Why resolutions don’t work…

Woah.  It’s been a debaucherous past month and after a bout of the flu, I’m starting to feel back to normal.  Normal, but not optimal which is something I resolved to correct a few days ago.

New Year's Resolutions

Then I read something that made a lot of sense.  It said that resolutions are more of a statement than a goal and that is much easier to continue a certain behaviour because by doing so our needs are being met.  For example, by resolving to go to bed earlier, I would need to consider the benefits I am obtaining from going to bed late.

cost vs. benefits

Perhaps I can watch more TV, have more time to myself, etc.  If I’m serious about going to bed earlier I must be realistic with the payoff.  I’ll be more awake and have more energy but I won’t be able to watch my favourite show.  You need to be happy with the balance you find for you goal to work.

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Back when I started my studies in Nutrition, I took a course about the social determinants of health, that is, things that affect the outcome of a person as related to the variables shown above  .  Regardless of an individual’s health status, in counseling people on making health improvements, the SMART goal model was introduced as an effective way of turning a desired outcome into reality.

SMART

My resolution was to “get back on track” which is a little broad.  To make it more SPECIFIC, I want to make sure I get at least 8 servings of vegetables a day.  I’m going to do this by having a morning smoothie, a morning snack of hummus and cut of veggies (2 servings), a salad at lunch (2 servings), and another salad at supper (2 servings).

reasons to eat veggies

This breakdown plan is MEASURABLE and adds up to 8 servings a day.  I have the money, time, and resources to make and plan my meals in order to ATTAIN this goal.  This plan of increasing my vegetable intake is RELEVANT to me getting back on track by increasing the amount of important nutrients that will enhance my energy level and vitality.  I’ll try this for the next week and reassess to see if any changes to my goal need to be made.

What’s your 2014 SMART goal?

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama):

“I have to be realistic about what I can and can’t do. So whatever I do has to really be worth it. I like to master the things I do.”

– Queen Latifah

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3 Things I Loved Last Week…

In no particular order of importance, here are some items that rocked my healthy junction boat last week.

EE-book-front

1.  From an amazing whole foods based cookbook authored by one of my favourite nutrition teachers at The Canadian School of Natural Nutrition, Caroline Dupont’s The New Enlightened Eating cookbook provided me with some seriously enlightened meals.  From her Lemon Date Squares, Spiced Chia Pudding, and Applesauce Muffins, to more savory dishes like Indian Spinach and Broccoli Puree and  Roasted New Potatoes W/ Tarragon Vinaigrette – Caroline’s book has quickly become one of my “go-to” favourites for weekly meal planning.  If you like cooking with whole foods but don’t enjoy hunting for obscure ingredients, check out this book.

danforth_bridge

2.  I’ve especially enjoyed cycling to work these past few weeks with all the beautiful fall foliage on display.  The view from The Bloor-Danforth Viaduct is my favourite, especially because I know the Evergreen Brickworks (the most wonderful place in all of Toronto) is nestled in the trees below.

Don Valley Parkway Fall

 

3.  A friend and colleague of mine suggested a website called My Yoga Online for times when an aspiring yogi just doesn’t feel like leaving the house to hit up a scheduled class.

myyoga_Website_03

You pay a monthly subscription fee (I think it’s about $9/month) and get unlimited access to hundreds if not thousands of online yoga videos that are professional and diverse.  For instance, you can choose from different types of yoga (hatha, restorative, vinyasa, etc) as well as the class length which can range between 5 minutes and 1 hour and 30 minutes.  There are even meditation videos!  It’s a convenient and inexpensive method of practicing yoga daily and I find I’m able to get to my mat more often.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama):

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”   

– Albert Camus

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Cold Days Bring Lackluster UV Rays…it’s time for Vitamin D!

Fall back, spring forward.  The  best part of daylight savings time was getting an extra hour of sleep this past Sunday and it was equally nice to cycle to work in the morning with some sunlight instead of complete darkness as it was last week.

nightBiking

This time change thing got me thinking about the impending winter, and that got me thinking about Vitamin D.  For a full overview on why you should be taking Vitamin D daily if you live above the 37th parallel, check out this prior post.  If you don’t feel like a long read, I’ll sum it up by saying that if you live anywhere in the grey shaded area below,  1000 IU (international units) of Vitamin D daily does the body good.

37th-parallel

Why?  In the months between September and April, the sun is not at an angle to produce the correct wavelength of UV rays we need to create Vitamin D in our body.  So, even though you might be in the sun during the winter months, the type of rays coming in are not Vitamin D production friendly.

summer vs winter

 

Vit D is used in the gut to help absorb calcium and also works hard at maintaining adequate levels of phosphorus – both are needed for healthy teeth and bones.  It actually functions like a hormone in our body, works in close conjunction with parathyroid hormone and is structurally is very close to both estrogen and cortisone.  There is a strong correlation between colder climates and those with low levels of Vitamin D and the development of Multiple Sclerosis.  Furthermore, there is a belief that low levels of Vitamin D slows down our immune response .  Finally, Vitamin D is involved in muscle and heart support, the prevention of certain types of cancer (ovarian, prostate, colon, bladder, rectal), and mood/cognitive support in the older population.

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How much do you need?  If you’re an adult anywhere between 1000 – 4000 IU.  Children under 1 need about 600 IU’s.  Kids over a year can get by with 600-800 IU.  It’s time.  Get your Vitamin D on!

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama):

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”  

– John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley:  In Search of America

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Is food giving you a migraine?

For those of us who have had migraines, we know it’s not just a really bad headache.

migraine-headache

It’s mind numbingly painful and can completely destroy your day or even week depending on how long lasts.  I first started getting migraines in elementary school – my mum often received calls from the office asking her to come pick me up.

migraine infographic

She tells me I described seeing “stars” before the headache set in and was able to piece together the visual problems, headaches, and nausea as a probable migraine.  Having a migraine isn’t really about the pain as much as it is a total disruption of life.  Often, during bouts of frequent migraines, I’m afraid to make plans and fear that one will strike me at work.  I remember worrying on my wedding day that I would get one…thankfully, I didn’t!

Migraine Aura:  partial loss of vision

Migraine Aura: partial loss of vision

The way a migraine starts is pretty interesting.  Something triggers our prostaglandins (a type of hormone) to initiate platelets to cluster together which in turn signals our body in increase the levels of serotonin in the blood stream.  This increase in serotonin then causes our blood vessels to constrict meaning less blood flows to the brain.  The decrease in blood to the brain creates a sort of acidic environment which then results in the vessels dilating which causes pain.  The aura I mentioned previously (vision problems) is caused by the changes in nerve cells and blood flow.  Aside from visual auras, other warnings that a migraine may be on the way include numbness, weakening, dizziness, vertigo, speech and hearing problems, and issues with memory.

mechnismmigraine

Migraines are a very complex neurological disorder with many contributing factors (genetics, environment, etc) but we do know that they are instigated by triggers such as:

  • skipping meals
  • stress
  • hormonal changes
  • caffeine or withdrawal from caffeine
  • over sleeping or not getting enough sleep
  • exercise
  • travel
  • weather changes
  • menstrual cycle
  • certain medications
  • constipation (see this post and this one as well for ways of reducing this problem)
  • food

The thing with migraines is that they can almost be a response to too many things going on at once.  If you’re tired, stressed, and the barometric pressure is low and then you eat food that is aggravating to your system, it can be that last thing to send you over the edge.

migraine

On my lifetime journey to healing myself or at least reducing the frequency of migraines I know that it’s crucial for me to eat regular meals, keep my stress levels under control, get enough sleep, an also to avoid food triggers.  Here are some common dietary contributors:

  • diary (especially cheese) – contains histamine
  • wheat
  • corn
  • soy
  • sugar
  • coffee
  • chocolate – contains histamine
  • citrus fruit
  • nuts
  • strawberries
  • potatoes
  • tomatoes
  • shellfish
  • MSG
  • food colouring – contains histamine
  • Alcohol (red wine and beer especially which contains histamine)

When we eat something that we’re allergic to, our immune system releases histamines which trigger an inflammatory response (migraines!) so if you suffer from migraines it may help to take Vitamin C everyday since it helps breakdown histamine.  Other natural sources that help the body to break down histamine include Vitamin B and Quercetin.

Vit CVit B6Quercetin

Other natural remedies worth trying out include Magnesium (minimum of 300 mg/day) and Feverfew which comes from Feverfew leaves and is helpful as a preventative mechanism (50-100 mg/day).

For more information on migraines and nutrition, contact thehealthjunction@mail.com.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“A migraine is like a tornado.  It attacks fast, usually without warning, and wreaks havoc regardless of what’s going on in your life at that moment.”

–  Stephen Silverstein, M.D., Director of the Jefferson Headache Clinic in Philadelphia

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A mint chocolate “nib” smoothie fit for Gwyneth Paltrow

I don’t know why, but I hear a lot of people have beef with Gwyneth Paltrow.

GOOP

Not sure why, but Gwyneth really bothers people.  My hippie vegetarian sister who hasn’t washed her hair in 15 years is about as holistic as they come…and even she thinks Gwyn is a smug jerk.

Sister Sharon
Sister Sharon

I quite enjoy Gwyn and her natural foods/lifestyle blog, http://www.goop.com.  While her cookbook yields some pretty delicious food, I agree some of the ingredients are a bit tough to find.  I have to say, that even though it can be annoying to find some of the obscure ingredients, the payoff with Gwyn is always big.

gwyneth-paltrow-sticks-to-her-diet-while-family-eats-pizza-and-pasta__oPt

I saw a recipe for a mint chocolate chip smoothie on GOOP.com that required something called raw cacao nibs and I was stumped but determined to make this smoothie happen.  Lucky for me, I happened to pass by the  ChocoSol food stand this past weekend at the Evergreen Brick Works which is my favourite place in all of Toronto.  ChocoSol makes and sells chocolate products here in Toronto using ingredients from indigenous communities in the Lacondon Jungle of Chiapas and the Oaxacan mountains of Southern Mexico…part of their product line includes raw cacao nibs.

Photo Credit:  The Torontoist
Photo Credit: The Torontoist

Raw cacao nibs, by the way, are cocoa beans that have been roasted, separated from their husks and broken into smaller pieces.  Raw cacao is high in zinc, iron, magnesium and antioxidants.

Raw Cacao Nibs

With my ChocoSol raw cacao nibs in arm, I attempted Gwyn’s smoothie with my own modification and the results were…spectacular.

Photo Credit:  GOOP.com
Photo Credit: GOOP.com

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp Manitoba Harvest Pro 70 Hemp Protein Powder (15 grams of vegan protein!)
  • large handful of spinach
  • 5 oz water
  • 5 oz unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/3rd avocado
  • 1/8th tsp pure peppermint extract
  • 1 tsp raw honey (in Toronto, try Bees’ Universe unpasteurized Wildflower Honey available at the Evergreen Brickworks Farmers’ Market)
  • 1 tbsp raw Cacao Nibs (try ChocoSol’s as it is DELISH!)

Blend well and serve for an invigorating morning smoothie or afternoon pick-me-up snack.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“I’d rather smoke crack than eat cheese from a tin.”

–  Gwyneth Paltrow

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Breaking the Fast

Eating breakfast is the way to feel energized, balanced, and vibrant.  Check out the latest article from The Health Junction in the Fall 2013 edition of Fusia Magazine (see page 98).

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THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

““Whatever you are, be a good one”.”

–  Abraham Lincoln

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Want to live like a centenarian?

Want to live until 100?  Check out the latest article from The Health Junction in the Fall 2013 (page 26) edition of Fusia Magazine!

FusiaFall2013_allpgs_Web_1

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

–  Mahatma Gandhi

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Get your probiotic on with DIY sauerkraut!

One of my favourite times of the week is visiting the Evergreen Brickworks Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings with my friend Emily S.  It’s so fun, I can’t handle it!  We move from vendor to vendor picking up most of our weekly fresh produce and sampling the goodies on display.  This past week, I walked past the Pyramid Farm & Ferments table and sampled some dill and garlic sauerkraut.

Pyramid

Woah.  It was mind-blowing.  Delicious.

Mind Blowing

The only sauerkraut I had ever had up to this weekend was from a jar of Bicks and the taste doesn’t even come close to Pyramid Farms & Ferments.  Sauerkraut is made when shredded cabbage is massaged so that some of the juices come out of the shreds.  The shredded cabbage bits and the water that is pulled out via massaging is then stored in a container where it’s left to ferment.  The benefit of fermentation is that it makes nutrients more bioavailable.  Cabbage is high in Vitamin K, C, and Folate which become even more available to us once fermented.

Cabbage

Fermentation works when naturally occurring lactobacilli bacteria digest the sugar in cabbage which creates lactic acid.  The presence of the lactic acid makes the environment (ie: shredded cabbage sitting in a mason jar) too acidic so that it’s impossible for “bad” bacteria to overgrow and therefore the food doesn’t rot.  So you end up getting a lot of “good” lactobacilli bacteria without dealing with the pathogens that often result from spoiled food.

sauerkraut fermentation

What makes Pyramid Farms’ sauerkraut different is that not only is it fermented (like all store-bought versions) but it’s also unpasteurized which means that the lactobacilli bacteria, a strain of probiotic, are able to survive.  Having a gut that is populated with a healthy amount of probiotics  supports the health of our intestines and GI tract, improve digestion, and boosts the immune system.  Eating unpasteurized sauerkraut means that you’ll be getting a truckload of Vitamin C, K, Folate as well as a LOT of probiotics (30 x what you would get in a serving of yogurt!), fiber, and next to zero calories.

word_amazing

You can actually make sauerkraut at home, and yesterday, that’s exactly what Emily S and I did.  Check out this site by Fermentation Fanatic Mr. Sandor Katz and become a sauerkraut makin’ yahoo with a strong immune system, vitamin infused body, and enviable digestive system.

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THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“Fermentation is the exhalation of a substance through the admixture of a ferment which, by virtue of its spirit, penetrates the mass and transforms it into its own nature.”

– Andreas Libavius

A DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte you can get behind…

I love a good Starbucks Pumpkin Spice latte, which to me, signifies the beginning of fall and the transition of seasons.  The warm, deep, and delicious blend of fall inspired spices melts perfectly into piping hot milk and a shot of good old espresso.  A tall pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks comes in at 210 calories and 8 grams of fat…and the espresso, while nice, causes a surge and then drop in blood glucose levels which can leave us feeling hypoglycemic and crabby.

PSL

Since I love the taste of this drink so much, I wanted to figure out how to make it at home with more nutritious ingredients and less caffeine.  Today, I think I got it right and wanted to share the recipe with you – this recipe has an estimated 84 calories, less than a gram of fat and all the Vitamin A you need for the day.

DIY PSL

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

3 tbsp pumpkin puree (not pie filling!)

1 heaping tbsp decaffeinated instant coffee

1 tbsp raw honey

1.5 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp all spice

1/4 tsp nutmeg

Instructions:  heat the almond milk in a small pot until boiling.  Throw in the instant coffee and honey until dissolved.  Throw the almond mix mixture into a blender along with the spices and vanilla and pumpkin puree.  Pulse a few times until well combined.  Serve!

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“Pumpkin Spice Lattes are to college girls; what mini-shooters of whiskey are to alcoholics.”

–  Author Unknown

 

The Mailbox: Can you take too many Omega-3’s??

inseed backgroundDear Health Junction),

How many essential fatty acids should you be taking per day?  Can you take too much?  What about vegan sources vs omega 3 and 6 from fish oil?  I want to make sure I’m getting what I need plus I take a multi and fish oil so don’t want to take too much!

Thanks,

CP

Hi CP,

Essential Fatty Acids are a type of fat that are labeled “essential” because we can’t make it in our body.  The same goes when you hear the term Essential Amino Acids.  So, we need to derive both Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids from our diet (we can make Omega-9 by ourselves).

omega3and6

These compounds are made from string of carbons and a carboxyl group and the two types of EFA’s are differentiated based on where the first double bond appears.  In the case of Omega-3’s the first double bond occurs on the third carbon from the end whereas with Omega-6’s it occurs on the sixth carbon.

TransFattyacidsChart

PG1 = Anti-inflammatory PG2 = inflammatory PG3 = Anti-inflammatory

We should be getting roughly 4 times as many Omega-6’s in our diet as Omega-3’s but our current diet actually lends to a 20:1 ratio versus the recommended 4:1.  High sources of O-6 are typically found in vegetable oils where as high sources of O-3 are found in fish, flax seeds, walnuts, and avocado’s.  The big difference is that when we consume an O-6 it can be either inflammatory or anti-inflammatory based on the pathway it takes in our body (PG1 vs PG2), whereas Omega-3’s will ALWAYS be anti-inflammatory.  So, when you are looking at EFA’s, focus on increasing your Omega-3 intake and decreasing sources of Omega-6 (reduce use of vegetable oil).

 helaexlarge2

Omega-3 Fatty Acids are vital for health as they help keep our cell structure strong and flexible, they reduce inflammation, and help to keep our blood thin and void of clots.  Some common conditions that can be supported through the adequate ingestion of Omega-3 include:

Alzheimer’s disease, Asthma, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Bipolar Disorder, Cancer, Cardiovascular disease, Depression, Diabetes, Eczema, High blood pressure, Huntington’s disease, Lupus, Migraine headaches, Multiple sclerosis, Obesity, Osteoarthritis, Osteoporosis, Psoriasis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Irritable Bowel Disorder.

Not getting enough Omega-3 has been linked to several health issues.

Omega3-fatty-Acid-Deficiency

So, how much should you be taking in each day?  Adults should not be taking more than about 3 grams of Omega-3 fish oil each day.  That includes what you take in from your diet as well as a supplement.  To give you perspective, a 3 oz serving of salmon provides anywhere between 1.1 and 1.9 grams of O-3.  Most of us could probably benefit from taking an omega-3 supplement without the harm of going over 3 grams per day.  I personally take an omega-3 capsule that has 1400 mg’s of fish oil each day.  To give you peace of mind, it’s far more common to be deficient in omega-3!

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“We can make a commitment to promote vegetables and fruits and whole grains on  every part of every menu. We can make portion sizes smaller and emphasize  quality over quantity. And we can help create a culture – imagine this – where  our kids ask for healthy options instead of resisting  them.
–  Michelle Obama

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