The Mailbox: Is Kefir really that different from plain yogurt?

mailbox
Dear Health Junction,
I keep hearing all this hype about how healthy Kefir is, so went out in search of the best one I could find. I went to a health food store and found an organic local Kefir made with 2 simple ingredients: organic skim milk and active bacterial cultures. However, right beside it, from the same company, was an organic local plain yogurt; ingredients: organic skim milk and active bacterial culture. I fail to see the difference, although I find the taste of Kefir much more sour.  So, the question is: Is there really a difference between plain yogurt and kefir? Will they equally stimulate healthy bacteria to flourish in my colon and provide similar regularity?
Sincerely,
Another Stumped Nutrition Junkie
kefir
Dear ASNJ,
Your question is timely considering how Kefir has been popping up in the dairy isle of grocery stores lately.  Here is what I was able to dig up on the difference between Kefir and yogurt.
bacteria
Both Kefir and yogurt contain probiotics which are a “good” type of bacteria.  There are around 400 different types of bacteria that make up our intestinal flora which runs through our gastrointestinal tract.  Probiotics help to prohibit an overgrowth of “bad” bacteria which in turn helps to prevent sickness while simultaneously  boosting the immune system.
Probiotics
The main difference is that Kefir typically has about 40 times as many probiotic cultures as compared to yogurt.  Yogurt contains 1 billion organisms per half cup while Kefir delivers 4o billion.  Additionally, Kefir is made with 10 to 20 different types of bacterial strains whereas yogurt only has a couple.
biotics
As mentioned probiotics help to stimulate the immune system and consumption is tied to a reduction in symptoms for people who suffer from allergies (seasonal, environmental, food), constipation, eczema, bloating, colitis, crohn’s, irritable bowel syndrome, and recurrent yeast infections.  They are killer at helping promote regularity.  Probiotics are also especially helpful for those who are taking antibiotics since this type of medication wipes out all bacteria (both good and bad) from our system.
probiotics2
Your Truly,
The Health Junction

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“Happiness and bacteria have one thing in common; they multiply by dividing!”

–  Rutvik Oza

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The Health Junction Mail Box: Gas From Chickpeas, Omega-3 Enriched Eggs, and Kosher Salt

mailbox

Here are some interesting questions I’ve encountered over the past few weeks.  Enjoy – and feel free to email me your own questions to TheHealthJunction@Mail.com.

salt

Dear The Health Junction,

What is the difference between regular salt and kosher salt – is one healthier than the other?

From,

CP

Dear CP,

There are a few different types of salt on the market; kosher salt, sea salt, iodized salt, and table salt.  All of these different types of salt are made from both chloride and sodium.  Salt is sourced two ways.  The first is via mining since salt is part of many different types or rocks.  The other way is through evaporating water from the ocean – once the water is removed, the salt remains.  Sea salt has more nutrients than rock salt since there are many other different types of  minerals contained in ocean water.

Kosher salt has less to do with religion and more to do with the size of the salt granules.  Kosher salt is technically regular old salt but it’s made so that the granules are larger and the reason for this is that it’s used by people who practice Judaism when koshering fresh meat.  The larger salt granules are more effective at pulling blood out of uncooked meat.

Iodized salt is simply salt which has been iodized.  Why?  When the thyroid doesn’t get enough iodine, it’s common for a goiter to form so iodize salt is a simple way of making sure you get enough iodine in your diet.  All “table salt” in Canada is iodized.  Other sources of iodine include salt water seafood, lima beans, corn, green peas, turkey, soy nuts, eggs, pinto beans, and many grain products.

eggs

Dear The Health Junction,

Are omega-3 enriched eggs worth the money?

From,

ElB

Hi El B,

There are two different categories of omega-3 fatty acids.  The first is DHA + EPA and the other is ALA.  DHA + EPA typically comes from fish and is the type of omega-3 that has been extensively studied for its effect on helping to reduce inflammation, prevent heart disease, improve cell integrity, and is supportive of cognition and mood.  ALA comes from walnuts, chia, helm seeds, and flax.  This type of omega-3 fatty acid is also good for us and like DHA + EPA is anti-inflammatory, but the impact on heart and cell health is less understood.

Omega-3 enriched eggs are produced from chickens that are fed a diet high in flax seeds and their eggs contain a mix of DHA + EPA and ALA omega-3 fatty acids which is great.  One egg will yield about 130 mg of DHA while a serving of fish will provide over 3500 mg (DHA + EPA).  So, are eggs worth it?  Considering we should be getting around 1000 mg’s of DHA+EPA each day, I would say sure, the omega-3 eggs are not a bad idea.  But you could easily purchase organic eggs and try having a serving or two of fish each week (salmon, herring, mackerel) since it provides both DHA+EPA while the eggs only give us DHA.

gas

Dear The Health Junction,

help…

i ate chickpeas yesterday…
i am so stinky today…
can i never eat chickpeas again?
i love them.
From,
NE
Dear NE,
A world without chickpeas is a sad world.  Yes, you can still eat them.  Beans contain a sugar called oligosaccharides which we don’t have an enzyme to  break down.  So this component of the bean makes it down to the small intestine where our natural bacteria helps to break the oligosaccharides down.  The result of the breakdown is gas.  Toot toot!
One way to help reduce bloating and gas caused by beans in general is to make sure that you rinse them until you see the little bubbles your colander disappear (or those bubbles will be ingested and result in even more gas).   Here are some other tips:
1.)  choose smaller beans.  The small the bean, the less the gas.
2.)  take some Beano.  It contains the enzyme that will help break down the oligosaccharides before it hits the small intestine.
Happy Tuesday!
From,
Heather of The Health Junction

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“Home is where the heart is, home is where the fart is.
Come let us fart in the home.
There is no art in a fart.
Still a fart may not be artless.
Let us fart and artless fart in the home.” 

–  Ernest Hemingway, 88 Poems

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Why you shouldn’t have beef with dark chicken meat in 100 words

When I was growing up, and actually until about a year ago I always though dark poultry was “bad” for me because of the higher fat content.  During a course on sports nutrition, my teacher Dr. Daniel Watters (ND) totally blew my mind when he asked us to consider the importance of what the tissue we’re consuming is used for in the originating animal.

Dark vs. white chicken meat

In the case of chicken thighs vs. chicken breast for example, the thighs are a powerhouse of movement for the chicken and are very much full of muscle tissue.  So, imagine how a chicken moves and functions – the legs move around, but what about the breasts?  Not a whole lot of action going on with a chicken’s breast since they don’t actually fly.

Chicken

 

Chicken thighs are packed with much more myoglobin as compared to the breast and myoglobin contains a lot of iron which is excellent for the all you lady readers.  Dark meat also tends to have more zinc, B1, B2, B6, and B12 (important for you immune system, adapting to the environment, mood, prevention of migraine headaches and the list could literally go on for days).  Dark poultry meat has roughly 3 x more fat than its white counterpart but 2/3rd of that fat is unsaturated which isn’t bad for you in moderation.  Feeling peckish?  Try out this recipe adapted from The Looneyspoons Collection.

Amazingly Saucy Chicken Thighs

12 boneless skinless chicken thighs (try to get organic free range if possible)

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

2/3rd cup all natural grape jelly

1/2 cup of organic all natural ketchup

1 1/4 tsp dry mustard powder

Pepper

Preheat oven to 400.  In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients except for chicken and bring to a boil.  Jelly will melt.  Lay the thighs out in a 9 x 13 baking dish and pour sauce overtop the thighs.  Turn and coat well.  Place in oven for 45 minutes.  Serve with 1 cup of broccoli on the side and you’ve got yourself a dinner to remember.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“We all like chicken” 

–  Malcolm X (The Autobiography of Malcolm X)

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Easy Health Fix 101 in 100 Words: Why only H20 counts as Water

water_for_health

The simplest thing we can do to improve health is to drink more water.

Why?

Because your body cannot digest and absorb nutrients in an effective manner without ensuring that food is moving through the gastrointestinal track from top to bottom in about 18-24 hours.  If you want to know how to test for transit time, check this prior post out for the section on Oral-Fecal Transit Time (OFTT).  When food moves too quickly, it doesn’t get broken down properly and can’t be absorbed well – check your stool for undigested bits of food if you think this might be the case for you.  More commonly, however, is that the transit time is very long which is what we call constipation.

health-benefits-of-drinking-water

Constipation causes food to sit and stagnate in your intestines where toxic waste that should be long gone has a chance to mess up your bacterial balance, irritate the intestinal cells, and cause inflammation.  This is how chronic disease starts.

The easiest way to avoid constipation is to, for real, just drink more water.  8-10 cups a day.  Between meals rather than during.  Why?  When you drink during your meal, the water will dilute your gastric juices and decrease the effectiveness of both mechanical and chemical digestion.

Obama

You may find it annoying to drink so much water because visiting the washroom becomes more frequent, but as a wise man pointed out (El Branno) such a complaint is truly a modern-day problem.  Even Obama and Madonna (busiest people in the world?) have time to pick up a glass and drink and then take 30 seconds to pee later in the day.  Having a chronic disease will be much more inconvenient that making a total of 10 minutes a day to nourish your body with a nutrient we literally cannot go more than a few days without.

What doesn’t count as water?

  • tea (unless a non diuretic non caffeinated tea)
  • coffee
  • milk (this is probably the most constipating “food” out there)
  • juice
  • beer
  • wine
  • Gatorade
  • Vitamin Water

What does count as water?

  • water, from the tap.

What can I do to spice up my water?

  • squeeze some lemon
  • place some a few slices of cucumber, orange, lime into a jug and fill with water.  Water will take on the flavour of the fruit.

cucumber-water

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“There are only three things women need in life: food, water, and compliments.”
– Chris Rock

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Green Smoothies 101 in 100 Words: A Veggietastic Breakfast Solution

What is the most important thing I’ve learned at school over the past 12 months?

what did you learn today

Drink more water and eat more greens.  Okay, that is technically two but lucky for you they’re both included in this next nutritional recommendation.  If you’re interested in learning about the benefits of adequate water consumption, click here and for information on why leafy greens are important, this will help explain things.

Green Smoothie

Green smoothies are the easiest way I can think of to get a huge dose of vegetables into your diet.  When starting your day of with one of these diddy’s you’re paving the way towards a full day of health eating.  The sugar content is extremely low because the only sweet ingredient included is fruit which is naturally occurring.  With a dash of complex carbohydrates and a whole lot of fiber, green smoothies will help stabilize your blood sugar levels and prevent ravenous cravings later in the day.  Green smoothies are alkanalizing and are busting with vitamins and minerals.  Here is a recipe to get you started but the beauty of green smoothies is that the combinations are endless…as are the health benefits.

The Health Junction Green Combustion

  • 2-3 cups of leafy greens.  I like mixing red leaf lettuce and kale.
  • handful of frozen blueberries
  • half a banana
  • stalk of celery
  • 1/4th avocado
  • 1 scoop of vega energizing smoothie powder (I like the Choc-a-Lot Flavour)
  • 2 tbsp oats
  • 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk + 1 cup of water
  • Cinnamon (optional)
  • A couple of tbsp’s of hemp, flax, or chia seeds (optional)

Throw ingredients in the blender – it’s best to layer the denser foods (frozen blueberries, celery) on the bottom and the lighter ingredients on the top.  Pour in water and almond milk last.  I usually start blending on the ice crushing setting of my blender but do whatever works best with your home blender.

Pour into a large glass and sprinkle with some cinnamon.  This contains 7-8 servings of fruits and vegetables!

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

 “Each of us has two “doctors”—the left and the right leg.”

– Vilcabamban philosophy on the importance of walking

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Eating Likes the Aztecs: Amaranth 101 in 100 Words

Amaranth

What’s up with Amaranth?  I always see it on the standard list of gluten-free grains but it’s not so commonly used in western cooking.

Amaranth Plan

Amaranth, popular with the Aztecs, is a plant with a flowery head that contains the seeds we eat.  The nutritional profile of amaranth is interestingly similar to swiss chard, beets, spinach, and quinoa – this because they all belong to the same Chenopodiacease family.  Like many dark leafy greens, amaranth is chalked with magnesium, calcium, and iron in much higher quantities than most grains (like wheat for example).  In terms of taste, it can be described as nutty, earthy, and ever so slightly sweet.

Lysine

What’s cool about Amaranth is that it is rich in the essential amino acid Lysine.  An essential amino acid, btw, is protein building block that we cannot make and therefore must be obtained from our diet.  This particular amino acid is used for making carnitine which we need to convert fatty acids into energy.  Also, it helps the absorption of calcium which works very synergistically with the fact that Amaranth is a good source of calcium.  Overall, it has more protein than any other gluten-free grain and lots of fiber too.  Here is a amaranth porridge recipe from an awesome site called Naturally Ella that is DELICIOUS!

Amaranth Banana Porridge

Banana-Pecan Amaranth Porridge

(adapted from Naturally Ella & recipe created by Erin Alderson)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup amaranth
  • 1 cup water
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup pecan pieces
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 bananas
  • Milk (almond or coconut), to serve

 Directions: 

Combine amaranth with one cup water and salt. Bring amaranth to a boil, and reduce to a simmer and then cover and  simmer for 15 mins.  Remove from heat and let sit for 10 mins.  If it’s too thick, add some almond or coconut milk and set aside.  Add pecans to a dry skillet and toast over medium-low heat, stir often. Toast ar0und 3 minutes.  Set aside.  Heat coconut oil, maple syrup, and cinnamon over medium-low heat. Cut bananas in ½” slices and add to skillet, cook until bananas are extremely tender and maple syrup has absorbed into the slices.  Stir together ¾ of the bananas and amaranth. Pour into bowls and top with remaining bananas, pecans, and a drizzle of milk.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.” 

– Irish Proverb

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Alkaline-Acid pH Balance 101 in 9 minutes

acidic-alkaline-phchart

Have you heard about acidity and alkalinity as it relates to diet and been a little confused about how it all works? The benefits of moving towards a more alkaline diet are convincing and the impact of an overly acidic diet can be seen is so many of our common and chronic health conditions. Check out this video…the following 9 minutes may finally convince you that leafy greens are fabulous and explains why even though lemon tastes acidic, it’s an alkaline wonder.

Alkaline-Acid pH Balance Explained

Enjoy!

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” 

– Ann Wigmore

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Got the Flu? Feeling Sick? Think twice before you reach for Orange Juice.

It’s pretty common practice to drink Orange Juice when feeling a little under the weather, right?

OJ

Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant, increases iron absorption, and is well-regarded for its role in supporting and protecting the immune system.  There are countless foods that are chalked full of Vitamin C (check here for a comprehensive list) and it’s true that Orange Juice is high up on the chart – so why should OJ actually be avoided when sick?

Sick Young Woman Lying in Bed

Vitamin C is absorbed into the blood stream via a receptor called GLUT-1 which is also a major receptor for glucose (sugar).  Since Orange Juice is quite high in sugar when you drink a glass of OJ, both the sugar and Vitamin C end up competing to be taken into the blood stream via the GLUT-1 receptor and therefore less will be received.  By removing the fiber from fruit, the sugar is quickly absorbed and causes the absorption of Vitamin C to be compromised.

Vitamin C Fruits

With the fiber in tact, the sugar absorption will be slow and steady making room for more Vitamin C to find its way into your blood stream through the GLUT-1 receptor.  If you’re looking to increase your intake of Vitamin C, try going for whole food based choices like bell peppers, kiwis, broccoli, strawberries, papaya, kale, cantaloupe, pineapple, and of course…oranges!

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools.” 

– Spanish Proverb

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Maca Powder 101 In 100 Words

What’s the dealio with Maca Powder?  The powder actually comes from the root of the Lepidium Meyenii plant (aka Maca Root) which is grown in the high altitude areas of the Peruvian and Bolivian Andes.

Maca Root

Maca Root

Interestingly, Maca is sometimes called Peruvian Ginseng and the form you’ll most often see marketed is as a powder – which is why it’s often added to smoothies and shakes.  It’s helpful at increasing energy without giving you the jitters that often accompany the consumption of caffeine.

While Maca is known for improving the quality and quality of sperm, it was hard for me to find conclusive evidence that pointed to an absolute and positive connection between the use of Maca powder and improved fertility.  Some studies said yes while others said not so much but that being said, it’s a very popular herbal supplement for those looking to boost their chances of conceiving.  It seems that Maca powder is a hormone stabilizer and endocrine system toner that may decrease symptoms of PMS and menstrual cramps as well as reduce hot flashes in menopausal women.

Navitas Maca Powder

So, while there hasn’t been a lot of research done to positively confirm the proposed health benefits of Maca I would say it can’t hurt!  Try adding a couple of tablespoons to your smoothie – my favourite product is Raw Maca Powder by Navitas Naturals or you can actually get powder from Bulk Barn if you’re shopping on the cheap.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“Water is the most neglected nutrient in your diet, but one of the most vital”

– Julia Child

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Kitchen Pantry: The Health Junction Approved Hot Products

Let me start by saying, that these products are simply ones that I’ve tried and enjoyed so much that it would be a shame not to share them with The Health Junction readers. As a future nutritionist and current food enthusiast, I make it my duty to research, select, and try foods that I believe would be beneficial for potential clients to start incorporating into their diet. The following products surprised me – and I hope they pleasantly surprise you too!

Romano Bean Bread

Queen Street Gluten Free Romano Bean Bread:  I don’t have a wheat insensitivity but one of the key new lines of thinking I’ve learned at school this year is that it is helpful to diversify the diet.  In our Westernized culture, we tend to focus very heavily on wheat – a crop which is genetically modified and highly allergic to many people.  If you’ve tried gluten-free bread and wanted to spit it out because it’s dry and lacklustre, let me introduce you to Romano Bean Bread by Queen Street Bakery.  It’s 3rd party gluten-free certified, has 2 grams of fiber per 2 slice serving, and only 110 calories for those who want a lighter  bread.  The ingredient list is simple:  potato starch, tapioca starch, whole bean flour, water, sorghum flour, eggs, honey, sunflower oil, xanthan gum, yeast, and salt.  It’s light and fluffy…and actually tastes good.  Look no further for a gluten-free bread that doesn’t taste like a lifeless brick.  This bread can be found at many health food stores (in the frozen bread section) in the Toronto area or you can visit Yoshi’s Sweets in the Beaches at 2359 Queen Street East.

coco-yogurt-vanilla

So Delicious Dairy Free Cultured Coconut Milk:  Yes, yes, yes!  This is the stuff I’ve been waiting for because like wheat, dairy is our next leading allergy and food sensitivity.  If you’re looking to try a yogurt substitute that has 30% of you daily requirements of calcium and 8 grams of fiber in one serving, and 25% of your daily requirements of B12 (I’m talking you vegetarian lady) try out this delicious coconut based yogurt alternative.  Their product description is dead on “Thick and creamy coconut milk “yogurt” exploding with sweet vanilla flavor”.  It’s dairy free, soy free, and gluten-free, non GMO, totally vegan – and 100% amazing.  Try topping this with cereal or throw some in a smoothie for a nice dairy-free start to the day.  I tried the vanilla but there are a bunch of other flavours available.  Found in the yogurt section of your local grocery store.

Vega Energizing Smoothie

Vega Energizing Smoothie:  you may have heard of me talk about this product before so you’ll have to forgive me for the repeat mention but this is a staple for any busy individual who wants to keep their blood sugar levels at bay and health in check.  A scoop of this product will provide you with around 100 calories, 11 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber, and 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids (it’s also totally vegan and has 300 mg’s of digestive enzymes in each serving).  High quality fats, protein, and 2 servings of veggies in each scoop – Vega Energizing Smoothie mixed with a cup of water or milk (I use almond milk) is a fast and easy way of snacking on the go.  My favourite is the Choc-A-Lot flavour.  Available at your local health food or grocery store.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.”

– Thomas Edison, American Inventor

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