Category Archives: Health Tips

Improve Your Cholesterol with these 7 Super Foods

super foodsA meal low in saturated fat and abundant in fruits and veggies is ideal for managing your cholesterol levels. However, there are seven specific, cholesterol friendly foods that will improve your HDL and LDL cholesterol levels.

1. Alcohol

Drinking a glass of wine with dinner has been shown to raise good-cholesterol levels and lower the risk of a heart attack. Now, don’t go crazy and get wasted. One glass a day is all you need 🙂

2. Almonds

Almonds help prevent LDL “bad” cholesterol from being oxidized. Oxidization damages the lining of the blood vessels, increasing cardiovascular risk. Almonds are great in a salad or as an afternoon snack.

3. Avocados

The monounsaturated fats in avocados lower the “bad” LDL and raise the “good” HDL cholesterol. The MUFA’s (monounsaturated fatty acids) also help to burn off belly fat.  For breakfast, I love to slice up half an avocado and mix it into about six egg-whites and throw in about 2 tablespoons of salsa.  Makes for a nutritious start to the day.

4. Barley

Barley lowers your LDL cholesterol levels.  It can be used as a substitute to rice, is great in soups and can be combined with dried fruits, nuts and a little oil and vinegar for a hearty salad.

5. Beans & Lentils

Another LDL lowering food. Can be used in soups, salads, and dips.  Also great in burritos, lasagnas and casseroles.

6. Blueberries

High in antioxidants, blueberries help lower your LDL cholesterol. They can be eaten as a snack or sprinkled on cereals.  I like to throw some into my protein shakes.

7. Oats

Oats help to increase your HDL cholesterol. Have some oat bran cereal or oatmeal for breakfast. Oat bran muffins make for a yummy treat too.

What are your favourite superfoods?

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Fuel Your Workout with Plant-Based Foods

plan based foodsRegardless of the intensity of exercise we all need to properly fuel our workouts.  We all have different needs based on the intensity, length and type of exercise we perform.  There are nutrients found in specific foods that will help push us through our workout and assist the recovery process.

Coconut Water

Instead of grabbing a bottle of Gatorade try some coconut water, nature’s sport drink.  It contains sodium, calcium, potassium and magnesium and is just as effective in rehydrating the body than any commercial sports drink.  Coconut water also contains calcium, iron and vitamin C, an antioxidant which helps with recovery.

Potato Protein Isolate

This is a favourable alternative if you’re unable to digest whey protein isolate or follow a vegan lifestyle.  The branched chain amino acids assist in muscle growth and recovery and enable your body to fight fatigue.

Beet Juice

Great to help you run that extra mile!  Beet juice opens up your blood vessels allowing you to take in more oxygen.  It reduces your systolic blood pressure, and the complex carbohydrates provide lasting energy.

Apples

Apple peels contain high levels of phenolic compounds and antioxidants.  Antioxidants are crucial to fighting free radical damage done to muscle tissue when we exercise.  Eating antioxidant rich foods or taking antioxidant supplements can greatly reduce muscle strain and injury.

Tart Cherry Juice

Tart cherry juice also contains an antioxidant which can help to relieve joint and muscles pain by reducing inflammation.  Try drinking some tart cherry juice about a week before and during a long distance running event.  It may help to reduce muscle pain and inflammation after the event.

Orange Juice

Great to drink after exercise for quick recovery, orange juice is a nutritious and natural way to give your body the glucose that is needed to replenish your body’s energy stores.

Lemon Verbena Extract

Lemon verbena extract contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating properties which help to reduce muscle damage, decrease muscle soreness and improve recovery time.

How do you fuel your workouts?

Food Combining for Optimal Health

food_pyramid     The concept of food combining for optimal health and well-being has been around for a long time. Learning to combine the right combination of foods can improve digestive issues and promote weight loss. It also improves your metabolism and increases your energy by ridding the body of toxins.
Here’s the concept:

Eating proteins such as poultry, fish, meat and eggs causes your body to secrete hydrochloric acid.  The enzyme pepsin will break down the food in this acidic environment. Eating starches such as potatoes, breads and pastas causes your body to release the enzyme, ptyalin, which creates an alkaline environment in the body. This combination creates an imbalance in the body’s pH level. In other words, these foods will neutralize each other and create some digestive issues.
Also, food that is not properly digested will rot in the intestines and create acidity in your blood. This can lead to more than just digestive issues. It can lead to allergies, headaches, depression and cancer.
So What Does This Mean?
This basically means that you really shouldn’t eat that delicious steak and potatoes meal that we all love. Proteins are best eaten with non-starchy veggies such as broccoli, spinach, lettuce, peppers, etc. Starches are best eaten with non-starchy veggies such as broccoli, spinach, lettuce, peppers, etc. Non-starchy veggies can be eaten with anything except fruit.

Finally, fruit should be eaten alone. To help improve digestion it’s best to eat fruit alone, 30-60 minutes before a meal. Fruits have a lot of water and take less time to digest. You never want to eat your fruit after eating a meal because the fruit will sit on top of that meal and ferment. Besides creating a lot of gas, the fermentation will cause poor absorption of nutrients from other foods and create an environment for yeasts, such as candida, to grow.
Does it really work?
The research supporting effective food combining is very little. Everybody is different and you have to find what works best for you. If you have digestive issues, educating yourself in this area is well worth it. If you have digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, colitis or bloating after meals, by removing gluten and dairy from your diet you’re practicing food combining anyway.
When it comes to weight loss food combining will work for two reasons:

1. Your body is properly digesting food which increases your metabolism
2. By food combining you’re consuming fewer calories which will, naturally, lead to weight loss
Whether you chose to practice food combining or some other method to improve digestive issues, always consult your doctor to ensure what’s best for you and your health.
Have you ever practiced food combining?

Laughter is the Best Medicine

jays gameYesterday my hubby and I took in a Jays game at the Rogers Centre.  It was, by far, the worst baseball game I’ve ever been to! The Toronto Blue Jays lost 13-0 to the Boston Red Sox, but this game was the most entertaining one I’ve ever been to.

What made it entertaining was the dare-devil fan who, in the 8th inning, sprinted from the stands, across the field and slid into second base.  After sliding into second base he jumped up so proud of his performance and threw his hands in the air.  The whole stadium was cheering and laughing which, of course, made this fan feel that he had just done a great thing.  Then when he saw security running out on to the field towards him his few seconds of glory ended and he continued his sprint across the outfield towards the 10 foot walls that surround the field.

This guy could run!  Security had to be a good fifty metres behind the Olympic sprinter, they had nothing on him!  If that wall had not have been there, he would have successfully escaped.  Well, no such luck. The dare-devil ran up the wall and caught the top of it. Unfortunately for him, it was too high to scale and he was finally captured by security.

The whole point to this story, besides sharing something hilarious, is that we can always find the humour in most situations.  The energy of the stadium started out pretty high but gradually declined with each passing inning and a score of zero on the board for the Jays. There was a lot of whining, complaining and grumbling about our team’s performance.  When this fan decided to take matters into his own hands by providing a little entertainment, it brought the level of energy back up a little with laughter and cheers.

We can always find a little something to laugh or smile  about no matter how bad a situation may seem or how much of a bad day we’re having. We should laugh and smile no matter how much we feel that things are not going our way. I’ve always believed that laughter is the best medicine. It boosts our spirits as well as our immune system and energy levels.  It releases endorphins, our body’s feel good chemicals which can temporarily relieve pain.  Have you ever had a good laugh while you’ve been hurt, physically or emotionally?  I have, and thinking back, laughing did relieve the pain for a short while.  Laughing is also very contagious and can bring a group of strangers together like it did yesterday at the stadium.  The energy was high, everyone was cheering and having a great time even though we were losing.

With the hustle and bustle of everyday life it’s important that we take some time to de-stress.  Stress can be so damaging to our health and laughter is the one bit of medicine that is free, easy to use and can bring our mind and body back into a state of balance. Laughter lightens our burdens and enables us to feel more inspired, grounded and focused.

laughterHere are a few more good reasons to laugh:

  1. Laughter will lower your  resting blood pressure but,
  2. Will act as a light workout when you’re really laughing hard because it increases your pulse and blood pressure which sends more oxygen to your muscles.
  3. Laughter gives your diaphragm, abs, back, facial muscles and respiratory system a great workout.
  4. Laughter reduces cortisol and adrenaline.
  5. If you find that you get colds often, laughter will help to reduce their frequency because it raises the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boosts the immune system
  6. Laughter increases memory, alertness, creativity and the ability to learn
  7. As little as ten minutes of laughter can burn about fifty calories!
  8. Laughter can reduce blood sugar levels.
  9. Laughter can also help with relaxation and sleep.
  10. Not only does laughter bring a group of strangers together but it also connects us with those we hold near and dear to our heart.

I will leave you with this one lesson from Regina Brett’s, “45 life lessons and 5 to grow on“:

Lesson #4:  Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

I encourage you to laugh, laugh out loud, laugh your a** off or however you choose to express yourself.

Have a great day 🙂

Intuitive Eating

intuitiveEverything in life is about balance and that includes how we eat and our attitude towards eating.  Being an intuitive eater enables you to trust your internal cues of hunger, appetite and satiety.  It enables you to naturally balance your energy intake without dieting and restriction.  The intuitive eater has a positive, relaxed and flexible attitude towards eating and is able to enjoy both nutritious and indulgent food choices.

We were all born with the ability to eat intuitively.  As babies we cried for food because we were hungry.  Once we were full we stopped eating and felt quite satisfied.  Unfortunately, as we get older we learn or develop bad eating habits and we are constantly bombarded with negative messages about eating.  We learn destructive ways of thinking that make us believe that to have the perfect body we must eat this way and buy this product to achieve this result regardless of the consequences that may follow.

Poor habits and misinformation can lead to weight gain, unhealthy weight loss, eating disorders and variety of emotional issues.  We have to educate our selves and our children when it comes to healthy eating and we have to have a good relationship with food to achieve true balance.

Here are a few tips for general health.  These tips do not apply to someone who is on a special diet, for example, someone dieting for medical reasons or someone dieting to prepare for a fitness competition.

Don’t Think “diet”. Think “balance”

Disregard what you hear and see in the media.  There is no quick fix or miracle pill that will get you to and keep you at your goals.  If weight loss isn’t achieved the proper way the chance of gaining all or most of it back is great. Remember, it’s a lifestyle change.  Also, you really don’t have to pay a fortune for a program that controls the amount of food you eat. Learn about portion control and use a friend or family member as an accountability partner.

Graze

Grazing is really important for maintaining balance.  Try to eat small meals or healthy snacks throughout the day being sure to balance the protein:fat:carb ratio for the most satisfaction. Eating every three hours is optimal. You don’t want to get to the point where you’re starving and willing to eat anything.  This often leads to overeating and poor food choices followed by feelings of guilt and sometimes nausea!

Allow Yourself to Occasionally Indulge

Occasionally allow yourself to have a treat. If you deprive yourself for too long you will eventually cave.  When that happens you will eat so much of this “forbidden” food and then you’ll feel the guilt.  Denying yourself completely of a craving creates way too much stress and increases your cortisol levels which, of course, causes you to retain fat.  A vicious cycle, so just treat yourself.

Don’t Judge Yourself

Make a decision, stick with it and accept it.  Don’t beat yourself up later and second guess on whether you should have eaten “that’ or not.  If you don’t think it was a good choice then just make a note to yourself and choose a healthier or better option next time.  There really is no point to creating inner turmoil.  Just learn from it and move on.

Stop Eating When You’re Full

I know this can be very hard to do sometimes especially when what you’re eating is extremely delicious! Don’t inhale your meal. Eat slow.  Savour and enjoy every bite.  It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register that you’re full which is why it’s important to eat slow.  If you inhale that delicious meal and overeat (which I have been guilty of doing on numerous occasions) you’ll suddenly reach a point (approximately 20 minutes later) where you realize,”Uh,oh.  I think I’m going to puke!”  This usually happens to me at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, lol.  A very uncomfortable feeling again followed by guilt and a few extra pounds.

Remember That Food is for Nourishment, Not Comfort

Many people are emotional eaters and will turn to food for comfort. It’s important to understand that food will not heal emotional pain. It may eventually make you feel worse. Seek help.  To achieve balance you will eventually have to deal with the source of the emotional pain.

As Dove Says “Love the Skin You’re In”

We all come in different shapes and sizes.  Accept it.  Don’t have unrealistic expectations of what you should look like and don’t try to be someone or something that you’re not. Don’t criticize yourself either.  Self-acceptance and self-love are key to achieving balance. Give thanks everyday for your health.  Having a positive self-image increases your self-esteem and self-confidence which enables you to make healthy choices.

Just Move

Make exercise a part of your daily routine and make it fun.  Find something that you like to do.  Not everyone likes to lift weights or run marathons.  If there’s a sport you enjoy, play it.  If you find something you enjoy and look forward to it could mean the difference between choosing to plant yourself on the couch in front of the t.v. and getting in that workout.  Set an achievable and reasonable goal for yourself.  This will give you something to look forward to and motivate you to keep moving.

Enjoy All foods

Remember when you’re eating you want to maintain balance.  Don’t deprive yourself of flavour or the odd snack. Go ahead! Have the salad dressing!  Just don’t pour the entire bottle on your salad. Everything in moderation for health. You only have to be concerned if you consistently make poor food choices on a daily basis.

I encourage you to listen to your body and become an intuitive eater:)

Feeling Stressed? Have a Glass of Water

waterStudies have shown that there is a direct link between being stressed and dehydration. How?  All of our organs,  need water to function properly. If you’re dehydrated, your entire body isn’t functioning well which can cause stress.  When we are stressed our bodies release that lovely hormone, cortisol which can lead to a wide variety of other issues which I’ll save for another post.

Hydration is so important for many reasons.  Our bodies are made up of about 75% water.  We lose water through our breath, our sweat and every time we go to the bathroom.  We need water to assist in the transport of nutrients and oxygen to our cells. We need it for our metabolism, digestion and elimination of waste.  We need it to lubricate our joints for that intense workout and we need it to help regulate our body temperature.

How Do You Know You’re Dehydrated?

There are several ways to tell.  The most obvious sign is thirst.  If you feel thirsty you’re already dehydrated.  A few  other indications of dehydration are:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dark coloured urine
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Fatigue

Our brain is approximately 80% water.  When the water level drops by even 2% we start to experience short-term memory issues also known as “brain fog”.  Been there?  I have many times!!  This is a pretty good indication that you are dehydrated and you may feel a little stressed, anxious and irritable.  Also, when our bodies are dehydrated it triggers our fight or flight response and keeps it in an elevated state which further increases stress levels. Proper hydration enables us to think clearly and stay focused.  It can help prevent Attention Deficit Disorder in both children and adults.  Since our brain cannot store water, it’s crucial that we stay well hydrated.

To determine how much water you should be drinking for your body weight just take your current weight and multiply by 0.55.  Take that number and divide by 8.  This is the minimum amount of water you need for your body weight.  This number will change depending on the environment or activity level.  If it’s a hot summer day and you’re sweating a lot, you’ll need more.  Likewise, during a workout you need to be drinking water throughout to keep those joints lubricated for optimal performance and to regulate your body temperature.

So,  the next time you’re feeling a little stressed and irritable, instead of reaching for a cup of coffee grab a glass of water, take a deep breath and breathe.

🙂

Happiness…

happy face“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, or worn. It is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.”

Denis Waitley,

Author and Speaker

Reading Labels

imagesCAJ4MPCRFood labels! For the conscious shopper reading labels while carefully selecting items to drop into your grocery cart can be a time consuming chore, especially if you don’t know what to look for.  Are there too many calories?  Is the fat content too high?  Should I chose lite or regular?  These may be some of the many questions going through your head while holding a box of crackers in one hand and a container of yogurt in the other.  Here are a few tips that may add some clarity when reading those confusing food labels.

The list of ingredients used in a food product are listed in descending order by weight on food labels.  Therefore, the ingredient that weighs the least is listed last. Ingredients that make up less than 2% of the food by weight is either listed at the end or not at all.  These ingredients may be flavour enhancers and stabilizers.

Here’s what to look for:

Carbohydrates and Hidden Sugars

This will be broken down into Total Carbohydrate, Dietary Fiber and Sugars.  Avoid sugars that are more than 10% of the total amount of carbohydrate.  This means that the product is just way too high in sugar!  Also try your best to avoid any product with more than one sugar source listed in the ingredients.

Dietary Fiber

Try to select foods with the higher fiber content.  The higher the fibre, the slower it will be absorbed into the bloodstream making you feel more full and satisfied for longer.  When buying bread or grain products look for the word “whole”.

Fat

A simple formula to determine the percentage of fat in a product:

(Fat calories / Total Calories)  x 100

e.g.  100/240= .41

.41 x 100= 41% of calories from fat

Hydrogenated or Partially Hydrogenated Fats or Oils

Also known as trans fatty acids, these are the extremely unhealthy fats and should be avoided as much as possible.  Trans fatty acids pose an extreme risk to our health and can lead to ailments such as heart disease and cancer.

Some other good to know terminology

Enriched- Nutrients have been removed during processing and have then been re-added.  This is also known as fortified, a word that you’ll see on a carton of milk

Lite- Means lite in taste, calories, colour or fat. For a “lite” product to still have a some flavour and be satisfying to your palette remember, some other ingredient has been added to make the food appealing.  Pay close attention to what you’re putting in to your body.

Low Cholesterol- Does not mean low-fat.

Salt Free- Does not mean sodium-free. Watch for sodium bicarbonate and monosodium glutamate.

Sugar Free-  Means there’s no sucrose but there may be other harmful sweeteners such as fructose, corn syrup, sorbitol or dextrose.

Shopping, I know, can sometimes be challenging and frustrating.  Just arm yourself with the right tools to make an educated decision and suddenly, it may be and enjoyable adventure.  The last bit of advice I can add, NEVER GROCERY SHOP WHILE YOU’RE HUNGRY!!!!

Happy shopping:)

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