Eating for Energy

How’s your sleep?

It’s a question I ask every client when we first start working on their nutrition goals. It’s a funny one to ask because almost everyone answers it like this ‘Good! I think…well I’m not sure.’ My follow-up question is then ‘Do you wake up feeling rested?’ and 99% of the time the answer is no.

Seven to nine hours of sleep per night is what is recommended for your health. But the important piece that is missing from that statement is how rested you feel upon waking up, and how is your energy throughout the day. In this week’s blog I will tackle the much needed topic of eating for energy.

There are two main pieces to the puzzle when discussing eating for energy. The first is getting our insulin levels in check and the second is eating specific foods to help fight off fatigue and increase our energy. Let’s start with insulin.

Insulin is an anabolic hormone, meaning it likes to build things. And not great things like muscle, rather it likes to build things like belly fat and cancer. Getting our insulin balanced is key to ensure we do not become insulin resistant. If that happens, excess glucose in the blood reduces the ability of our cells to absorb and use blood sugar for energy.

If left untreated, insulin resistance can lead to a host of chronic diseases including Type 2 diabetes, strokes, obesity, chronic heart disease, breast and colon cancer, depression and dementia just to name a few. When we balance our insulin, we avoid blood sugar level highs and crashes, in turn leveling out our energy as well.

Secondly, there are various foods that we should include in our nutrition regimen to help keep our energy on point. Caffeine and naps shouldn’t be what keeps you going. And in fact, shouldn’t be needed at all if you are getting adequate, quality sleep and are eating the right foods.

There are specific foods that are important when talking about eating for energy. Here are my top ten for you to definitely include:

  1. Whole foods – we want to stick with whole and avoid overly processed foods as these will slow you down with the trans fats, additives, sodium, and preservatives
  2. Fresh fruit and veggies – so nutrient dense and great for energy overall
  3. Non-caffeine bevvies – caffeine gives an up and down energy vibe
  4. Lean proteins or veg-based proteins – added saturated fats in meats slows down the digestive process giving you less energy for other bodily functions
  5. Whole grains and complex carbs – these will give your body the energy to fulfill all functions – not just physical activity but things like your heart pumping and brain working
  6. Nuts and seeds – best thing for fatigue! Variety is key and raw and unsalted is best
  7. Water – this helps facilitate the energetic processes of the body in turn boosting energy
  8. Bananas – potassium, fiber, and vitamins pack a punch for lots of natural energy boosting needs
  9. Oats – filling fiber and protein help regulate insulin levels
  10. Chia seeds – give prolonged energy due to carb content, healthy fats and fiber

It is important to remember that decisions that we make throughout the day affect our health not only short term but long term as well. When we consciously choose foods that are going to positively affect our bodies, create nighttime habits and routines that positively affect our sleep, and choose activity that positively affects our minds and bodies, we will do much better not only today, but for many years to come. There is no quick fix when it comes to your health. Your health is in the daily decisions that you make. Choose wisely.

Interested in learning more? Check out Andrea’s Nutrition Coaching Programs here! 

Our Best Health Tips for 2022

 

Another new year is upon us. While neither of us are big fans of ‘new year’s resolutions’ per say, it is a great time to reflect on how your previous 365 days went. Looking at what goals you achieved and the time to lay out a strong foundation of positivity, health and happiness for the next trip around the sun.

While you are looking at the year ahead, we encourage you to make room for yourself and your health. Often people don’t make their health a priority until they have a shake up or a scare about their personal health and wellness. By then, it can often be too little, too late. So, to help you on your path to personal health, we have created our top ten tips for a healthier you in 2022.

  1. Make sleep a priority – sleep plays an integral role in your physical and mental health. When you sleep, it gives your body a chance to relax and heal your cells, including your heart and blood vessels. It also gives your brain a chance to reboot and help improve concentration and productivity.
  2. Take care of your brain – our brain takes up 5% of our body weight but uses 20% of our energy. Sounds like a ‘no brainer’ to take care of your brain, but what do you consciously do daily to ensure brain health is a priority? Playing brain games every day such a Luminosity, a game of cards or chess, or playing an instrument will all help exercise your brain. The foods we eat can also really make a difference. Blueberries, green tea, dark chocolate, avocados, pumpkin seed, eggs, walnuts, broccoli and oily fish are all great brain foods.
  3. Be active on some level every day – Dan Buettner studies the ‘Blue Zones’ around the world, which are areas in which there are a higher than average number of people living into their 100’s. The commonalities between the people living there is what he studies. Time and time again, people who are active every day live a longer, healthier life. That doesn’t mean you have to go hard at the gym two hours every day. That means getting out for a walk every day, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to the store instead of driving, puttering around your veggie garden in the summer sun. Get moving and enjoy it!
  4. Increase your fruit and veggie intake to 7 – 9 servings per day – the anti-inflammatory diet is one that we absolutely recommend. This way of eating calls for a significant amount of daily fruit and vegetables. One serving is approximately the size of your palm. The goal is 7 – 9 per day. If you’re just starting out and one is where you are at, take things slowly. Gradually work your way to that goal. Fruits and veggies are imperative to a long, healthy life.
  5. Decrease your meat intake – we’re not here to make everyone a vegetarian or vegan. That is a personal decision only you can make. But what we can say is that by reducing your meat intake, you will be healthier, and so will our planet. To be clear, ‘meat’ is defined as any animal that used to live – chicken too! People often ask ‘does that mean chicken too?’. Yes! Replace your meat intake with fish and seafood, beans and lentils, tofu and soy products. Meat will slow down your digestive system, in turn slowing down your immune system. It has also been shown to cause chronic inflammation, heart disease and cancer.
  6. Eat beans every day – yes, we said it! Beans and lentils might be the one thing that most people don’t eat on the daily, but really should. From chickpeas to black beans to kidney beans – they are all great. A terrific source of protein, great for the digestive system and repairing your gut health, beans should be included in your day, every day. Hummus and veggies, black bean soup, or a mixed bean salad are some of our favorite ways to sneak it all in.
  7. Eat more fish – aim for 2 – 6 times per week. Again, with the anti-inflammatory diet, this is one that we highly recommend. Fish is great for your digestive system, heart, brain, blood – everything! Eating more fish will get your health and wellness on track. Be sure to not deep fry or soak it in sauce…fish is best baked or grilled for optimal health benefits.
  8. Laugh more – seriously. This one is so important. Let’s be honest, we have had a lot of reasons to not laugh in the last two years. Depression and mental health issues are truly at an all-time high. But laughing really is good for your health. From lowing your blood pressure to boosting your T-cells, laughing really is the best medicine.
  9. Make time for friends, family and connections – as we age, our brains begin to shrink just like every other muscle in our body. To help combat this, social connection is imperative. The studies of the Blue Zones also note the importance of friendships and social connection. Whether you are meeting friends through church, volunteering, work or your neighbourhood, having time carved out for a social element is really important. Friends can help us lower our stress, have a laugh, feel connected. It is easy to let this not be a priority – be sure to make it one.
  10. Know your numbers – most people know how tall they are and how much they weigh, but the really important numbers they are left not knowing. Numbers that are really important for you to know, and ensure they are at a good place, include your blood pressure, resting heart rate, blood sugar and hormone levels. You should be going to see your doctor annually for a check-up (yes, EVERY year!) and ensure that you get blood work done to check these numbers as well as to ensure your vitamin and mineral numbers are all up to snuff. Sometimes the simplest of things can cause us to feel energy depleted or be getting sleepless nights. Know your numbers.

We truly hope your 2022 is your best year yet. If you are looking to take your nutrition to the next level, you should join Andrea from our team for the Best You Nutrition Reset starting on January 9. For more information and to register, see here.

Best You Nutrition Reset

Without our health, what do we really have? It’s a question I have been pondering a lot lately. I recently spoke to a group of national team managers for a large Canadian company about what “healthy” means to them. To each individual, it really means something different. And that can definitely change as we age. What healthy means to you in your 30s is probably not the same in your 40s, 50s and 60s. The changes in our life go hand and glove with our priorities, and that includes the priority of health.

For this reason, I have developed an excellent program about the key pillars of health. This online and live program is launching in January of 2022, and I honestly can’t wait to deliver it. The four week Best Your Nutrition Reset will teach you how to modify your eating and lifestyle habits to supercharge your health. While teaching you how to have a healthy relationship with food, additional benefits you can expect include weight loss, increased energy, better sleep, feeling healthy again and much more. The time is NOW to reset, renourish and reclaim your health!

Details:
Dates: Sundays in January – January 9, 16, 23 and 30, 2022.
Time: 12pm CST
Where: Zoom!
Cost: $159 for ALL FOUR SESSIONS!
Tickets: Purchase on Eventbrite here

I have carefully chosen four topics that I know are the most important for a long, healthy and happy life. Topics include:

     1. Digestive Health
     2. Weight Loss
     3. Hormone Balancing
     4. Immunity Health

But it is more than just four group sessions. I am truly dedicated to help you achieve your health and nutrition goals for 2022. I will work along side you, in the trenches, smashing those goals and feeling great again. I will do that by also including:

     • 25 minute one-on-one coaching call with me
     • Weekly Emails including Session Notes, Weekly Tasks, Recipes, Recommended Readings and More
     • The BYN Food & Mood Journal, an effective tool to help track your journey to greater health

Wondering what this is really all about? Here are more details about each session to help you decide if this is the program you have been waiting for.

Session 1 – Digestive Health
The two keys to a long, healthy life are a clean digestive system and a strong immune system. Our digestive system is in charge of providing all of the nutrients that we eat to our cells, organs, muscles and more. It needs to be an absolute priority when talking about your health. This session will teach you how the digestive system works, how it affects your stress levels and mental health, and leave you with tactical ways to repair your gut lining so that bloating, gas, digestive upset and all the rest of it is a thing of the past.

Session 2 – Weight Loss
News flash! The idea that all you need to do is eat less and workout more DOES NOT WORK for weight loss! This old-age way of thinking has been myth busted. This session will teach you what really DOES work, how our bodies’ weight gain and loss system works in conjunction with our insulin levels, how stress affects our weight, and how to turn your body into a fat burner instead of a sugar burner. This session is truly a game changer!

Session 3 – Hormone Balancing
Hormone imbalance symptoms can include unexplained weight gain, acne breakouts, fatigue, changes in sex drive, depression, joint pain, and irritability. Ensuring women are understanding what role nutrition plays in the balancing of their hormones is key. But when was the last time a healthcare professional talked to you about your hormones? The time is now to understand what role your hormones play in your physical and mental wellness and how food can help balance it all.

Session 4 – Immunity Health
Our immune system is our body’s natural defense system against foreign invaders such as colds, flus, viruses and disease. A strong immune system is key to both short term and long term health. Is yours in check? This session will teach you about the best (and worst!) food and lifestyle choices you can make to strengthen your immunity. Don’t we all want to live a long, happy and healthy life? This session can help you do it.

The passion I have for my clients and the nutrition work that I do really makes me feel connected to the world. I am on a really terrific path of health and happiness  and I want YOU to join me. If you think you’re ready to do it, please join me for the Best You Nutrition Reset and book your spot today here.

Your Healthy Liver and Why It is SO Important

Your liver. You need it to live…but do you know why? The main purpose of your liver is to clean your blood, digest your food and rid your body of toxic substances. We want our liver to get rid of things as quickly as possible, but how quickly that happens can largely depend on your lifestyle choices.

Here is how your liver works: Raise your arm and have your palm facing you. From your elbow to your palm is the ‘stuff’ your body wants to get rid of, and is the vessel to take it to your liver. Your liver is your palm of your hand. Ideally, your liver will detoxify the waste and excrete it out your fingers. But sometimes there are blockages in your liver that stop things from leaving so quickly. And when the liver can’t get rid of things quickly enough and is being overworked, it will slow down and recycle things into the blood. The items that are recycled into the blood are estrogen and cholesterol. If this is happening often or for a long period of time, hormone imbalance and high blood pressure can be the result.

A big sign about how well your liver is working is through a fatty liver test with your doctor. If you liver enzymes are high. Elevated liver enzymes often indicate inflammation or damage to cells in the liver.

Another important thing to keep note of is your bowel movements. You should be having well formed, easy to pass bowel movements one to two times per day.

Signs that you liver might need some extra love include: fluid retention, skin breakouts, sore/red/stingy eyes, waking up between 2am – 4am and being extra hot, lumpy breasts that swell around your period, PMS, always being really hungry, not hungry for breakfast and always craving coffee in the morning, digestive issues, increased body fat and cellulite in ‘new’ places, poor energy, more short tempered than usual.

Now that we understand the basics of the liver, what can you do to make it function optimally for your body? Here are a few things that can negatively affect your liver:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Over-the-counter medications
  • Over prescribed medications
  • Pesticides
  • Cosmetics
  • Trans Fats
  • Refined sugar
  • Viruses
  • Cholesterol
  • Estrogen

From a nutritional point of view, there are lots of things we can add to our diet to help. Nutrient dense food is really important for liver health. Salmons, berries, beets, spinach and quinoa just to name a few. Here is a list of specific foods we should be adding to our days for optimal liver health:

  • Beets
  • Beetroot juice
  • Phytoestrogens like flaxseed and whole organic soy
  • Dandelion tea
  • Nettle tea
  • Lemon
  • Coffee (in balance)
  • Grapefruit
  • Blueberries
  • Cranberries
  • Grapes
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Fatty fish such as salmon
  • Olive oil
  • Nuts
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Supplements to include:
    • Chlorella
    • Vitamin E
    • Milk thistle supplement

So there you have it. Like with any nutrition changes you are taking on, it is always a good idea to speak with your doctor or health care practitioner to ensure it is right for you!

Interested in learning more? Check out some of my nutrition programs here!

 

What’s Your Health IQ?

You may not a be health expert, but you do have some idea about what “healthy” is, right? Or do you? Health information can be tricky – there are so many conflicting opinions, new information shared, “diets” or ways of eating, recommendations from government and other professionals or experts. How do you know what is right and what is just smoke? This True or False Quiz will have you answer some basic questions about health. Not trends or specific personalized recommendations but general things about health that everyone should know.

1) Vegans tend to be deficient in protein and iron as they do not consume any animal products.
2) Carbs, like rice and potatoes, make you fat.
3) Everyone should take a multivitamin.
4) Eating potatoes are healthy – regardless of how they are cooked.
5) Stress can stop you from losing weight.
6) Red wine is healthy.
7) Hormones are only important as they relate to women and menopause.
8) Adults need 6 hours of sleep per night to be healthy.
9) Sugar is sugar. It is all the same.
10) Meditation is a complicated practice that requires a minimum of 60 minutes per day to be effective as a way to reduce stress.
11) If you have been overweight and sedentary your whole life, getting healthy now will not improve your longevity.
12) Drinking water and staying hydrated is only good for your skin and weight loss.

Here are the answers!

1) FALSE: Although arguable more difficult or inconvenient for those following a vegan diet, vegans have to be vigilant in ensuring they choose foods rich in iron and protein such as dried beans and legumes, dark green leafy vegetables, dried fruits, nuts and seeds, and wholegrain cereals and breads. The key is to ensure there is some present at every meal and snack.

2) FALSE: This has been an ongoing misconception for years. Carbohydrates are actually one of the three main building blocks (macronutrients) that make up all food. Protein and fat are the other two. These macronutrients are essential for the body to function. What is important when you are choosing carbohydrates is what nutrients they have in them – to ensure they are providing the most benefit to yours body.

3) TRUE and FALSE – This one is tricky. It mostly depends on what your diet is like. If you are able to get all of the necessary vitamins and minerals your body needs through food, then you probably don’t need one. However, most people tend not to be as “perfect” in their food intake – let alone have the time to cook all of that food – necessary to check off all of the vitamins and minerals on a daily checklist.

4) FALSE: This one should be easy to answer. HOW food is cooked or prepared is just as important as the type of food you eat. For example, with potatoes, a baked potato (without all of the “fixins” like butter, sour cream, bacon) is much healthier than French fries which are deep-fried and full of saturated fat and sodium.

5) TRUE: Stress can lead to unhealthy stressed induced behaviors such as overeating, exercising less, emotional eating and sleeping less. When our bodies are in chronic stress response, meaning we are stressed about 70% of the time, our cortisol levels are in a constant heightened state. When this happens, are cells are inflamed leading to chronic inflammation. Our body holds onto things, like fat cells, when we are chronically stressed and chronically inflamed. This makes it next to impossible to lose weight when we are chronically stressed out.

6) TRUE: YES! (thank goodness given the past year!) Research suggests that drinking an occasional glass of red wine is good for you. It provides antioxidants, may promote longevity, and can help protect against heart disease and harmful inflammation, among other benefits. Just remember though that this is limited to red wine (not all alcohol) and a glass of wine (5 oz) – not half or full bottle – per day!

7) FALSE: Hormones are so much more that something teenagers are full of and menopausal women wish didn’t exist (ha ha!). Hormones are your body’s chemical messengers. They travel in your bloodstream to tissues and organs to help them do their work. They affect growth and development, metabolism, sexual function and mood. When they are out of balance, they can lead to weak bones, diabetes, weight gain and a list of other problems.

8) FALSE: Sleep is SO important to be healthy. It is recommended that adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Babies, young children, and teens need even more sleep to enable their growth and development. People over 65 should also get 7 to 8 hours per night.

9) FALSE: The biggest different between sugars are “natural sugar” – those found in foods such as fruits and veggies and “added sugar” – those that are added to a food during the manufacturing or cooking process. Natural sugars have fewer calories and less sodium with a higher water and nutrient content than added sugars. Added sugar on the other hand, does not contain protein or fiber, which causes your body to digest them even faster and spike your blood glucose levels which are linked to major health issues.

10) FALSE: A huge stress reducer, meditation is often misunderstood. Meditating doesn’t mean you have to be a hippie or a yogi or a zen master! In fact, the process of meditating is straightforward and easy: simply sit and practice. You can do it anywhere and it can be as quick as 5 minutes. There are many apps such as ‘Calm’ and videos on YouTube that can help you get started. You will be glad you did!

11) FALSE: Don’t let your past define you. It is never too late to make a change to be healthy. Anytime is the best time to make YOU a priority and put your health at the forefront. Be brave. Ask for help. You got this!

12) FALSE: Although drinking plenty of water can help improve skin appearance and weight loss, it does so much more than that. Your body depends on water to survive. Every cell, tissue and organ in your body needs water to work. It is essential to the healthy function of every system in your body, including your heart, brain, and muscles.

 

So? How did you do? If you got all answers correct – amazing! You are well aware of what your body needs for optimum health. If you didn’t get all correct but got most – good job! Keep educating yourself on what you can do to take your health to the next level. If you didn’t answer any correctly or just a few – don’t worry!! The fact that you took this quiz is evidence that you are aware of your own health – which is better than most people. Now you just need to learn more and perhaps get some additional help to get you where you want to go.

No matter where you scored on this quiz, remember no one is perfect. Everyone is at a different stage in their health journey. Congratulations on taking steps like doing this quiz, reading our blog and newsletter and choosing YOU!

If you ever need some more personalized, detailed assistance in your nutrition and healthy lifestyle, contact Andrea at Best You Nutrition.

Three Key Tips to a Healthy YOU

Nutrition is perhaps the only science that can have conflicting information about the same topic from source to source. It is constantly evolving and changing. One year everyone is swearing off eggs, the next they’re good for you. Remember when margarine was good for you?! Wow. There’s a new fad diet out every year that promises to be ‘the one’. There seems to be a new shake, pill or wrap every few months that has huge promises and the only consistent thing about them is that they over promise and under deliver every single time. It’s hard to navigate, know what is what, and not totally just throw your hands up in the air and say F it to all of it.

But hey, I’m here to give you some light at the end of the nutrition dark tunnel. Here’s the thing – there isn’t a quick fix. It’s never going to happen that way, so please stop trying to find it. #SorryNotSorry. It takes time to put the weight on, have unhealthy habits that create issues in your body, and for your energy to be depleted. In turn, it takes time to reverse these not-so-great things and get your weight where you want it, your health in check and your energy on high drive.

All that said, there is so much information out there, where do you even start? What should you be concentrating on when it comes to health? There are three main areas that I stress with all of my nutrition clients:

Digestive Health

Immunity Health

Anti-inflammatory Health

You digestive system is key to health and longevity. It is how your system brings in nutrients to your body, delivers them to your cells and organs, and ensures you are nourished from head to toe. If it is not working in tip top shape, you will experience a host of issues including gas, bloating, constipation, upset stomach, diarrhea, feeling full and sluggish after eating, etc. Long term, this can result in chronic pain and disease. A healthy digestive system has you feeling light, pain free and a non-bloated or a flat(ish) stomach.

There is much you can do to improve your digestive health, but overall, my top three tips are:

  1. Remove – Pay attention to your body. Notice what foods are causing you digestive issues and remove those items. An elimination diet to determine this is something I always recommend to clients when working on nutrition habits.
  2. Replace – replace those items you have removed from your diet with foods that are high in probiotics and prebiotics. Supplementing with a good quality probiotic and digestive enzymes is also really important.
  3. Repair – it’s all about repairing your gut health. With the right foods and supplements specific to you and your system, you are on your way to a clean and productive digestive system.

Immunity health is a total buzz topic since Covid-19. To ensure a strong immune system, there is much you can do from a nutrition and lifestyle perspective. Staying active, having positive relationships, and getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night, are all great habits for your immune system. From a nutrition stand point, the same plan from above to Remove, Replace and Repair works here as well. I would also add to increase foods that are high in glutamine (think cabbage, beets, spinach) and add an ounce of raw organic apple cider vinegar to your morning water.

Lastly, eating an anti-inflammatory, also known as the Mediterranean Diet, is something I can’t stop talking about. Chronic, sustained inflammation is linked to an increased risk of diseases like diabetes, heart disease, depression, anxiety, cancer and obesity. An anti-inflammatory diet can not only help lower your risk to these chronic diseases, but can also help with improvement of symptoms of arthritis, inflammatory bowel syndrome, lupus, and other autoimmune disorders. And the great thing? It is a delicious way to eat. Interestingly, the foods you eat can significantly affect inflammation in your body.

The key elements eating this way are:

  1. 6 – 8 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
  2. Replace animal protein with plant protein, beans and lentils, whole organic soy products every day.
  3. Increase your good fats every day, such as coconut or olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds.
  4. Eat fish 2 – 6 times per week.
  5. A little bit of dark chocolate and red wine are great too!

The thing that I love to stress when working with nutrition clients is that it’s not about sacrificing all the things that you love nor restricting yourself when it comes to nutrition. It’s really about finding the foods that work best for your body and eating more of those. You don’t need to count every morsel of food, measure things constantly or use an app to simply have a meal. Eating nutrient dense food is key. Drinking lots of water is key. Eating foods that make you feel good is key. And having a sense of joy when you cook and eat is key. If you want to see long-term results in your health, it is imperative to understand what foods are best for you – the individual. What works for me might not work for you, so a cookie cutter approach or diet fad simply won’t work.

My advice? Pay attention to your body. Know what works and what doesn’t for you physical and mental health when it comes to food. And when you’re ready, talk to an expert about getting a plan that will get you and keep you on the right track.

If you’re interested in learning more about my nutrition programs, check out some of my current programs here!  Would love to help you get started on your journey to a healthier you.

5 Steps to Improve Your Digestive System and Strengthen Your Immunity

I must admit, as an Integrative Nutrition Coach, two things that I am a smidge obsessed with are digestive health and immunity health. The greatest part is that they totally go hand in hand. The reason is because 70% of our immune system is found IN our digestive system. In turn, if you want a stronger immune system, (and really, who doesn’t?) the key can be found in your gut.

Digestive health is something I am super passionate about working on with my nutrition clients. It affects the way we feel physically – think bloating, gas, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea; it affects the way we are feeling emotionally – anxiety, depression and mental health are all connected to our gut health; it affects our energy levels – always feeling tired, sluggish, low energy or just not in the mood for life. If these are issues that you are dealing with, I am hosting a Virtual Digestive Health Workshop and would love for you to join. See here for more info! 

When the microbiome in our gut is balanced with good bacteria, it boosts immunity, prevents disease, and supports emotional well-being. There is such a strong connection with our digestive health and our brain, including overall emotional and mental health. In this week’s blog I wanted to give you my five best actionable tips to get your digestive system on track, and help you on your way to a healthier life!

  1. Take a good quality probiotic. This will provide good bacteria to your tummy setting you up for success. Taken first thing in the morning with water on an empty stomach is what I would suggest. Probiotics can be taken by babies, kids, adults and seniors and I would encourage probiotics to be the taken at all ages and stages of life. My favorite? Pearls Acidophilus by Nature’s Way.
  2. Increase your intake of probiotic and prebiotic foods. I am a huge fan of the concept of ‘crowding out’ when it comes to our nutrition. By this I mean not thinking of all the things that you CAN’T have, but rather all the amazing foods you can add in. In turn, the good food fills your plate and your day and there is no room left for the not-so-good stuff. You crowd it out! For probiotic, think kimchi, yogurt, quinoa, kombucha and artichokes…lots of that ‘pickled’ kinda vibe foods. When it comes to prebiotics, we’re loading up on fiber, fruit and veggies. Some of the best are onions, garlic, bananas and blueberries.
  3. Take Digestive Enzymes. In the beginning, you will want to take one of these before every meal, but once your digestive enzymes are all caught up and working for you, you’ll only need them once in a while. Before a heavy meal or before you eat something you usually don’t – like a dinner out or something off the beaten path of what you usually eat.
  4. Drink up the Apple Cider Vinegar – this is one of my favorite items to really help with your digestive system. While it is definitely a flavour to get used to, diluted raw organic apple cider vinegar will have your tummy and your immune system happy as a clam. A little goes a long way, so about an ounce diluted in water first thing in the morning will really help you out.
  5. Increase your intake of foods with Glutamine. These foods include beets (which by the way, are pretty much the Earth’s gift to humans in my books!), spinach, cabbage and parsley.

You may notice I didn’t talk about what to REMOVE from your nutrition plate to help with your digestive system. There are a few obvious ones such as sugar, refined carbohydrates, and soda. But there might be quite a few other foods that you may need to remove to improve your digestion. We are all bio-individuals, meaning what works for me might not work for you. For example, eating Greek yogurt might be great for my digestive system, but wreak havoc on yours. With so much in nutrition we have to do what works and feels best to us as individuals.

Remember, if you want to learn more about getting your digestive system on your side with the help of food, join me at my upcoming virtual Digestive Health Workshop! 

How to Live Your Healthiest Happiest Life

Something I have always had a huge fascination with is centenarians and longevity. What can we all do in our day to day living to live a longer, healthier and happier life. This Spring I started my Integrative & Holistic Health and Nutrition Coaching certification and I was over the moon excited when one of the guest lecturers was Dan Buettner. Dan is the person behind the ‘Blue Zones’ which not only focuses on longevity secrets in terms of what you as an individual can do, but also how you can transform your community to live longer and better.

Dan, in partnership with National Geographic, has researched communities around the globe that have the highest life expectancy. Blue Zones are places in the world where people not only live longer, but healthier as well than anywhere else on earth – without medication or disability. To date, five Blue Zones have been identified:

  • The Italian island of Sardinia
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Loma Linda, California
  • Costa Rica’s isolated Nicoya Peninsula
  • Ikaria, an isolated Greek island

So, what’s the secret? This is the part that I love. The number ONE indicator of how long you will live is how long you THINK you will live. It’s your attitude. Your positive spirit. Your optimistic outlook. And a close second? Your DAILY fruit and vegetable consumption.

In fact, 80% of the factors that determine your longevity are to do with lifestyle and environment, with the remaining 20% via your genetics. There are a few common denominators that they have found across the board with the five Blue Zones:

  1. Natural Movement – moving every single day. Not a specific type of ‘workout’ but natural movement like walking and yard work.
  2. Daily Ritual of Prayer – this doesn’t have to be faith based. Meditation or naps to help reduce your stress can also work. I think the key here is that it reduced your stress. We know that stress can cause everything from weight gain to cancer, so ensuring we do what we can to keep it low is really important.
  3. A Strong Sense of Purpose – I love this one. Do you have a strong sense of purpose? Do you wake up every single day with a positive intention or goal? Are you tuned in on why you are here on earth? And pardon the cliché, but do you know what your why is?
  4. Eat Wisely – the interesting thing about the diets of the five Blue Zones is that there isn’t a magic item that everyone was eating. They were eating mindfully. They were eating until they were 80% full. They were eating plenty of fruits and vegetables every day.
  5. Plant-based Diet – the five communities that were studies all had this in common. Very little meat, lots of beans, nuts, fruit and veggies. They ate their biggest meal in the morning. They pre-plated their meals rather than family-style, which had them eating less.
  6. Connection – while we can have the healthiest food on our plate, if we don’t have healthy and strong connections, we are not ‘getting it’. With all of the Blue Zone communities family was NUMBER ONE. Who you spend your time with is a key factor in your health and longevity.

I think this is some really good food for thought (insert obvious nutrition joke here). While what we are eating and how much we are exercising are important, they are not the be all and the end all. My favorite take-aways? Your attitude is the number one life expectancy indicator, so wake up happy, grateful and optimistic. And of course, the common denominator about connection and community. It is wonderful to have a positive attitude for your own health and wellness, but when you can take it one step further to those you love, you are really winning at the health and wellness game. And for parents, pre-plating your kids food can help ensure they are eating enough fruit and veggies at every meal.

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14 Steps to a Healthy Digestive System

I believe there are two major systems that we need to pay smart attention to when it comes to our health. First, your immune system – ensuring it is strong and clean will keep you away from sickness and disease longer. Second is your digestive system. After losing my mom in 2013 to cholangiocarcinoma, cancer of the bile duct, I made a mindful decision to really start to pay attention to my digestive health. When you think about it, everything comes in and out of our digestive system, and 80% of our immune system is IN our digestive system. So, having a clean and healthy one makes perfect sense if we want to live longer and healthier right?! If you’re still with me, keep reading.

Issues with your digestive system can come out in many forms, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, indigestion, gas, acid reflex and more. Basically, everything that is super uncomfortable and can be super painful. But digestive issues don’t stop there. They can cause problems throughout your entire body. Allergies, autoimmune disease, acne, chronic fatigue, mood disorders, brain fog and even cancer can all be results of digestive system issues.

Now that we know what we DO NOT want, what can we expect from having a clean and healthy digestive system? First, when your digestive system is healthy, you absorb nutrients much better and in turn feed your cells more vitamins, minerals, protein, carbs, water and (good) fats. In turn, it more efficiently gets rid of yeast, allergens, toxins and the like.

Secondly, when your digestive system is healthy, your immune system is stronger. Definitely a win-win. Third, a health digestive system reduces inflammation in your body. When your body is experiencing ‘bad inflammation’ you are putting yourself at risk for a host of issues and diseases including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression and cancer. Lastly, a healthy digestive is great for your brain health. For more on brain health and what foods are best to eat for that big ol brain, see here.

What can YOU do, starting today, to get your digestive system healthier? LOTS! Here are my top 14 tips:

  1. Eat foods that are high in fiber including whole grains, raw vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts and beans.
  2. Add a pre and/or probiotic to your day. I use Pearls Acidophilus Probiotic by Nature’s Way. This will increase the good bacteria in your stomach, which is what you definitely want.
  3. Incorporate digestive enzymes into your day. They help your digestivetract properly break down foods that contain difficult-to-digest proteins, fats and carbohydrates. I typically take one before a large meal, or a meal that my body isn’t used to – so basically when I eat out. If your system is in rough shape right now, I would suggest one before every meal to get started.
  4. Hydrate yourself! Are you drinking enough water? I am the worst for this. But it really is key to a healthy digestive system.
  5. Try to eat consistently at the same time every day. Whether you are intermittent fasting or eating morning, noon and night, make your times the same each day.
  6. Eat the same foods as often as possible. Your digestive system will get used to breaking down the same foods and make it easier on your system. It isn’t as boring as it sounds – same healthy ingredients, different ways.
  7. Workout! Another great reason to get moving is that it is great for your digestive health.
  8. De-stress! I know – easier said than done on this one for sure. But think about how crappy your stomach feels when you are stressed out. People over eat, under eat, get constipated, have diarrhea – a whole slew of digestive problems. Do your best to lower your stress levels.
  9. Do not overmedicate yourself. Whether we are talking antibiotics or over the counter medications, try to heal your system naturally before you run for a pill. Of course, sometimes these are needed, and you should listen to your doctor or health care professional, but running for an Advil for a dull headache or a Tums because you feel like you need to burp is wreaking havoc on your body.
  10. Eat real food! Especially nutrient dense foods like kale, spinach, salmon and more. For my list of best foods to add in, see here.
  11. Eat healthy fats! A scoop of raw organic coconut oil in the morning is great for this. Also, think of nuts, avocados, fatty fish and extra virgin olive oil.
  12. In the morning, add a one ounce shot of raw organic apple cider vinegar to your water. It’s not the best tasting thing, but don’t worry, you’ll get used to it. And what it does for your digestive system is exceptional, so worth the sour face in the beginning.
  13. Slurp down a spoon full of aloe vera in the morning. It’s a fairly refreshing taste, and can be purchased at your local health food store. This helps clean your system daily.
  14. Listen to what feels good in your body! After finishing a meal, if you have heartburn, indigestion, feel sluggish, have diarrhea – why are you going to eat this again? Food should not do this to you! For some reason, your body is not agreeing with what you just ate or drank. So, stop. And just the same, if after eating a meal you feel energetic, sharp in the mind, and your body feels good, do that more. Sounds simple right?! We think so too, but people reach for antacids instead of not eating what hurts them.

Like what you read? Feel free to comment below on your experience with digestive strength or issues. And be sure to sign up for our newsletter here for the best information on health for women!

Eating Nutrient Dense Food – What It REALLY Means

A few years ago, I made a significant shift in my thinking as it relates to my health. When we think about health long term and making sustainable decisions that can last a life time, the idea of constantly counting and measuring our food can be not only overwhelming but exhausting in its own right. Rather, making decisions about the food that you eat should be simple. Eat nutrient dense real food. Food should be something you enjoy cooking, eating and digesting, not something that you and your body have grown to hate.

But what does it mean to eat ‘nutrient dense food’? This is simply the amount of nutrients you get for the amount of calories you take in from a given food. High level of nutrients with low levels of calories is the goal. And ‘nutrients’ are macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).

The easiest way for me to think about this is how much processing has to go into this to make it something I can eat. Is it a fairly simple food? Can I pick it from a tree or garden? If so, it’s usually bang on. When I am making decisions at the grocery store I think to myself – is this going to help me on my healthy journey or create issues or blocks for me? Think about how eating this food is going to make you feel – is it easy for me to digest? Will it support a strong immune system? Will it help me with my energy and sleep? Nutrient dense food will do all of this and more.

So, what are the best of the best? Here are my top nutrient dense foods:

  • Salmon
  • Kale
  • Garlic
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Berries, especially blueberries
  • Eggs
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Green Veggies, especially Broccoli
  • Nuts
  • Legumes
  • Quinoa
  • Spinach
  • Avocado
  • Seeds, especially Chia Seeds and Hemp Seeds
  • Red Peppers
  • Cauliflower
  • Asparagus
  • Beets

Equally as important to WHAT we’re eating is what we’re cooking it in and topping it with. You can have great intentions by eating salad every day, but if you’re deep frying a piece of chicken in corn oil to put on top of your salad and dousing it is high sugar, high calorie dressing, you’re missing the health boat. When I look at the calorie count for restaurant salads I am blown away. Many are over 1500 calories…FOR A SALAD!! Yes, you’re getting you veggies in, but need to be mindful of how you’re getting them in too.

Making at home salad dressings is a great way to keep things on the up and up. Using apple cider vinegar, healthy oils such as avocado oil, coconut oil, hemp oil or extra virgin olive oil are a great base. Adding seasoning that is low in sodium is a great way to pack in the flavour. And you can never have enough Turmeric by the way…it’s loading with tons of health benefits.

When cooking meat or veggies, the same rules still apply about what we’re cooking things IN. Cooking spray or corn oil are crap. Stick to any of the above suggested oils or try ghee or butter. Remember – real is good, fake is bad.

When you’re adding sauce to your food, be sparing. Especially with store-bought sauces. Did you know that BBQ sauce has on average 12 grams of sugar per serving and ketchup has 8? These are HIGH! Same goes for salad dressing – you take away your ‘good meal’ idea when you cover it is sugar. Four grams of sugar is approximately one teaspoon of granulated sugar. And who only puts one serving of something usually on things? Portion control is key for sure here too.

Here’s what I think it really comes down to. When you are choosing your food, you are choosing for health or not for health. It’s not a statement of judgement. It’s simply the truth. That doesn’t mean you’re never allowed to have a piece of cake again. But when you are making your meals and choosing your food, be mindful of is this healthy for me? And even more specifically, is this going to support my immune system strength and my digestive system health? If yes – put it in the cart. If not, make another choice. It really is all about our choices and how they affect the way we feel inside and out.