10 Best Foods for Brain Health

Our brains. What an interesting place they can be! Our brains take messages from the world and give them meaning for us. They store so much information in our memory – from the way it feels to have a hug from your mom to what chocolate tastes like to what you learned in grade 12 Algebra. The brain controls our thoughts, memory and speech, movement of the arms and legs, and the function of many organs within our body. Treating our brain as best we can is imperative for long term health.

When I first started Intermittent Fasting one of the things that attracted me most to it was the idea of helping to clean our body and brain for more optimal health. Essentially, when we sleep, our brains and body cells are being cleaned. We wake up feeling fresh and energized after a good night sleep. When we continue to fast for a little bit longer, it allows our body to continue to clean its’ cells rather than jump right into digestive mode. I really like that concept.

But other than intermittent fasting, what can we do from a nutrition side of things to help our brains be the healthiest they can be? There are a few foods that are known to be great for boosting brain health. These foods include:

  1. Berries – a strong antioxidant, berries help our memory stay sharp as we age.
  2. Dark Chocolate – this powerful antioxidant helps support cellular aging.
  3. Broccoli – high in antioxidants and vitamin K, this super veg is a winner on all fronts for your big brain.
  4. Avocados – this good, healthy fat is great for your brain and your mood by helping release the ‘feel good’ chemicals in your brain.
  5. Oily Fish – What makes oily fish so good is that they contain the active form of Omega 3 fats, EPA and DHA, in a ready-made form, which enables the body to use it easily. The less work our body has to do to use the nutrients, the more energy we have for other body tasks.
  6. Seeds and Nuts – another win for omega 3 fats and antioxidants with these powerhouses.
  7. Kale – this veg promotes great gut health. There is a HUGE connection between our gut health and our brain health. We would suggest reading more on this here.
  8. Eggs – vitamins B6 and B12, folate and choline are all found in eggs which are great for brain health and boosting memory.
  9. Coffee – the caffeine and antioxidants in coffee are great for brain health. So maybe it’s not just our imagination that we feel sharper after our first cup of joe!
  10. Turmeric – according to Healthline.com, Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, meaning it can directly enter the brain and benefit the cells there.

Reducing our sugar intake, switching white carbs for better sources of carbohydrates such as whole grain bread or quinoa, and not over doing it with alcohol, are all things we should make note of when we talk about our brain health. Staying physically active is also really important, as is staying mentally active – doing brain games, crosswords and sudokus for example are all great for our brain and overall longevity and health.

It’s really important to remember that we are our own best advocates for our health and wellness. It is up to you and you only to ensure you are making good choices when it comes to your nutrition and overall health. You need to make YOU a priority, and part of this is eating a nutrient dense diet and staying active through all stages of your life.

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Intermittent Fasting: An Ancient Practice for a Modern World

Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, famously said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. Hippocrates and many of his contemporaries were proponents of long term fasting as a powerful way of healing the body, heightening mental acuity, enhancing spiritual connection and promoting longevity.

Fasting is currently gaining a buzz in the media, but this ancient therapy has been used for thousands of years to reverse health conditions and reset the body and mind. The question is, does one have to do a long and difficult fast in order to reap the benefits of this amazing therapy.

The answer is No. Science is showing the increasingly popular lifestyle of Intermittent Fasting to be just as effective as long term fasting in receiving the myriad health benefits. Intermittent fasting or “IF” is easy to fit into your busy modern schedule and it promotes healthy and sustainable body composition by stabilizing blood sugars and burning fat while improving energy levels, mental clarity, muscle and skin tone and helping people reach their health goals much quicker.

The secret lies in taking an insulin and digestion break for 12-20 hours at a time so that the body can become insulin sensitive once again and tap into fat reserves as fuel as well as allowing the body to go into repair mode, which can only happen when not digesting food.

There are a few different methods of IF, one of the most popular being the “16:8” ratio. The faster typically stops eating after 8:00pm, fasts while sleeping, skips breakfast, then has lunch around noon when they begin their 8 hour “eating window” from noon until 8:00pm achieving a 16 hour fast. The point of IF is NOT calorie restriction, but rather, to shorten the “window” of eating so that the body can flip from digestion mode into repair mode. You may find you will naturally eat less, yet feel very satisfied. This is due to the stabilization of blood glucose levels and the restoration of proper singling of the hunger satiety hormones.

“The HOW”: during the day…

It is recommended to first begin by consulting a health care practitioner to decide if IF is right for you and then to begin by slowly increasing your fasting window each day until you are at the desired ratio of hours spent fasting versus eating. When fasting, drink plenty of spring or mineral water, and even some tea or black coffee if you choose. I recommend using “Fasting Days” by Innotech Nutrition, as a supportive supplement made in Canada which is a doctor formulated, nutrient complex powdered drink mix specifically designed for intermittent fasting that acts as an all-natural low calorie drink to prevent hunger while maintaining your electrolytic balance. (read to the end of this article for a PROMO CODE for this supplementing option).

At Noon Eat a healthy lunch with a balance of protein, complex carbohydrate and fats. My favorite choice to gently break the fast is to consume a blended protein smoothie with a scoop of high-quality protein powder, coconut milk, a cup of frozen berries and a big handful of greens or a greens powder.

At 4pm Snack on a handful of trail mix, veggies and hummus or a piece of fruit with almond butter.

At 6pm Have a satisfying dinner with a serving of protein, plenty of leafy green salad and/or steamed veggies with healthy fats such as grass-fed butter, coconut oil or avocado, avoiding excess grains, starches and sugars.

7pm Another healthy snack if you’re feeling hungry.

8pm Stop eating and begin your fast.

“The WHY”: Some of the benefits of this “insulin and digestion break”:

    • Autophagy – when insulin production is turned off a mechanism called Autophagy gets turned on. Autophagy means, “self-devouring”. Your body searches out and consumes “bad cells” and recycles the materials to produce new and healthy cells. This is showing promise in reducing the risk of many types of cancer and to slow cellular aging.
  • Stem Cell Production – fasting stimulates stem cell production which allows for self-renewal and reversal of many cellular and mitochondrial diseases. Studies are showing an increase in longevity and reduction of inflammation with IF.
  • Human Growth Hormone (HGH) Production – studies show that fasting triggers the youth hormone known as “HGH” which improves sleep, increases muscle mass, improves skin tone and joint strength, as well as energy metabolism and fat burning.
  • Healthy Sustainable Weight Loss – IF is much different than calorie restriction diets. Calorie restriction shuts down then spikes glucose making the dieter feel deprived and fatigued causing a rebound effect and the inevitable “falling off the wagon”. Fasting however, uses up stored glucose and shuts down insulin production thereby allowing us to become sensitive to insulin once again, stabilizing blood sugar levels, and gaining more energy without the crashes. With fasting we become “fat-adapted” or fat burning, which is the body’s preferred source of fuel because it is stable, plentiful and sustainable.
  • Digestive system and gut microbiome rest and reset: studies show that IF restores microbe diversity in the gut, increases our tolerance to “bad” bacteria, and restores the integrity of the epithelial lining allowing us to absorb nutrients better, all of which has a beneficial outcome for our immune system which is 80% or more found in our gut. This in turn can elevate our mood due to the Gut-Brain Axis and the fact that our neurochemicals are mostly produced in the gut.

In summary, intermitting fasting is a modern take on the ancient therapy that is an extremely beneficial and sustainable lifestyle for both your body, your wallet and the planet. Imagine that the simple answer to our health woes was not found in the pursuit of what we needed to do more, but in what we need to do less. And as we allow the inner physician to do its work, we are also allowing this natural force of well-being to aid the planet in healing too.

About Natalie Reimer Anderson, our Guest Blogger!

Natalie Reimer Anderson was a former professional athlete and high school teacher before being sidelined by a debilitating autoimmune condition that caused her to pursue recovering her health full time. She is now known for her inspirational personal story of overcoming her

illness through cultivating the mind-body-spirit connection to optimal health. As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Fitness Trainer and Life Coach for over a decade, she combines her expertise of intermittent fasting, cellular nutrition, and fitness hacks along with mindset training and cognitive therapies to transform lives from cell to soul.

W: Nataliereimeranderson.com

E: hello@nataliereimeranderson.com

IG: @blondesovereign

If you would like guidance to properly begin your Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle contact Natalie today! Use this Innotech Nutrition Coupon Code to receive 10% off Fasting Days or any of their products: Nat10

Is Snacking Good or Bad for Me?

Is snacking good or bad for you? Well wait, what is a snack any ways? Do you mean late night snacking, chips and double-stuffed oreos? Or are we talking about a quick snack before I go to spin class? Well, I guess that depends on how YOU define snacking. I never like to classify anything as “GOOD” or “BAD”, but I want to answer this question for you, and give it to you straight!

One of the MOST common questions I receive from my IG community, and clients — “What can I have for a Healthy Snack?” So this blog post will review snacking from a few different view points, but mostly focus on the practical tips and answer the questions–what can you snack on? Let’s get started.

What is snacking?

There are many different ways to define snacking, but the way I think of snacking, is consuming small amounts of food between meals. This can include both food or drink, but the key is smaller portions, ie snacks are not meals! This is different for everyone, and it seems to be the busier we are, the less time we have for “sit-down” or conventional meals, and therefore we rely on snacking to get all the fuel and nutrition we need for the day. When we use snacks to replace our meals, we have to be strategic, as it is far too easy to overeat, choose highly processed foods, and then just continuously graze, and many of us actually consider ourselves grazers.

Is there a difference between snacking and grazing?

Yes. I grew up on a farm, so if you don’t get this reference, I apologize, but I’m sure you all have seen a cow before….think of a cow in a field…sauntering along leisurely, munching on the grass here and there, walking a bit, eating some more, chewing, walking, eating…for hours on end. This is grazing. You can imagine the challenge that this brings for humans. It encourages us to eat MINDLESSLY and when we are not mindful (ie mindless) about what we eat, we tend to eat more than our body needs, and we tend to ENJOY IT LESS, and why would we ever want to eat more, and enjoy it less, shouldn’t it be the other way around? Snacking on the other hand is more intentional and deliberate, almost strategic and doesn’t blur into one long eating event. Snacks are timed to bridge the gap between your meals.

Bottom Line: Grazing encourages mindless eating, snacking is intentional, so do your best to eat with intention on your journey to living your best life.

When is the best time to snack?

In a perfect world, we would all eat very intuitively, meaning, eat when we are hungry, stop when we are full, but to be honest, I can only think of ONE person that I know who does this…the rest of us tend to fall somewhere between the spectrum of totally starving and uncomfortably full. Actually, if you have any kids, or are around kids, you will notice that they are quite good at eating according to their body and how they feel/what they need. But as we grow into adults, we tend to fu*% things up by going on weird diets, trying to lose weight, gain muscle, trim up, tone up etc. It is through this process of up and down, erratic food intake that we lose our sense of proper hunger and fullness cues, and our intuitive eating becomes less reliable, and we need to train them again.

So to keep it simple, I like to follow some general rules of timing for snacks/meals that will also help you plan your day, and plan your snacks. As a rule, to avoid that extreme hunger, meals can typically be spaced 4-6 hours apart, of course there is variability here, but I’m trying to be concise and give it to you straight okay? If you eat breakfast at 8am, then you would want to have lunch by 12-2pm. If you eat lunch at 1pm, then supper no later than 7pm, you get the idea. But GUESS WHAT? We are not robots, and try as we may, life will get in the way of our perfect meal timing, and that’s where snacks save the day! Yassss!

Snacks can be strategically eaten to bridge the gaps between meals and to keep you from becoming that hangry beast…and I will admit, I am the MOST beastly when hungry, and not living my best life at all. To keep you living your best life, use snacks when you have large gaps of time between meals. Snacks are also very important when we do any time of exercise or activity, they will help you push through! Here is an example of timing, if you eat at 8am, and plan to eat lunch at 1pm, but you have a last minute conference call or meeting that doesn’t end until 3pm. YIKES- 8am-3pm (7 hours) you will be ferociously hungry and will eat everything in sight at your next meal, you have no willpower when you are this hungry. As a solution, plan for a snack at 1pm when you would have your lunch, this will keep you in check until you can eat your actual lunch. Same thing when you leave work or school, if you have running around to do, try to fit in a workout, chances are you will need that snack to get you through.

Bottom Line: Have a snack if your meals are too far apart, but don’t forget to eat your meal.

What about LATE NIGHT MUNCHIES?

DUN.DUN.DUN. What is it about the witching hours when the sun goes down that we get sooo peckish and just wanna go ape on all the food in sight? I honestly don’t know. But what I do know, is that most people struggle with evening mindless snacking, myself included. I start off with good intentions. My Peanut Butter Yogurt Whip maybe with an apple. Then I will have a melba toast or regular toast with peanut butter…then after that….I still want more, I will sometimes find myself just eating peanut butter straight from the jar–WTF? Am I even hungry? No. For whatever reasons we snack (and there are many reasons and rarely is it hunger) the problem is, it becomes a habit, a habit that would be good to break, but will take time, however here are some of my go to snack options for sweet or salty cravers:

SWEET:

  • Peanut butter whip yogurt

  • Ryevita cracker with almond butter and honey

  • Yogurt with granola

  • Energy bite (click here for FREE enery bite masters guide)

  • Fruit with yogurt or nut butter dip

  • Small amounts of any dessert is OK, just watch that portion

SALTY:

  • Que pasa tortilla chips and salsa

  • Thin triscuit crackers with cheese

  • Trailmix (portions please)

  • Chee cha puffs — great replacement for chips

  • Popcorn

  • Chip/Popcorn: my favorite trick is taking 3 cups of popcorn, and then a handful of your favorite chips (just a handful) and crushing them into your popcorn, tossing it all up and wam bam, thank you mam’ your entire bowl of popcorn, tastes like your favorite chips.

Bottom Line: Mindless snacking in the evening is rarely fueled by hunger, so rather than focusing on what you’re eating, maybe you should focus on what’s eating you?

What is a good snack anyways?

I am going to share with you, my perfect snack formula, it makes the ideal “between meal” fuel. Snacking on the right type and combination of foods will give you that energy boost that we demand from our snacks, you know to get you through that mid-day slump. To understand that “right” combination, let me #throwback to Canada’s Food Guide concept of food groups, because most of us have at least seen this before. Don’t roll your eyes at me! A dietitian referencing the food guide, YES! Now, CFG identifies 4 unique food groups distinguished by the nutrients that group provides for our body. Meaning, each food group provides a unique set of nutrients that are important for our overall health. As a reminder….the 4 food groups are: Vegetables & Fruit, Grain & Starches, Milk & Alternatives, Meat & Alternatives. The RIGHT snack combination should balance 2 of these food groups, so keep that in mind. Let’s get into it.

The Perfect Snack Formula

  1. Should contain 2 or 3 of the 4 food groups. The simplest combo would be a protein and carbohydrate (tuna & crackers, apple & cheese) as some examples. But the point is, any ONE item will likely not satisfy you or fill you up, like just carrots, just apples, just cheese, just nuts, combine two and get that synergistic benefit and a variety of nutrients.

  2. Should range between 150-250 calories per snack. Remember, snacks are smaller portions of foods and using a calorie range will help you determine how much of your favorite snack food you might eat, this will also discourage you from eating half a jar of peanut butter or a whole brick of marble cheese with your crackers as a snack.

  3. Should containt fibre and protein because they are your friends, try to get enough of both at a snack (5g of protein, 3g of fibre)

  4. Should be low in added sugars, if you can keep it single digits then you are a rockstar (less than 9 grams)

  5. Should contain “clean” ingredients that you might find in your own pantry. This is easier if you are making it at home, but for pre-packaged stuff, look for short, simple ingredient lists and no artificial ingredients.

  6. Snacks should be easy to Assemble and portable–like energy bites, balls, or bars!

Some Favorite Snack Recipes

Here are a few of my favorite snack recipes to help you along your way and keeping the above tips in mind. You may also want to try some pre-packaged snack products— I am working on a blog for this so stay tuned!

To answer the question from the start…Is snacking good or bad for me? Snacking is good for you, in fact we rely on snacks for fuel and energy. MINDLESS snacking, is not good for you, snacking for the sake of eating satisfy other needs, that go beyond our nutrition needs. Here is a recap:
  • Plan for snacks! Have a snack if your meals are too far apart, but don’t forget to eat your meal.

  • Avoid grazing as it encourages mindless eating, snacking is intentional, so do your best to eat with intention on your journey to living your best life.

  • Re-think WHY you snack when you’re not hungry– Mindless snacking in the evening is rarely fueled by hunger, so rather than focusing on what you’re eating, maybe you should focus on what’s eating you?

  • Try the perfect snack formula above!

About Jessica Wylychenko our GUEST Blogger! 

Jessica is a registered dietitian helping runners eat smarter, to run harder. She works with you to become a more well balanced, well-nourished runner so that you can hit your PR’s and reduce your risk of injury. Jessica believes food is fuel and should be used to nurture the body, but food is also enjoyment, more importantly enjoyment than anything else.

www.saladsaresweet.com 

My Favourite Greens

In this week’s blog, I wanted to explore the concept behind ‘greens’. When grocery shopping this past week, I looked down at my cart and noticed that everything I had put in so far was green. I definitely eat a very healthy and balanced diet (including other colors of course!), although that’s not necessarily everyone’s jam. So this week I decided to blog about my favorite green foods, why I love them so much and why you should consider adding them to your daily nutrition routine.

1. Broccoli – this high fiber food truly is a super food. Broccoli lowers cholesterol, aids in digestion and naturally detoxes the body. Packed with Vitamins D, K and A this tasty vegetable has enormous anti-inflammatory benefits. Some people find it difficult to digest raw, so a light steam can help with that. I eat this daily with hummus or on its own.

2. Avocado – loaded with nutrients, this healthy fat is great for your heart, kidneys and overall cell function. Its ability to reduce inflammation, has shown links to cancer reduction and help with arthritis. It is also high in fiber which can help with weight loss and keep your digestive system on track. Avocados also help your body absorb nutrients from other vegetables, meaning it works for you! I put avocado on my morning eggs. It’s also a great topper on salads, chicken, toast, or salmon. Half an avocado per day is what I eat. 

3. Spinach – this delicious one is full of vitamins and minerals – everything from A, C, E and K, to protein and flavanoids to calcium, iron and magnesium. It’s basically loaded with good things for every part of your body. Great for your heart, brain, skin, hair and bones. I put spinach on top of my morning eggs to give them a slight steam which adds even more benefits to spinach. A spinach salad for lunch is also a frequent occurrence in this household. Add with your favorite veggies, a few Hemp Heartsand some extra virgin olive oil…you are set. Added bonus? Eat spinach with a high vitamin C fruit such as berries to help pack even more of a punch.

4. Brussels Sprouts – everyone probably remembers having brussels sprouts as a kid and hating them. But they seem to have made a comeback in my kitchen in more recent years. Packed with vitamins and minerals, they are noted as one of the top 20 healthiest foods by the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index. Studies have shown links to fighting cancer, preventing diabetes, obesity and heart disease. They also increase your energy – so really how can you go wrong? After steaming these veggies I love to either roast them or toss them in a pan with extra virgin olive oil or raw organic coconut oil. It’s important to remember the foods we choose are important, but equally important is the way and in what we cook them.

5. Kale – with three grams of protein per serving, this high antioxidant super food is making its way to my fridge every week. It is said to be one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. Studies have shown links to cancer fighting properties, cardiovascular strengthening and can help you lose weight. I find it a harder one to digest so a light steam or baking them in raw organic coconut oil in the oven is a great way to add this one to your day. It also is really easy to grow in your garden if that’s your summer vibe. I will warn you – it grows like a weed so plan to eat A LOT of it at harvest time! 

6. Bok Choy – as part of the cabbage family, bok choy is loaded with nutrients, omega 3s and anti-oxidants. Cancer prevention is often tied in studies to bok choy and other green leafy vegetables. I find this one great to chop up and add to stir fry. I also make a great cold salad with chickpeas, bok choy, yellow and red pepper and cucumbers. Delicious!

7. Aloe Vera – there are numerous health benefits to taking aloe vera. A spoonful in the morning helps with digestion, antioxidant support, healthy immune system, reduces harmful toxins, increases nutrient absorption, balances stomach acidity and helps sooth muscle and joint discomfort. 

8. Chlorophyll – liquid chlorophyll is an easy one to add to your water to dash into your day. It helps keep your red blood cells clean, healthy and plentiful by rebuilding and replenishing those cells. In such, our energy levels are boosted. Other benefits include detoxifying your liver, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-candida and promotes healthy iron levels. It helps build your blood. And if you think about that statement, your body completely depends on it.

9. Green Tea – I’m not a huge fan of the taste, so when I find I’m ‘over it’ I simply supplement. This way I ensure I get the health benefits on the days I’m not drinking it. Numerous health benefits from this anti-oxidant super star include improved brain function, burns fat, lowers your risk of certain types of cancer, lowers your risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s by protecting your brain, lowers your risk for cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes, and promotes longevity. All that for a cup of tea? Do it!

10. Supplementing – now at the risk of this all sounding overwhelming, I wanted to give two suggestions of how to get your greens in when you don’t manage to eat them all. I would recommend the Amazing Grass brand. It comes in a few flavours – my favorite is the antioxidant berry flavour. I found the wheatgrass flavour to taste a bit like grass (and not in a good way) and the lemon lime one way to sweet. 

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Our Must-Haves for a Healthy Kitchen

When first starting out on your journey to a healthier you, your kitchen cupboards and fridge might need a makeover. Taking out the high-sugar, high sodium and processed foods is a great start, but there are some really healthy additions to make as well. We need to start thinking that living a healthy lifestyle isn’t about deprivation rather it is about finding an abundance of healthy things you can ADD to your life – food included! Here is our list of top 10 favorite staple items that every healthy kitchen should have.

  1. Turmeric – Turmeric has many benefits to your body and brain. It is anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, is good for your heart, and has been shown in some studies to prevent and sometimes even treat cancer. It is also great for your brain as it helps with depression, helps prevent Alzheimer’s, and aids in warding off age-related diseases. I find the taste quite mild, so I put it on everything – toast, eggs, chicken, and in health shakes.
  2. Raw Organic Coconut Oil – I am mildly obsessed with this one. It has tremendous benefits to your insides and out. I have used it with various skin issues including sunburns, eczema and cradle cap. I put it all over my body once a week for a deep moisturizing effect, and it does wonders for fine lines in your face. I cook with it constantly, or just eat a tablespoon of it. In terms of internal health, coconut oil is good for your brain, can help your body burn fat, can help prevent infections, and can help improve blood cholesterol levels.
  3. Ground Flax Seed – With so many seeds out there to choose from, it can be hard to figure out which one is the best for you. As each of us has different needs and goals, I would suggest incorporating flax, hemp and/or chia seeds into your diet. You can sprinkle them on cereal, into a shake or in your eggs. I personally choose ground flax seed because of it is high in anti-oxidants, has cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory benefits, potential cancer prevention and digestive health promotion.
  4. Organic Hemp Oil – Years ago I had issues with allergies that had me focus more on my liver health. A few things were suggested, including organic hemp oil. A tablespoon in the morning really seems to make a difference to keep my allergies in check and provide additional support for overall liver health. In addition, hemp oil is great for your brain, heart, hair, skin and nails, all while supporting the immune system and maintaining hormonal balance.
  5. Cayenne Pepper – I love spicy food. The hotter the better! So this one is an easy addition for me. I sprinkle cayenne pepper on my eggs, chicken, roasted veggies – everywhere! Spicy food is a great way to boost your metabolism, and in turn lose weight. What else is great about it? It has antibacterial qualities so can help your body avoid infection, is great for your digestive system, and keeps your blood pressure in check. Pretty terrific for a little spice!
  6. Beets – definitely one of my favorite foods. Other than the fact that they are a tasty vegetable, they are really great for you too. The have high immune-system boosting qualities due to their high vitamin C and magnesium content. They can boost your stamina in the gym, fight inflammation, are terrific for your digestive health and have anti-cancer properties. They are a high-sugar vegetable so if you are diabetic, definitely talk with your doctor before consuming too many beets.
  7. Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar – this one can be a hard one to swallow. Similar to coconut oil, this one is great for you inside and out. It can be used to treat sunburns, acne, and other skin conditions. Drinking this every day can help detoxify your liver, help with weight loss, help balance your body’s pH level, and can help keep candida at bay. It is important to use only raw organic versions. My favorite is Bragg’s Raw Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar that you can purchase at most major grocery store chains. Two tablespoons with a full glass of water to dilute it is key.
  8. Greens – When grocery shopping, my cart can sometimes be mistaken for a leprechaun. Some of my favorite green veggies are spinach, bok choy, avocado, kale, brussels sprouts, and broccoli. I eat them every single day. If you are worried about not getting your greens in every day, but want to ensure you reap the benefits, there are some terrific supplement options you can try. My two favorites are Green Envy, which is a quick shot in the morning, and Amazing Grass Greens Superfood Antioxidant, that you mix with water and tastes delicious.
  9. Garlic – Garlic has been used for centuries to treat colds and infections. Fresh, raw, crushed garlic is the best way for it to be absorbed by your body. Garlic can reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and reduce your risk of heart disease. Studies have shown it to be good for your brain while fighting off dementia and Alzheimer’s. Other health benefits include being good for your overall bone health, help you live longer, and recently studies have shown it can help with erectile dysfunction. Garlic can be used when cooking vegetables or meat, and to pack some extra flavor when making salad dressings and soups. If you’re getting sick, I would suggest taking 1-2 crushed garlic cloves before bed. It really does help!
  10. Berries – Blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries – so many to choose from with tremendous health benefits for each. Berries taste great on their own, or adding them to a shake, yogurt or cereal. Berries are high in antioxidants, vitamin C, are great for your skin and can boost your immune system.

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Not Your Dad’s Disease Anymore

I used to think that Heart Disease was a “man’s disease”. Perhaps it’s because the only people I had ever heard about having heart problems were men. My uncle, both of my grandfathers, friends, friends of my family… had either heart attacks, bypass surgeries or some other equally as scary heart trauma.  Perhaps it’s because you always hear women telling their husbands – “slow down or you’re going to have a heart attack” or telling their kids “don’t show your Dad, he’ll have a heart attack”.  Usually this is said in jest, but it stems from a legitimate history of health problems in men.

This is obviously a valid issue for men, however I’ve recently learned that it is even more of a concern for women.  According to the Women’s Heart Foundation, 6.5 million women have some form of Coronary Heart Disease.  It is the leading cause of death in women in North America. Here are some additional shocking statistics with regards to women’s heart health:

  • 42% of women who have heart attacks die within one year! Compared to 24% of men.
  • Under age 50, women’s heart attacks are twice as likely as men’s to be fatal.
  • Heart attacks kill 6 timesas many women as breast cancer.

So who is “at risk”?

  • 71% of women experience early warning signs of a heart attack with sudden onset of extreme weakness that feels like the fluand often with no chest pain at all.
  • Nearly 2/3 of the deaths from heart attacks in women occur among those who have no history of chest pain.
  • Women who smokerisk having a heart attack 19 years earlier than non-smokers.
  • Diabetesdoubles their risk for women to have a heart attack.

The good news is that women’s hearts respond better than men’s to healthy lifestyle changes.  Although coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death in women, it is also the MOST preventable.  So let’s start changing these statistics!  Here’s how:

What can you do to prevent CHD?

  • Don’t smoke or use tobacco.
  • Exercise for about 30 minutes on most days of the week.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. (See below)
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get enough quality sleepof 7 – 9 hours per night.
  • Manage your stress.
  • Get regular health screenings including checking your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and diabetes screening.

Key Nutrition Tips Are:

  • Avoid too much salt and sugar in your diet.
  • Limit or avoid saturated fat (red meat, full-fat dairy, palm oil)
  • Cut out trans-fat (deep-fried foods, packaged snack foods, margarine, bakery products). If the nutrition label has the term “partially hydrogenated” or “hydrogenated”, it means that product contains trans-fat.
  • Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet – GOAL: 5 – 10 servings/day
  • Eat salmon and tuna – two or more servings a week.
  • Limit your alcohol to one drink per day.

If this is the leading killer of women andwe can prevent it, then let’s take action to change the statistics. I think most of us know that we should follow items in the list for prevention, but how many of these do we actually do?  I know that I try, but can’t truthfully say I meet all of the checks on the list. Maybe it’s time to take a real look at the list and see how we measure up.  I’m not a doctor, but I think any positive changes we make to get closer to having all of these things on the list checked off will not only prevent CHD but will also prevent particular cancers, other diseases and contribute a healthier and happier you.  If you are so far away from doing everything on this list, then take baby steps.  Start with one.  Pick one that is realistic for you to tackle now. Set a goal for yourself – to do it by a certain date.  Ask for help – from friends, family, your kids, your doctor – whoever you think can help you make this positive change.

Baru Rubs & Sauces

With Barbeque Season officially here, the timing could not have been better to try what is now my new favourite seasonings! I had been so bored with my regular “go-to” menu and was looking for something to “spice things up” without going completely off what I know how to cook. 

Here’s where Baru Rubs and Sauces steps in! Baru is a Vancouver-based company started three years ago by two BFFs – Zeta Newis and Nina Lafleur – as a spin off of the successful Kitsilano restaurant – Baru Latino.   Part of what makes their products so unique is that they are a small batch, handmade producer based out of an award winning restaurant.  Who wouldn’t want to bring this deliciousness home for their own daily consumption?

I think I may personally love the business for the fact that the co-owners are women, BFFs, foodies and Canadian.  Nina Lafleur attributes their success to their belief in  “fresh, healthy, tasty ingredients and a commitment to our customers”

The friends’ love for food and cooking is evident in their products.  They want to make healthy, fresh and delicious food for friends and family. This is something I completely relate to. “Food is family, friends, and community. It is something that unites us all. With our products, you are able to sample foods which are inspired from different areas of the world, take them home and try new things.”

Having tried all of the rubs and hot sauces, I have to say that they are as unique and diverse as my own family.  Their “Hot’R Sauce – Even Hotter” is, by far, my husband’s favourite he’s ever tried.  Having spent 6 years in the Caribbean, the flavour takes him back.  He LOVES hot sauces – but this one isn’t just hot, it’s packed with flavour.  He said “it’s the habenero…I can taste it in the sauce”.  When I asked him more about what he thought, he said “it’s all gone. We NEED to get more!” For this discerning hot sauce fan, this is the greatest compliment.

Now for the rubs… I have a mixed crew of test subjects and palets … I like spice and flavour, my husband likes HOT and flavour and my daughters like flavour packed spices without the HOT.  The girls favourite was the Chimichurri Rub.  I marinated chicken in the recommended mix of (olive oil) and rub before cooking.  They actually fought over the last piece and asked to have it for lunch!  Success!

I love the fact that these rubs are packed with flavour, not just sauce or salt. I also love that they give suggestions to how to use them – I didn’t even think of using it as a marinade! Baru hit the nail on the head with their focus on putting ethnicity and global tastes into a product.  It goes outside my own personal usual “go-to’s” – which I love!  I can’t wait to try these rubs on fish!  And steak is a “no-brainer”.    

Currently their products are only sold in retail stores in BC but they are wanting to expand outside of the province. Luckily for me, five of their products (including the coveted Hot’R Sauce!) are available online and can be shipped anywhere in the world. Currently their offering free shipping in Canada for orders over $30. Yippee!

I’m happy that I was able to try Baru’s products – not only to have a future Father’s Day gift idea, but also to help me break out of my usual fare of seasoning-free kid cooking to a kid and adult-approved cooking environment!

If you are interested learning more about or trying the Baru Rubs & Sauces yourself this BBQ season (or anytime really!), please visit their website: https://www.barurubsandsauces.com.

Cacao Now – My New Favourite Nutrition Secret

 

 

 

 

On the advice of my brilliant nutritionist, I started to add more raw cacao to my health regime earlier this year. I purchased raw cacao powder and planned to put it in my morning concoction, which is a mixture of a green supplement, maca powder and now this. I found the combination worked really well to get me through my workouts, as I do intermittent fasting and need a boost. But the mixture was far from tasty. I could get it down, but figured there must be another, tastier option for the cacao. I wanted to find something that was raw, real, organic, and tasted awesome. Sounds impossible right? Wrong.

I stumbled across a company called Cacao Now founded by Tove Redeby and found a plethora of options to try. As I read more about the products and business, I found myself pretty fascinated with the woman behind the company and thought she would be a perfect person to interview and highlight in our FIT Women & Girls blog and social media. A super strong, healthy, environmentally-conscious woman…just our type!

“I have been interested in optimal eating and whole foods, as well as organic living and the environment for as long as I can remember. I have a diploma in nutrition, and I have always been fascinated by the power of food, REAL food. I believe that the foundation of most of our modern health issues are connected to what and how we eat, and that we can ultimately heal ourselves through our eating choices. As an avid all-around athlete, the connection between great food and great performance has also always interested me. My most important education has taken place in the mountains and in the kitchen, and my work is in service to both,” says Tove.

Let’s take a look at the health benefits of cacao:

  1. Cacao contains the highest concentration of ANTIOXIDANTS of any food in the world!
  2. Cacao seems to be the number one source of Magnesium.
  3. Cacao contains enough CHROMIUM to help reverse deficiencies in this mineral.
  4. Cacao is an excellent source of MANGANESE and ZINC.
  5. Cacao has an very high value of Vitamin C.
  6. Cacao is high in FIBER.
  7. Cacao contains essential omega-6 fatty acids. Once the cacao bean is cooked, the chocolate product automatically contains rancid omega-6 fatty acids (trans fat).
  8. Cacao contains Phenylethylamine (PEA). PEAs are a major class of chemicals that our body produces when we fall in love. This is one of the main reasons why love and chocolate have such a deep relation (this relation is not merely a myth). But, as PEAs are heat sensitive, they are not as present in cacao that has been heated.
  9. Cacao is rich in serotonin.
  10. Contrary to popular belief, Cacao is a poor source of Caffeine. Cacao contains Theobromine, a close relative to Caffeine.

Starting to sound like gold isn’t it? But how does it taste?

I have tried three of Tove’s Buddha Bars – Raw Chocolate Vanilla Bean, Raw Chocolate Peppermint and Raw Chocolate Orange Zest. The orange zest reminded me of the Christmas orange chocolate you get at the holidays. If that flavour is your jam, you’ll love this one. The vanilla bean is a subtle hint of vanilla, and if you are a big dark chocolate fan this one is for you. But that peppermint option – whoa! It’s delicious.

So here’s the cool part. I honestly felt the effects from eating this bar almost immediately. It gave me an energy boost, but not a jittery shakey boost. It seemed to just uplift me. This might be the most perfect pre-workout snack I can imagine. I at times workout twice a day with how my schedule is, and find that I need something to give me that extra umph! I completely avoid any sort of pre-workout supplements as I find them often riddled with chemicals and make me feel jittery and gross. I don’t like to eat too much before a workout as I find it makes me nauseous. Behold the solution! And here’s why this particular brand company is where it’s at:

There are absolutely zero refined sugars in Cacao Now products. Everything is sweetened with dates and/or raisins. Sugar is seriously the devil – avoid it as best you can. The cacao comes from raw cacao nibs, not a processed cacao mass, and therefore no fillers or ingredients we can’t pronounce are included. And Tove genuinely cares about what she is making and who she is making it for. She “deeply believes in the energetic connection between human and food” and in such energetically cleans her space before making her products.

Made in Squamish,BC, much of her product line is only available to the rest of Canada on her website. But don’t think for a minute that this woman plans on stopping there. With an upcoming expansion of her product line, she hopes to be in health food stores across the country soon. She is on a mission that I feel many of our readers can relate to. “My mission is just as much to share my knowledge and my passion for conscious living; to share the wisdom and healing powers of food and specifically of cacao; to spread good vibrations and LOVE; and ultimately to do my little part in making this world a “better” more loving place,” says Tove.

We love supporting strong, entrepreneurial women doing great things across our country. Eating real food, listening to your body, and eating mindfully are the words of wisdom Tove and Cacao Now want to share with you.

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Immunity Health – What You Need To Know

Winnipeg is experiencing one of the worst flu seasons in over two decades. A strong immune system can play a detrimental role in keeping the flu at bay. I often make myself a bit of a guinea pig to test the books and articles I read on health, and immunity is no exception.

To begin, why is the immune system is important? In short, it is the key to maintaining overall good health. The healthier your immune system is, the better chance you have at warding off illness and toxins. The immune system is the defense force against invaders from both outside and inside the body that can cause disease or death if not stopped. Personally, I feel that the key to a long, healthy life is a strong and clean digestive system and immune system.

According to the book “The Immune System Cure” by Lorna Vanderhaeghe and Patrick Bouic, (which I would highly recommend reading) there are ten important nutritional supplements to boost your immune system. They are:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Magnesium
  • Selenium
  • Zinc
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Reduced L-glutathione
  • DHEA

Many of the above should be found in a high quality multi-vitamin. It is really important to choose a multi-vitamin that is absorbed well by your cells. Cheaper multi’s won’t be absorbed and you will just end up peeing out the nutrients.

In my personal regime to keep my immune system strong, I include the above, but have also found a few other really important pieces to the game. First, are phytonutrients and phytosterols. These are basically immune system boosters. You can get these in your food by eating organic vegetables, fruit, seeds and nuts. If your daily nutrition regime isn’t up to par, there are two things I would strongly recommend. First, a supplement called Immuno-First by Health First. You can purchase this online or at most health food stores. The second recommendation I have is to add a greens supplement to your day. I personally take PhD Pharma Greens Whole Food & Cleansing Herb Blend. I mix this with water at the gym, which gives me added energy while working out, is a natural cleanser for your cells, and an immunity booster.

Next, part of my morning ritual is a few spoonfuls of goodness. I take a liquid iron supplement by a brand called Lorna Vanderhaeghe (which by the way, tastes like caramel sauce – it’s delicious!), Lily of the Desert Aloe Vera Gel (antioxidant and overall good health maintenance), Progressive High Potency Fish Oil, and Organic Hemp Oil by Manitoba Harvest. I know this might sound high maintenance, but it takes less than one minute to do and I feel terrific. All in all, worth the 60 seconds.

I would also suggest taking a probiotic. These good bacteria help promote both a healthy digestive system and immune system. It is important to switch up your probiotic though – your body will get used to the good bacteria and it will start to become less effective. So be sure to switch up the brand or particular one you are taking every couple of months. Another great way to add good bacteria to your body is through organic, raw, fermented Kombucha. Kombucha improves alkalinity, digestion and detoxifies and maintains a healthy intestinal tract. There are lots of great options out to there choose from.

When I feel myself coming down with something, the first thing I do is double my dose of my multi-vitamin, vitamin D and vitamin C. This seems to work for me. We have all heard that vitamin C can chase a cold away, but in fact, once you have a cold vitamin C can’t help you. That said there have been many studies surrounding the concept of high-dosing vitamin C. In W. Gifford-Jones MD’s book “90+ How I Got There!” he talks about high dosing vitamin C and lysine, and their potential to prevent and help with various diseases from the common cold to cancer.  Jones takes 10,000 mgs of vitamin C and 5000 mgs of lysine every day. I take about a quarter of that via supplements, plus what I get from my food, which is much higher than most people. The average multi-vitamin only has about 100 mgs of vitamin C. Definitely worth some personal research and speaking with your health practitioner if this is something you are interested in.

Then there is food! I touched briefly on the idea of fruit, vegetables, seeds and nuts earlier, but there are also some great flavors to add to the mix to help with your immune system boost. First is garlic. Garlic has potent healing properties due to its antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-bacterial properties. Onions are right behind garlic with their immune system help. Fresh is best when it comes to these two.

Avocado and tomato are also high up on the list of immune system boosting foods. Tomato is absorbed best when eaten with a little bit of oil. Try flaxseed or olive oil with a salad for a great, healthy tasting snack.

Then there is the berry family. Berries, including blueberries, raspberries, cranberries and strawberries are packed with vitamin C and phytonutrients. Grapes are also a great fruit choice as they are full of antioxidants and resveratrol that has shown in some studies to have anti-cancer and anti-aging properties.

Last but not least I have to promote the idea of flushing it out. Clean water and green tea can be your best friend when it comes to immunity health. And do you know what is the worst thing that you can do? Eat sugar! When we eat sugar our immune system becomes upset, which can lead to numerous health issues including diabetes, cancer, obesity, heart disease and many more. Everyone loves a sweet once in a while including me, but try to keep the sugar intake to a minimum, especially when you’re sick.

Healthy Lunch Ideas for Kids

It’s back to school time for kids, which means back to schedules for parents. Organizing backpacks, after school activities, school supply shopping and of course – making lunches. With so many allergies in today’s classroom, packing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or tuna wrap is a definite no go. It can have parents feeling out of ideas quickly. As a parent, you want to ensure you are sending your kids to school with healthy lunches, that are easy to prepare the night before or morning of, and perhaps most importantly – lunches your kids are going to actually eat.

Gone are the days of picking up a ‘ready-to-eat’ package lunch for your kids. They are loaded with sodium, sugar and simply aren’t enough nutrient dense calories to keep them full all day. If you are a working parent, I understand the struggle with time. You just don’t have enough time to cook, make and bake homemade everything. Who does really? But that doesn’t mean your kids nutrition should take the back burner. Here are five ideas on how to make delicious, healthy lunches your kids will be sure to enjoy.

  1. Leftovers – if they liked it at dinner, they’ll like it at lunch. My sister, the super-hero mom of three, ensures that every lunch and dinner meal has vegetables in it. Be it raw veggies and dip, steamed broccoli, honey carrots or roasted vegetables, her kids love them. Finding a vegetable or two that your kids enjoy is the key to this working. Don’t be scared to send them with the same thing every day – if they like it and it’s healthy, that is what counts. I think I ate the same lunch every single day in twelve years of grade school and never got bored. Taking them grocery shopping (which yes I know, can be a nightmare at times) may help them understand the variety of vegetables they can choose from. Making it a game by having them find and pick out veggies for the cart is a great way to make them feel part of the process. And when they feel like part of the process, they are more likely to eat what you are making.
  2. Wraps – there are lots of options with what to put inside these. I would suggest choosing a whole grain wrap that typically comes in smaller sizes for kids. Dice up some chicken, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, red peppers – whatever they like. Add brown rice or rice noodles from last night’s dinner, and for condiments try mustard or hummus for a healthy dash of extra flavor. Superhealthykids.com has a great article on top ten healthy wrap ideas for kids.
  3. Pita Pockets – the mini-pita pockets are great for kids’ lunches. Use cream cheese as a base, and add fresh cucumber and tomato. This takes less than 60 seconds to prepare and are delicious.
  4. Pita, Hummus and Veggies – kids love to dip – have you seen them eat fries and ketchup? Here’s a healthy spin on it. Pack them a bento box with healthy options like hummus, pita and veggies.
  5. Pasta – assuming your kids classroom has a microwave, send them with whole wheat pasta and marinara sauce. Not only is this healthy, but it’s a cost effective meal that can feed your whole family.

When it comes to snacks, most schools now encourage you to pack healthy snacks – they don’t want to see kids coming with a chocolate bar and a bag of chips to help them get through the day. They too understand the value of nutrition and how it can affect learning and energy levels. Instead, try packing fruit, cheese and crackers or veggies and dip. I loved having something sweet as a kid in my lunch, so if your kids do too, try to provide them with homemade goodies over processed treats.

Lastly, when it comes to packing lunches, be mindful of what you are packing them in. Plastic sandwich bags and brown paper bags that are thrown out every day are terrible for our environment, and the cost adds up quickly. Instead, send lunches in re-usable containers like Tupperware, and pack it all in a re-usable, washable lunch kit.