we actually refer to cinnamon as Rou Gui which basically just means cinnamon bark. It’s renowned for its ability to warm the interior, expel cold and alleviate pain due to its specific temperature and taste. Rou Gui is acrid and sweet and flavour, and hot in temperature which is perfect for when the temperature outside decreases. It also assists in the generation of Qi or energy and blood. In TCM terms, that means that it’s great for boosting immunity and energy levels within the body.

So without further ado, let’s talk about some interesting and useful herbs that are a great addition to any diet during the colder months!

1. Rou Gui (Cinnamon Bark)

I briefly mentioned Rou Gui, but I would like to talk more about this amazing herb because it has so many benefits! Rou Gui is a warming herb that is apart of the category of herbs that warm the interior and expel cold. It’s great for boosting immunity, reducing inflammation and reducing pain. Because it’s hot in temperature, it does a great job at pushing the cold out and moderating the effects of cooling foods that we eat!

As someone who is plant-based, I eat a lot of salads, fruits and drink a lot of smoothies- all foods that are “cold” or “cooling” in nature. In the winter months, eating just cold foods can cause stagnation, pain and therefore cause illness. I typically sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on my fruits and add some to my smoothies to balance it out!

2. Sheng Jiang (Fresh Ginger)

In TCM, there are two different kinds of ginger: fresh ginger (Sheng Jiang) and dried ginger (Gan Jiang). Gan refers to dried, while sheng means fresh- today we are going to talk about fresh ginger!

Sheng Jiang is big in Chinese Medicine with good reason- it’s a great herb for boosting the immunity, warming the middle and stopping vomiting. Because of its slightly warm temperature and acrid flavour, it has the ability to release the exterior and promote healthy digestion. We all know that fresh ginger does not taste the best 😅. But because of it’s unique qualities, it has very unique indications!

Drinking ginger tea when the weather gets colder is beneficial because it has the ability to boost your immunity and regulate digestion. Next time you feel yourself coming down with something, try making yourself a cup of warm ginger tea!

3. Jiang Huang (Turmeric)

Turmeric or Jiang Huang is one of the main herbs used in herbal medicine for reducing inflammation within the body. In addition, its active ingredient is curcumin, giving turmeric its yellow colour. Interestingly enough, Huang means yellow, which you can see displayed in the Traditional Chinese Herbal name above. Curcumin is a natural anti-inflammatory that can help improve many conditions such as heart disease, cancer, digestive disorders and even degenerative diseases. 

In TCM, Jiang Huang is apart of the category of herbs that regulate the blood. Its temperature is warm, and its taste is considered acrid and bitter. Bitter herbs generally have the function of moving blood, therefore this herb is also great for reducing swelling and pain! It’s also used in many complex herbal formulas to address menstrual conditions such as amenorrhea or dysmenorrhea. 

I add Turmeric to my diet by buying it fresh at my local grocery store and cooking it into curries and sauces. I sometimes do juicing as well and it’s a great addition that will make any juice glow! ✨

4. La Jiao (Cayenne Pepper)

I actually had to ask around about what this herb is called because it’s surprisingly not mentioned in many Traditional Chinese Medicine herbal books! So as much as I love cayenne, I’m not sure if it’s used that often in herbal medicine. But I thought it was definitely worth mentioning!

Aside from adding a lil spice to meals, cayenne pepper has so many health benefits! The active ingredient that gives these peppers their medicinal qualities is called capsaicin. Capsaicin has metabolism boosting properties! Because cayenne peppers are naturally hot in temperature, they have the ability to increase the amount of heat that your body produces, therefore naturally burning off calories. This process is called diet-induced thermogenesis which causes an increase in your metabolism and metabolic function. Many isolated studies have demonstrated that people who add cayenne pepper to their meals typically burn a few more calories than those who do not. Although the effect is small, I still find it interesting that cayenne pepper has this indication! 

5. Ding Xiang (Cloves)

Cloves or Ding Xiang is typically used in herbal medicine for warming the interior and expelling cold. It’s apart of the same category as cinnamon, however it has a few varying indications. It’s great for the stomach with conditions caused from eating too much cold. Like I mentioned earlier, adding any warming herb to your diet during the colder months is beneficial because it allows your circulation to move more effortlessly throughout your organ systems. In TCM, we have a diagnosis called “Stomach Cold” which manifests as abdominal pain, vomiting and aversion to cold. This is a great herb for that exact indication as it’s warm and acrid in nature! 

I love adding cloves to my diet by making my seasonal gingerbread cookies. The best way to buy them is whole and then grinding them down yourself using a mortar and pestle. 

Conclusion 

Thank you so much for reading my blog on herbal qualities! I personally love combining Traditional Chinese Medicine with modern day nutritional needs to balance out my diet. Herbs are great way to do that because they have such specific tastes and temperatures that can be used for many different indications. 

However, I think it’s important to mention that the purpose of this blog was to teach you a little bit about herbs and some medicinal uses they have. If you’re interested in adding warming herbs to your diet, please do so in moderation like you would with any ingredient! Just like eating too many cold foods, eating too many warming herbs is not the best for your body. The key is being mindful and taking note of what works for you. 

Thank you again for reading, please be sure to subscribe to my website and stay tuned for my new personalized services! 🌸

Sources

Bensky, D. (2004). Chinese herbal medicine: Materia medica. Eastland Press Inc.

Deng, Z.-jia, Zimmerman, G., & Ye, Q.-bo. (2014). Chinese medicinal formulas. People’s Medical Publishing House.

Maciocia, G. (2005). The practice of Chinese medicine: The treatment of diseases with acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Churchill Livingstone.

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/

fitness, 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

 

fitness, nutrition

Vitamin B12 Basics & Mass Supplementation in Livestock

We have all heard about Vitamin B12 and have possibly asked someone following a vegan diet where they get their B12 from. However, many people don’t actually know where B12 is made, how we obtain B12, and how much we should consume based on the scientific consensus. Thus, I have decided to write a blog on a few key points on this very important vitamin. 

What is Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 also known as Cobalamin is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a very important role in many bodily functions. Vitamin B12 is one of eight B vitamins, and is involved in keeping the body’s nerves & red blood cells healthy and even helps in making DNA. This vitamin is only produced by a few organisms such as bacteria and archaea (single celled organisms similar to bacteria).

These organisms were commonly found in grass, soil, and water streams. Usually the B12 producing bacteria are eaten by cows and other animals grazing on the fresh grass. Once eaten, the bacteria resides in the cow’s digestive system (specifically in the gut, or stomach) and produces vitamin B12 as a by-product from its metabolism. This molecule is essential for cows and other grazing animals. However, this beautiful and natural process is not very common anymore. 

Industrialization and factory farming have completely changed this natural process in order to maximize profit, and dominate the food market. So, the tiny little organisms previously mentioned, are not part of this process anymore, the fresh grass and pure water are also not in the picture anymore either.

B12 And Supplementation in Livestock

In order to sustain the dietary need for Vitamin B12, a new process needed to be created called supplementation. The majority of animal products purchased today are now supplemented with B12 in their animal feed, and/or through injectable B12. Crazy right?  

Supplementation is now required because animals used for food do not have access to fresh air, grass or water. Even if livestock is “free-range” or raised outside, there is a lack of Cobalt in the soil which is crucial for the tiny little organisms to survive. Fields that contain less than 2ppm of Cobalt are deemed unfit for grazing and therefore Vitamin B12 is supplemented into animal feed or injected directly.

It is crucial for people to understand that everyone who consumes animal products is indirectly supplementing with B12, without even knowing it!

There is nothing wrong with supplementation of B12. In fact, the Institution of Medicine has recommended anyone who is vegan, vegetarian or over 50 to directly supplement with B vitamins. However, this does not mean that you should recycle all of the stuff added into animal feed in your body to enjoy the benefits of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 derived from animal products also comes with all of the harmful factors found in meat. Therefore, you can limit your intake of animal products containing added B12, and instead you can add fortified foods like soy milk (full of phystoestrogens) or nutritional yeast to your diet which are more pure ways to get your daily dose.

Vitamin B12 is crucial for us, this tiny little molecule helps red blood cell formation, aids in neurological functions, DNA production, and many other physiological processes. Thus, we need B12 to be present in our diets and everyday lives in order to achieve optimal health. 

Nutritional Yeast: A Natural & Healthy Way to obtain B12

Nutritional yeast is a great way to naturally get your daily dose of B12. Nutritional yeast is a kind of yeast that’s grown specifically to be used in food products and has a cheesy, nutty flavour. I personally love it and use it on everything! Not only does it add flavour to foods & sauces, it also has many health benefits:

  • It contains so many B vitamins! One tablespoon of nutritional yeast contains 30-80% of the RDI (reference daily intake) for B vitamins.
  • It’s a complete protein. That’s right- just one tablespoon has 2 grams of protein and all nine essential amino acids!
  • It contains lots of trace minerals. Trace minerals are important because they aid in gene regulation, growth, immunity & metabolism. One tablespoon contains 2-30% RDI of trace minerals such as zinc, selenium and manganese.

I usually get nutritional yeast from a bulk food store such as bulk barn because that’s where it’s the cheapest!

Recommended Daily Intake

The National Institute of Health recommends that adults (over 14) should consume about 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12, pregnant woman 2.6 mcg, and breastfeeding woman 2.8 mcg.

However, Dietary B12 supplements usually in the form of Cyanocobalamin are not totally absorbed when consumed, for example only 10-mcg of a 500-mcg oral supplement is actually absorbed by our bodies. So don’t get spooked out by the large dosages advertised on the tablets because Vitamin B12 is water soluble, meaning that any extra B12 in your body will be excreted through urination.  

However, vitamin deficiencies are very common and many of us may be deficient without even knowing it. 

Vitamin B12 deficiencies are commonly associated with anemia, fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite and weight loss. Other side effects of B12 deficiencies may be numbness and tingling in feet, depression, confusion, poor memory, and various others. However, People deficient of B12 can be treated with B12 injections in order to increase the vitamin absorption in the body.

The main reason why people become Vitamin B12 deficient is because of inadequate absorption. Older adults who suffer from digestive conditions such as Atrophic Gastritis typically have difficulty absorbing vitamins & nutrients due to a lack of stomach acid, thus, B12 deficiencies are more common amongst older individuals. People who have been diagnosed with intestinal conditions such as Crohn’s and Celiac disease also have difficulties absorbing vitamin B12 from their diets. That’s why direct supplementation of B12 from fortified foods and B12 oral supplements are the best remedies for a diet with low levels of B12 absorption. 


Sources

Bernhardt, C., Zhu, X., Schütz, D., Fischer, M., & Bisping, B. (2019). Cobalamin is produced by Acetobacter pasteurianus DSM 3509. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology,103(9), 3875-3885. doi:10.1007/s00253-019-09704-3

Rizzo, G., Laganà, A., Rapisarda, A., Ferrera, G. L., Buscema, M., Rossetti, P., . . . Vitale, S. (2016). Vitamin B12 among Vegetarians: Status, Assessment and Supplementation. Nutrients,8(12), 767. doi:10.3390/nu8120767

Herbert, V. (1988). Vitamin B-12: Plant sources, requirements, and assay. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,48(3), 852-858. doi:10.1093/ajcn/48.3.852

Vitamin B-12. (2017, October 17). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-vitamin-b12/art-20363663

Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1998.

Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin B12. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/#en12

Vitamin B12. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dsm.com/markets/anh/en_US/Compendium/ruminants/vitamin_B12.html

fitness, nutrition

Busting The Soy & Estrogen Myth

So, we have all heard the myth that soy products affect hormone levels in both men and women, causing drastic side effects like spikes in estrogen or causing breast tissue to grow. However, these myths were popularized by certain individuals with their own agenda and thus, I have decided to write a blog on the benefits of phytoestrogens which are the main component in soy products.

Functional Foods

The idea that food contains nutritional properties as well as organic functions is becoming more accepted by the scientific community. Functional foods are foods that make us healthy and are common in diets high in whole plant based foods. Functional foods have the ability to regulate body functions in order to protect against diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer, coronary heart disease and many others.

Phytoestrogen vs Mammalian Estrogen

Functional foods consist of many different groups, however phytoestrogens are a large component. Phytoestrogens are a very special type of molecule that help our bodies feel good and look great.

Phyto means derived from plants, thus phytoestrogen is estrogen that naturally occurs in plants such as legumes, soy, flaxseed and mulberries. Phytoestrogens are beneficial to our health because when our bodies break down phytoestrogens, the molecules that are formed help regulate biological reactions. Meaning that phytoestrogens can connect to some receptors as mammalian estrogen, however phytoestrogen is like a key that can open a door, but leaves the screen door closed- which blocks out all of the bad things.

In contrast, mammalian estrogen which is naturally produced by us or consumed in dairy products, can fully open the door which leaves us vulnerable to diseases & chronic problems.

Estrogen & Other Hormones in Dairy Products

The interesting thing about estrogen & food intake is the fact that not many people associate dairy with it, even though cows must be genetically altered in order to continuously produce milk. The hard truth is that dairy is a much more significant source of female hormone exposure. Commercial dairy cows contain high amounts of estrogen and progesterone and are impregnated just to sustain the demand for cows milk. Even dairy products that are labelled as organic, or no hormones added contain high amounts of hormones because many of them are naturally produced by cows, even if they have not been given additional hormones.

  • One study concluded that when men and children consume milk, estrogens are absorbed and gonadotropin secretion becomes suppressed, followed by a decrease in testosterone secretion.
  • This study also concluded that milk consumption was responsible for significantly increased levels of estradiol and progesterone in adults and children.

Phytoestrogen Benefits

Phytoestrogens are classified into 7 groups- the main groups are isoflavones, lignons and coumestans:

Isoflavones are mainly found in soy products.

Lignons are commonly found in plants & grains rich in fiber such as wheat, barley, oats, beans, lentils, asparagus, broccoli, carrots.

Coumestands are found in peas, beans and alfalfa shoots.

Phytoestrogens are a crucial component of a healthy diet, research has shown that phytoestrogens are very beneficial in the reduction of menopausal symptoms. The health benefits of Eastern diets is generally associated with the consumption of high quality proteins found in soy. In Eastern countries, soy is part of the traditional diet and contains an average of 15-50/mg a day of isoflavones from soy. Whereas the Western diet only contains an average of 2/mg a day of isoflavones from soy. The lack of soy in the Western diet is preventing many of us from benefiting from all of the great qualities attributed to phytoestrogens.

Research

So since I have introduced the foods that contain phytoestrogens, as well as why phytoestrogens are beneficial when compared to mammalian estrogen, I think now would be a great time to show the research that support these claims!

  • The first area of research that has shown substantial evidence that phytoestrogens are beneficial in the human body is Menopause. Research has shown that supplementation of genistein (one of the 7 groups of phytoestrogens) may promote the reduction of menopausal symptoms. Researchers have also found that eating more soy products can alleviate the severity of hot flashes in women experiencing menopause.
  • Another condition that has had positive effects from soy products is Osteoporosis, which is the reduction of bone density. Research has shown that genistein which has a structure similar to estrogen, can bind to the same receptors as mammalian estrogen. This helps regulate estrogen levels which can cause bone deterioration if imbalanced.
  • Phytoestrogens found in soy products have also been shown to successfully improve blood sugar levels in Diabetic patients.

Conclusion

Non-GMO Soy products are beneficial in our everyday diet and research has demonstrated that phytoestrogens have a positive effect on our health. It’s unfortunate that there’s a very common misconception between phytoestrogen and mammalian estrogen. However, if you are concerned about elevated estrogen or hormonal levels your body, the best thing you can do is ditch dairy products, or limit your consumption.

Sources

Bhathena, S. J., & Velasquez, M. T. (2002). Beneficial role of dietary phyto- estrogens in obesity and diabetes. American Journal of Clinical Nutri- tion, 76, 1191–1201.

Monteleone, P., Mascagni, G., Giannini, A., Genazzani, A. R., & Simoncini, T. (2018). Symptoms of menopause – global prevalence, physiology and implications. Nature Reviews Endocrinology., 14(4), 199–215.

Ricci, E., Cipriani, S., Chiaffarino, F., Malvezzi, M., & Parazzini, F. (2010). Effects of soy isoflavones and genistein on glucose metabolism in peri- menopausal and postmenopausal non-Asian women: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Menopause, 17(5), 1080–1086.

Petrine, J. C., & Bianco-Borges, B. D. (2020). The influence of phytoestrogens on different physiological and pathological processes: An overview. Phytotherapy Research. doi:10.1002/ptr.6816

Maruyama, K., Oshima, T., & Ohyama, K. (2010, February). Exposure to exogenous estrogen through intake of commercial milk produced from pregnant cows. Retrieved September 16, 2020, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19496976