Healthy Living

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!

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/

Healthy Living

Natural Glow Wellness is now offering Personalized Services!

Alright guys! The day is finally here- I am officially launching my services!

After 5+ years of studying Pre Health Sciences, Nutrition & Traditional Chinese Medicine, I have decided to launch my personalized services to help you live your best life! I am super excited about this because I will finally be able to do what I love while helping others feel and look great.

Sara Mastrangelo, Owner of Natural Glow Wellness

Here’s a quick breakdown of what my services will include.

If you are interested in working together, please click here! I am offering a discount on my services for a limited time 🙂

Become Healthier with Sara!

One-on-one Health Coaching Sessions 

How would you feel if I told you that you can achieve your personal health goals through a healthy diet? It’s true! The food we eat plays a huge role in our moods and in our physical appearance. Through my health coaching sessions, I work with clients to narrow in on the foods they eat, and teach them how to make better choices at the grocery store.

You like eating pizza? That’s okay! My health coaching sessions aren’t going to force you to diet or stop eating the foods you love- we are just going to go over healthier choices and how to distinguish good quality ingredients from harmful preservatives.

I love studying nutrition and over the years I have learned how to master making regular unhealthy foods into delicious healthy versions. Food is meant to make you look good and feel amazing. Not make you have unnecessary cravings gain weight and feel bloated afterwards! Let’s get healthy and restore our relationship with food.


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 🙂

Healthy Living

Skincare 101

A lot of people ask me what my skin care routine is and to be honest, it’s pretty simple! When it comes to skincare, less is more. Our skin is so delicate and is the first to react to pollutants in the environment. So it’s so important that we’re not overwhelming our skin even more with harsh ingredients and chemicals that are commonly found in most skincare products.

It’s also important to take diet and nutrition in mind when discussing skincare. Not many people know that the appearance of our skin is actually highly influenced by the foods we eat.

Here are 5 tips to promote healthy looking skin:

1. Eliminate Oils, Sugars, Dairy Products & Processed foods from your diet

I know this sounds extreme, but honestly the pay off is huge. Foods that are high in oils, sugar and dairy are horrible for the appearance of your skin! Every now and then I’ll indulge and eat something sugary and the next day my skin looks red & rough.

This is because sugar contributes to inflammation as well as breaks down collagen and elastin (which are important components to youthful looking skin!) It’s fine to snack every so often, but having a constant intake of foods high in these ingredients will increase redness, the look of fine lines and decrease elasticity. Youthful looking skin starts on the inside!

2. Drink lots of lemon water and fresh fruit juices

I am a huge advocate for drinking lemon water and making fresh fruit juices in my blender throughout the day! Drinking lemon water is a great way to detox impurities from your skin and body. It’s also packed with antioxidants and vitamin C which stimulate collagen production and reduce signs of aging.

I also love making fruit juices because it’s an easy and quick way to add nutrients to your diet. Check out these soy milk smoothie recipes! They’re high in phytoestrogens, antioxidants, and minerals which are all great skin foods.

3. Start using a natural oil before bed like Rosehip

Using rosehip oil on your skin will honestly change your life! Not to be mistaken with rose oil made from rose petals, rosehip oil comes from the fruit & seeds of the rose plant which is commonly grown in Chile. I honestly love this oil because it makes my skin feel amazing and gives it a natural glow. Rosehip oil contains antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E, as well as essential fatty acids which all promote healthy skin. It also brightens the look of skin, boosts collagen formation, reduces inflammation and reduces hyperpigmentation.

The main thing when buying rosehip oil is to make sure that it comes in a tinted glass bottle and is certified organic. I typically buy this kind from Amazon and it works wonders!

4. Add facial rolling or Gua Sha to your skincare routine

For those of you who don’t know what Gua Sha is, it’s a technique used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to promote blood flow and circulation in the body. It’s done by gently scraping the affected area with a natural rock such as jade or rose quartz to promote healing. Doing Gua Sha on the face, commonly known as facial rolling is really beneficial because it moves impurities out of the skin by increasing blood flow to the area. It also naturally tones facial muscles, improves the skin’s elasticity and softens fine lines.

I typically do facial rolling 1-2 times a day just after applying rose hip oil.

5. Avoid wearing makeup

Have you ever really read the ingredients on your makeup? The amount of ingredients in one palette is literally insane! Just think of how many chemicals we put on our face for one night out. Our pores get clogged, our skin gets red and a breakout happens as a result- that’s why it’s so important to limit the amount of times you wear makeup. Don’t get me wrong, doing makeup and getting dolled up is fun but it’s so crucial to let your skin breathe.

If you do like wearing makeup, try to choose a cruelty free brand. Brands that are cruelty free typically contain better ingredients and don’t involve animal testing. I really love the brand Anastasia because it’s one of the only brands that doesn’t cause me to breakout the next day. Everyone’s skin is different, but I’m sure you’ll be doing your skin (and our animal friends) a favour by choosing a cruelty free brand instead.


Conclusion

Honestly the key to healthy skin is a healthy diet. Foods that are good for your skin include cashews, berries, fresh fruit juices and leafy greens. If you have an alkaline plant based diet, you will be getting tons of phytonutrients and minerals which the body can use to make collagen. Whereas if you have a diet high in processed foods, sugars, oils and dairy products, it will manifest on the skin as inflammation, redness and acne.

Always remember to let your skin breathe, eat foods that nourish it and use a natural oil such as rose hip that is high in antioxidants. 🙂

Stay beautiful and keep glowing!

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

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

nutrition

Top 5 Common Food Additives to Avoid

It’s no secret that what we put into our body matters. Each ingredient in every food can either aid our health, or deteriorate it and there is no other way to look at it. Below is a list of five ingredients that are commonly found in everyday foods, but are detrimental to our health.

1. BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoulene)

Butylated Hydroxytoluene is a lab made preservative that is found in anything from gum to cereal. It is generally recognized as “safe” by the FDA, however animal studies demonstrate that it causes cancer and is an endocrine disruptor. In high doses and over a long-term, BHT is toxic to mice and rats causing liver, thyroid and kidney problems.

2. High Fructose Corn Syrup

Found in nearly every processed food and sweetened drink, high-fructose corn syrup is a sweeter and cheaper version of regular sugar. It’s made by separating glucose and fructose which are usually bound together. This allows fructose to mainline into your liver, which activates fat production called lipogenesis. As a result, this leads to a fatty liver which is one of the most common diseases, affecting over 80 million Americans today.

3. Aspartame

Aspartame is a commonly used, low calorie artificial sweetener that is found in diet beverages, gums, candies and other sweetened foods. It contains about 4 calories per gram which is similar to sugar however it’s 200 times sweeter.

In 1981, the FDA approved aspartame for use in food in drinks, however many studies have been conducted on its safety since then. In fact, the FDA and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have set a limit on how much aspartame one can consume daily before its poisonous. Because aspartame is so sweet but low in calories, the body cannot properly process it. This results in many side effects such as headaches, ADHD, depression, congenital disabilities and even cancer. Any food or ingredient that has a safety limit should not be consumed, even in small doses.

4. MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)

Monosodium Glutamate is widely used to enhance the flavour of food. It is commonly used in restaurants, canned soups, processed foods and spices. MSG is classified as an exotoxin that has degenerative effects on the brain and nervous system. It causes several health complications such as ADD, depression, asthma, skin rashes, sleep disorders and heart irregularities. This is because glutamic acid acts as excitatory neurotransmitter in your brain, causing excessive stimulation of nerve cells.

5. Artificial Colouring

Artificial food dyes are chemical substances that were developed in order to enhance the appearance of food. They are widely used and commonly found in flavoured beverages, candies, baked goods and even salmon. Multiple studies have linked artificial colouring to serious side effects such as hyperactivity in children, as well as allergies and cancer. In fact, Red 3 also known as erythosine was partially banned by the FDA in 1990 after an animal study demonstrated that it increases the risk of thyroid tumors in male rats. However, that ban was later removed and Red 3 was replaced by Red 40. Despite the controversy, Red 3 is still used and found in many foods today.


I could write a whole book on every ingredient that we should avoid! But the only thing we can do is stay informed, continue reading ingredients on packaging and if there’s something that is unfamiliar listed- don’t buy it. These foods prevent weight loss and are linked to a number of side effects, but are still legally allowed in our food. I hope you take something from this blog and I encourage you to do your own research as well on other ingredients!