Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Green (Smoothie) Revolution

Greens are here to stay, and not just because spring is finally upon us. However, this is most certainly a cause for celebration! No, I’m referring to the green smoothie trend that seems to have taken over. These vibrantly coloured drinks are a deliciously simple, quick and portable way to up your intake of green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach, both of which are rich in vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron and folate, as well as dietary fibre and various antioxidants. If done right, green smoothies can be a true breakfast of champions, an afternoon pick-me-up snack, or even a delicious dessert. What better alternative to caffeinated drinks and sugary, starchy processed snacks and sweets?

Although smoothie-making is not an exact science, here’s a simple formula for whipping up a nutrient-dense smoothie to get you started:

Step 1: Pick a liquid base (1 cup)
  • Use dairy milk, soy milk, almond milk or water

Step 2: Choose your leafy greens (1 large handful/1 cup)
  • Try kale, spinach, bok choy or collard greens

Step 3: Add some fruit (1-2 cups, fresh or frozen)
  • Banana, berries, avocado, pear, mango and pineapple are all great options

Step 4: Optional add-ins
  • Ground flax, chia or hemp seeds, almond butter, coconut oil, cocoa powder, cinnamon, etc.

Step 5: Combine all ingredients, blend well, and serve! Yield: one serving.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless! Feel free to experiment until you find your favourite combination.  One of my personal favourites combines unsweetened vanilla almond milk, kale, one medium banana, ½ an avocado, ½ cup frozen blueberries and one tsp cinnamon.

Is there any better way to make sure you get your 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day?

Happy Smoothie-ing!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Health Benefits of Caffeine

Caffeine is the most widely used substance on the planet. Are there health benefits from caffeine or is most of the world just poisoning themselves?
We’ve dug through our archives and put together a list of some of the possible caffeine health benefits according to different studies that have been conducted over the years.
10+ Caffeine Health Benefits
1.    In Japan researchers have shown that caffeine increases memory. Also, a newer study out of Johns Hopkins University showed that a 200mg caffeine pill helped boost memory consolidation.
2.    Caffeine mixed with carbs replenishes muscle glycogen concentrations faster after exercise.
3.    Caffeine detoxes the liver and cleanses the colon when taken as acaffeine enema.
4.    Caffeine is better than sleep when you need to be alert while driving.
5.    Caffeine can stimulate hair growth on balding men and women.
6.    Caffeine relieves post work-out muscle pain by up to 48%.
7.    Caffeine helps ward off Alzheimer’s.
8.    Caffeine can ease depression by increasing dopamine in the brain.
9.    Caffeine increases stamina during exercise.
10. Caffeine protects against eyelid spasm.
12. Caffeine may prevent skin cancer. A new study out of Rutgers University found that caffeine prevented skin cancer in hairless mice.
13. People who consume caffeine have a lower risk of suicide. Src.
14. Caffeine may reduce fatty liver in those with non-alcohol related fatty liver disease. This study comes out of Duke University.
15. Caffeine consuming men showed increased semen volume and significantly less sperm DNA fragmentation than non-caffeine consuming men. Src.
There can be negative health consequences from consuming too much caffeine, so don’t go too crazy. Also some of the benefits of caffeine have only been researched within the context of caffeinated coffee.
Here are some further health benefits when the caffeine is consumed via coffee. It is also interesting that these benefits didn’t carry over to those that drank decaffeinated coffee.
Caffeinated Coffee Health Benefits
1.    Caffeinated coffee cuts mouth and throat cancer risk by 50%.
2.    Coffee can reduce risk of stroke as much as 22%.
6.    Caffeinated Coffee may help with weight loss. Research out of Melbourne, Australia is finding that study participants are reporting decreased appetite when drinking regular coffee as opposed to decaf or caffeine tablets as part of an ongoing study.
7.    People who drink at least 4 coffees or teas have lower blood pressure according to a new study out of Paris. Tea drinkers had the most blood pressure benefit, while coffee drinkers had just slightly less.
8.    Research out of Greece shows that Greek boiled coffee may increase longevity and heart health.
While this list might seem like a green light for caffeine consumption, it does come with a few caveats. In most cases the caffeine health benefits were realized by those who consumed moderate coffee/caffeine amounts. Also in some of the studies above, the caffeine was concentrated and applied directly to the body area being researched, i.e. cataracts and baldness etc.. Therefore, dietary caffeine would not produce the same results.

We can conclude that caffeine consumed via natural sources is probably the best since many of the health benefits of caffeine are probably largely due to the high antioxidant levels found in regular coffee and tea.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Foods and Our Mood

Many individuals are unaware of the impact food can have on one's mood. Certain foods actually have the ability to boost your mood. These foods essentially have the ability to increase the concentration of Serotonin in your body. Essentially, Serotonin (a neurotransmitter) works to send messages from one side of the brain to another and it is believed that it is this neurotransmitter that has the power to tell us we're hungry, tell us we're happy or even induce motivation. Many of the foods we eat have different benefits that may have the ability to naturally increase one's mood. We must also remember that our lifestyle choices play pivotal roles in the maintenance of our health. Exercise is important in keeping Serotonin balanced; it is also an important mood elevator. Choose happier foods and colorful foods, many of them have the natural ability to increase 5-HT in your body via their high levels of Tryptophan. Some of these high Tryptophan foods include:

Honeydew melon 

Remember that Tryptophan is the precursor for Serotonin, by increasing Tryptophan, you are naturally increasing Serotonin (5-HT). Feeling down lately? Try and integrate some of the foods above into your every day diet!

Monday, 3 March 2014

The “Yoga Mat” Chemical

The chemical azodicarbonamide, which is known to the public as the “yoga mat” chemical, has recently made headlines following Subway’s statement that they were removing the ingredient from its bread. This chemical gained attention after a blogger brought attention to the fact that the chemical is included in flip flops and yoga mats, and this expectedly resulted in negative responses from the public.

Azodicarbonamide (ADA) is commonly found in packaged foods, including breads and croutons, and is responsible for giving these products a buoyant quality. It is also known as a “foaming agent” that makes the dough rise more rapidly.

This substance has previously been banned in Australia and Europe, and this is because of its link to respiratory issues. However, it is approved by the FDA if present in levels below 45 parts per million.

A nonprofit advocacy organization known as the Environmental Working Group made the acknowledgment that “ADA is not known to be toxic to people in the concentration approved by the FDA”. They also claimed that ADA is an industrial chemical, and not a food, with the purpose of improving the convenience for bakers.

So, there seems to be mixed views on this chemical, and it appears to be non-toxic at levels present in the food we consume. But the real question: is ADA truly a necessary ingredient in the foods we consume?

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Chia Invasion

Many of us have heard about the numerous benefits of Chia seeds – from drinks to desserts, these tiny seeds have found their way into many of our diets.

From the Salvia hispanica plant, these seeds have quite a long history and many experts claim that they were used by Mayan and Aztec cultures for their power to heal.

So what’s the big deal? What makes these seeds so great for us?

In each 1 oz serving of chia seeds there are;
  • 138 calories
  • 5 grams of protein
  • 9 grams of fat
  • 10 g of fiber
  • Significant amounts of calcium and omega 3s
These seeds can be eaten whole or ground – when combined with liquid the seeds swell and form a gel, and interestingly this gel can take the place of eggs in a recipe or of the ingredient pectin in jam!

Some claims out there imply that chia seeds have impact on controlling hunger and promotion of a healthy heart but there are still some inconsistencies. For example, only 3 of 4 published clinical trials showed health benefits (including weight loss, reduced blood sugar, and decreased triglyceride levels).

These seeds can be sprinkled on pretty much anything or added to puddings, yogurts, veggie patties, and can also be ground into flour to be used in baked goods etc.

There seem to be many potential benefits of these nutrient-packed seeds, so if there’s no harm in adding them to our diet then, why not?

Monday, 3 February 2014

The History of Canada’s Food Guide

When Canada was at war in 1942, the government implemented the first version of Canada’s Food Guide known as Canada’s Official Food Rules. The government felt it should give people guidance on how to eat to stay healthy in spite of food shortages. The original purpose of nutrition advice was to prevent nutrient deficiencies.

Today many Canadians are overweight and at risk for diseases. Therefore today the food guide is designed to help people reduce their risk of chronic disease and obesity. It has also been designed strategically to make sure people consume the right amount of micronutrients, while properly balancing macronutrients. You can easily obtain your own copy of Canada’s Food Guide from Health Canada’s website. You can even develop your own personal food guide tailored specifically to the types of foods you eat more often.

Even though the newest food guide has been designed in an era where there is much more nutritional knowledge, I think the original ‘Food Rules’ can still teach us all a valuable lesson.  The rules were developed to help people know which foods to eat in order to survive, and avoid nutrient deficiency diseases. They ate for survival! Simple as that. I think much of today’s obesity epidemic could be solved if we all learned how to eat for necessity. This includes a varied, moderated, balanced diet that is adequate for health.

Special thanks to Eric for the idea of “simply eating for survival.”

Monday, 27 January 2014

The Mediterranean Diet

As the new year begins everyone is looking to get healthier and in shape. The mediterranean diet is a common diet that people go towards. However, what you may not know is that the mediterranean diet can help reduce the risk of certain diseases as well as obesity, and heart attack.

The diet includes fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains along with a limited amount of unhealthy fats. Research has show that the traditional mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of heart disease. Furthermore, a recent analysis showed that 1.5 million healthy adults reduced their risk for heart disease and cancer, as well as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease when put on the mediterranean diet.

The diet is primarily composed of plant-based foods (ie, fruits and vegetables). It replaces butter and salt with healthier fats such as olive oil and herbs and spices to give flavor. The diet tried to reduce the intake of red meat and consume fish and poultry at least two times a week.

Here is a sample meal plan on a mediterranean diet:

-yogurt granola parfait

-chickpea salad

-crackers with hummus

-chicken kabobs