Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Beat the Bloat in Time for the Bikini

Beat the Bloat in Time for the Bikini
Sarah Reid, RHNC

Warmer weather is coming which means time for gardens, golfing, farmers’ markets and... breaking out the bikini. Even after months of eating well and exercising regularly, crunching abs at the gym or running 5 miles a day, most of us still have a little “pooch” around our bellies. It’s a little disconcerting to see in the change room, but the good news is that it’s usually not fat causing your woes. In fact, the culprit is far easier and quicker to eliminate – intestinal bloating.

Bloating symptoms can be from many different antagonists, but the two main reasons are water retention and constipation. Far cheaper and tastier than cleaning your pharmacy out of diuretics and laxatives, natural and wholesome foods do a fine job of the “de-pouf” without depleting your energy and nutrients. The extra plus is that incorporating them into your lifestyle is simple, and since the benefits start rolling in before long it’s an easy regime to stay with.

While you know the stalks will perfume your urine, asparagus is also one of the most potent agents in the battle of the bloat. The vegetable is a prebiotic for the growth and activity of good bacteria in gut – which not only keeps the bowels moving and enhances the immune system, but also cuts down on the accumulation of gas – another common bloater. This powerful food is also a natural diuretic that flushes out the extra water and sodium out of your body. For the best results from this veggie, lightly steam or roast them until just tender – don’t overcook them and never boil, as the vitamins, minerals and any other beneficial nutrients quickly leach away.

Papaya is an extremely powerful digestive agent, filled with an enzyme that helps breaks down proteins, as well as vitamins C, A and K and fibre. The fibre is a huge fighter of constipation while the vitamins tone and protect the colon, bladder and kidneys. Fresh, unsweetened juices or purees are thebest way to concentrate the vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and enzymes, while eating the flesh or un-strained juices gives you a great deal of fibre.

Yogurt is another boon to preventing the bloat. Healthy bacteria help regulate your bowels and help reduce excess gas. The dairy is also a very concentrated source of calcium, which helps to release the extra fluid in and around your cells and eliminates swelling, especially in the legs at night or when you find yourself sitting for a long time. Two to three servings of a low-fat (not fat free), plain yogurt (add some papaya for a double whammy!) helps keep belly bloating at bay more than a simple glass of milk does, as regular milk does not have the same concentration of calcium and no probiotics at all.

Water and fibre may seem counterintuitive to add to your daily meals when you already feel like you’re about to burst. Staying hydrated, though, is one of the best ways to relieve your body of it’s extra sodium stores, and the water they attract. Water is the only thing that cuts down sodium bloat, since once the extra mineral flushes out the fluid has nothing to be attracted to, and for the effects to be noticeable, stick to the clear, still kind. Flavourings and carbonation (not to mention sugars and artificial sweeteners) have all shown to aggravate bloating, and high-sodium seltzers actually dehydrate you and cause water retention. Insoluble fibre relieves constipation (“hard stomach” bloating) while soluble fibre reduces gassy bloating. That is, as long as you start your new regime slowly. This is especially important if you typically eat refined or overcooked foods and few legumes, as you need to give your system time to adjust. Increasing your water intake is also critical when eating more fibre – if you suddenly spike your fibre intake without drinking enough, it leads to further constipation and discomfort. For optimum health and to keep symptoms at bay, aim for at least 35 grams of fibre daily, if not more, and 9-10 glasses of water. Good “fibre foods” are whole grains, raw vegetables and fruit (especially unpeeled if the peel is edible), flaxseeds and legumes like lentils, black beans and chickpeas.

While it’s never easy to pull on the first swimsuit of the year, these natural and healthy ways to “de-bloat” beforehand are a simple way to ease the pain. Just remember to drink  a bottle of water for  every hour out in the sun, and wear your sunscreen and shades!

Sarah Reid is a Holistic Nutritional Consultant with her company NEW-trition

U.S. Replaces Food Pyramid with 'Dinner Plate'

In Canada, we've got our good old Food Guide, which you might consider the cousin of the U.S. Food Pyramid. Our Food guide has had it's share of re-vamps every few years but I think most people would agree it's easy to follow and well laid out. But is it doing it's job? And how about that Food Pyramid? In the U.S., it has been decided that the long-standing symbol of healthy eating, the Food Pyramid, simply isn't pulling it's weight, so it's being replaced. Poor pyramid - it's not it's fault, people just aren't into it anymore (or they never were) and it definitely shows on their waistlines.

Being unveiled this Thursday is a new circular 'dinner plate' shaped guide which is meant to be far simpler and easier to understand. It is meant to give consumers an easy reminder of what they should be eating every day. It will be sliced into the food groups, showing how much of each one people should have on their plates at each meal, each day. Half the plate, as per recommendations, will be filled with fruits and vegetables. This recommendation is the main message that the federal government is trying to underscore in their fight against obesity so that all individuals can eat healthy and be healthy.

American nutritionists aren't too upset about the pyramid being ditched. They feel that while it is familiar, it is complicated and confusing for consumers, so it is not used as it is meant to be. Moreover, the pyramid doesn't distinguish between healthy and unhealthy food options. According to Walter C. Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health, “It’s going to be hard not to do better than the current pyramid, which basically conveys no useful information,”. Harsh! But perhaps true.

I can't wait to see what this new guide will look like and to find out if it achieves it's goal. If so, we might end up seeing similar changes to our food guide. Of course, all of this will take a while to discover, but it will be all the more interesting to watch.

Vitamin C in Kiwis is Superior to Supplements

The questions of whether or not supplements are good for you, or indeed necessary, are ones that are frequently asked. It is true that certain nutrients are difficult for many to obtain through a healthy, balanced diet and supplements can help correct some deficiencies. However, most people are not deficient in most nutrients, so taking supplements is not only excessive and potentially risky, but it is also a waste of money. And in the case of the possibly the most highly supplemented nutrient - vitamin C - fresh kiwifruits are better than supplements any day.

According to a new study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition using mice, vitamin C from fresh kiwifruit is not only absorbed more efficiently, but it is also retained for longer than a purified version of vitamin C. This gives researchers the impression that other factors present within the fresh fruit enhance the absorption of vitamin C. In order to determine whether these effects have clinical relevance in humans, clinical trials must be undertaken, which are now underway.

In addition to providing you with about 120% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C, one medium kiwi also contains about 40% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin K along with lesser amounts of vitamin E, folate and potassium. Being so high in vitamin C, kiwis provide your body with premier antioxidant protection. One medium kiwi also provides you with 2g of fibre, but if you eat it with the skin on (which is totally fine and actually recommended, just wash it up really well) you'll get even more fibre and potentially more nutrients. Peeling the fruit removes the nutrients that are sitting just below the surface of the skin and more rapidly exposes the fruit to oxidizing agents that can start destroying nutrients. The difference in nutrients may be small (I don't know of any studies to confirm or deny that), but at least there's more fibre!

So go on, start adding some tropical emerald green flare to your summer fruit salads (and year round) and reap the benefits!

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Little Bit of Weight Loss Boosts Blood Vitamin D Levels

Even though we think of orange juice, packed with vitamin C, as a 'tall glass of sunshine', vitamin D holds the crown as the true sunshine vitamin. Aside from the small amount we can get from our diets, we need to expose our skin to the sun in order to make the active form of vitamin D in our bodies.

As new research regularly comes out showing that vitamin D is a key player in preventing just about every disease or health condition you could think of, from the common cold to cancer, we absolutely need to make sure we're getting enough. The scary part is that people in many parts of the world, including Canada, simply can't make enough vitamin D for 6 months of the year due to the position of the sun in combination with us covering every inch of skin imaginable at times. Even sunscreen blocks our ability to make vitamin D. There are several things you can do to make sure you're getting enough vitamin D in your diet, but new research has now found that weight loss in fact boosts our bodies' ability to make and use vitamin D.

In the study, overweight to obese women who were sedentary were assigned to one of four conditions - exercise only, diet only, exercise and diet or no change. It turned out that any way they were able to lose weight was beneficial for boosting their blood vitamin D levels.

Women who lost 5-10% of their body weight had small increases in their blood vitamin D levels, while those who lost 15% or more had nearly 3 times the amount of vitamin D in their blood regardless of their dietary intakes.

According to the study's lead author, "Since vitamin D is generally lower in persons with obesity, it is possible that low vitamin D could account, in part, for the link between obesity and diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes," and "Determining whether weight loss helps change vitamin D status is important for understanding potential avenues for disease prevention." Very interesting! Just like vitamin D is important in nearly all facets of health, overweight and obesity are linked to many if not most illnesses and diseases. This may give some people the push they need to lose those last 10 or more pounds and really get healthy!

Today's Workers are More Sedentary and Obese than Ever

Quick: how would you describe your activity level? Usually, the term 'sedentary' reflects individuals who sit most of the day at work, move around very little and don't generally engage in planned exercise. The literal definition of the term might give you a good chuckle, but it's scary how accurate it really is. The term literally means "characterized by or requiring a seated position". In zoology, it means "pertaining to animals that move about little or are permanently attached to something, such as a barnacle". Your butt glued to a chair, a barnacle glued to a rock, same thing, right? So unless you're lucky enough to have a job that actually requires moving around where you're on your feet (i.e. not sitting on your butt all day), chances are, you're burning significantly fewer calories each day than workers did 50 years ago.

According to a new study by some of the top national physical activity experts in the U.S., men burn an average 142 fewer calories a day at work while women burn about 124 fewer calories than they did in the 60s. This is, as you may have guessed, due to the increasing numbers of office jobs and occupations requiring the use of computers. Jobs that would fall in the category of 'moderate activity' such as farming or manufacturing have "all but disappeared", said the study's lead author.

By analyzing data on occupations from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from the 1960s to 2008 and assigning physical activity equivalents to them, the researchers were able to estimate how many calories were burned each day by workers. They found that this data correlated well with the rise in obesity, which they believe is part of the reason for the obesity epidemic. It makes sense - even if it can't explain the whole phenomenon, it follows that less activity at work combined with mental exhaustion, fatigue, lack of sleep, a poor diet and lots of coffee would make a person less likely to hit the gym and 'purposely' go burn calories after a long day!

So what can we do about this? Really, the answers seem simple but they're definitely easier said than done. You've heard it all before - get more sleep, drink less coffee (1-2 cups/day is fine), drink plenty of water throughout the day and follow a nutritious diet with the appropriate amount of calories for you. That alone should get you in better shape than by doing your same old routine. Once you're at that point or you're feeling less tired over all, try adding in 30 minutes of moderate activity throughout the day. It can be broken up an done any time. A ten minute walk at lunch, walking the dog when you get home, or getting up to get that stapler instead of wheeling yourself over, glued to your chair like a barnacle catching a wave.

Remember, you can't expect miracles and progress doesn't happen over night. It starts with a crawl, then baby steps, then before you know it you'll be so quick that nobody can catch you!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Eat Less Fat to Slash Diabetes Risk

There are many risk factors that can predispose someone to developing diabetes. Like all diseases, both genetics and the environment play important roles. Despite this fact, a significant proportion of individuals remain at risk for developing diabetes by being inactive, following a poor diet, smoking, and leading a generally unhealthy lifestyle.

The most significant risk factor is being overweight, which raises one's risk of having high cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose. With all that, it's fairly easy to see why so many more people are developing type 2 diabetes these days. Even weight loss of 5 to 10% can significantly reduce the risk of developing diabetes. However, surprisingly, researchers have discovered that some simple dietary changes may slash the risk of developing diabetes, even without significant weight loss.

Since diet is the most major contributor to weight gain or loss, it's no surprise that following sound dietary advice is a key factor to avoiding developing diabetes. The goal is to help individuals lose weight and improve their blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol levels. But according to new a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, cutting back on dietary fats might be a simpler way of helping people avoid diabetes.

Participants in the study who were overweight and at risk for diabetes followed diets for eight weeks with either small reductions to their fat intake (27% fat, 55% carb) or carbohydrate intake (39% fat, 43% carb). At the end of 8 weeks, it turned out that the lower fat group showed less insulin resistance and better glucose tolerance which reduced their risk of developing diabetes.

The interesting point about this study was that it improved the quality of the participants' diets, rather than reducing the quantity. Many people find it difficult to cut back on calories and lose weight, so at least modifying the types of calories and foods they're consuming is a significant start and far more manageable.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Prepared Properly, Fish Might Be Even Healthier For Women's Hearts

Eat more fish, eat less meat. That's probably one of the most common pieces of dietary advice that we hear on a daily basis. Fish is great for heart health, but it turns out that it's not just the type of fish that matters, it's also the way it's prepared which confers health benefits to its consumer. More still - not all methods of preparing fish offer equal health benefits; some are better than others for heart health in women, according to new research.

Published in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure, the study found that women who consumed five or more servings of baked or broiled fish per week had a 30% lower risk of developing heart failure than those who had less than one per month. In addition, eating darker fish such as salmon, mackerel and bluefish was associated with a lower risk of heart failure compared with white fish such as sole, snapper or cod.

The study also found that eating more fried fish is associated with a greater risk of heart failure in addition to previous findings that it is associated with an increased risk of strokes. Just one serving per week was associated with a 48% increased risk of heart failure.

According to Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, a preventive cardiologist and chair of the department of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago, who was the study's senior authors, "A direct relationship between fish and heart failure is not necessarily intuitive because you might expect it protects against heart attacks,...But that's not the mechanism in place here"

Interestingly, there was no association between omega-3's and heart failure - the health benefits had something else to do with the fish itself or the way it was prepared. The researchers are still not sure what the exact mechanism is, but they suggest that women, especially those who are post-menopausal, take note.

According to Lloyd-Jones, "We may not know the other components . . . but that's why eating fish is better than taking a supplement," he said. "You really need to eat the food. This is clearly an important part of a healthy dietary eating pattern."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Calcium: More Than Just a Glass of Milk

Calcium: More Than Just a Glass of Milk
Sarah Reid, RHNC

The body relies on many different nutrients for it’s optimal health and performance. While some nutrients are able to be made from other (excess) compounds, often the deficiencies are with those elements that are essential – meaning that without a part in the diet, the body goes without. One of the most common problems with nutrient levels in modern diets is the lack of adequate calcium, second only to sodium excesses. Ironically, both these problems are the end result of a diet too high in processed food, and the health problems occurring because of these nutrient imbalances are compounded by the level of inactivity in today’s world.

Because there is such concentrated stores of this mineral in bones and teeth (99% of what’s in the body), if you do not get enough of the mineral from your daily food, your body breaks down the bonds in these locations to release calcium into the blood, where it is a vital “buffer” against acidosis. On average, a healthy adult needs 1000 – 1500 mg of calcium daily to maintain the balance. Bone building, on the other hand, actually only occurs until the mid-30s. “Adult” bone structures are formed during the “growth spurts” of puberty, and the tissues continue to store calcium after we have stopped growing up until roughly 35 years of age. Therefore, the resilience of your bones for the rest of your life is determined by the choices you make as a young adult, even if there are no immediate effects from a deficiency. What a continued adequate intake does throughout the lifespan is prevent the blood from leaching bone calcium, which is the cause of osteoporosis. Good calcium intakes have also been shown to reduce high blood pressure and the risk of colon cancer.

The obvious “cure” to the poor calcium levels occurring in up to 70% of Westernized diets would be to pop a supplement pill. But simply getting enough in terms of “numbers” doesn’t always mean 100% absorption. At its peak absorption capacity (around 8 years old), the bloodstream only retains about 60% of total calcium it takes in. As you age and your stomach acids decrease, your ability to “lock in” the mineral can drop as low as 10%. Your body becomes overwhelmed when given concentrated doses of the mineral over 500mg at a time, which in effect leads to less being absorbed overall. Diets high in salt, caffeine, refined sugar, alcohol and/or protein inhibit the blood’s retention of calcium, and can in fact cause a faster depletion. Multi-mineral supplements are another stumbling block – zinc, iron and magnesium all interfere with calcium as well as each other. Studies have also shown that calcium supplements taken in high doses (above 500mg) over 5 years heightens the risk of developing CVD or stroke more than reducing the risk of fractures. Excess calcium from supplements has also been linked to the development of cystic breasts, kidneys, prostate and ovaries. These risks were not correlated to diets rich in calcium due to two factors: 1) no natural food delivers a concentrated dose of that amount per reasonable serving and 2) whole foods provide buffering minerals and compounds that “meter” calcium absorption in the gut.

When it comes to your diet, boosting your calcium doesn’t have to be only drinking your milk. Notwithstanding the fact that almost 50 million adults in the USA are lactose intolerant (and casein is a common “hidden” allergy), the Western diet is chronically high in the phosphorus, caffeine, sugar and protein that competes with the mineral. The ideal diet contains a 1:4 ratio of phosphorus : calcium, but meat products and pop are extremely phosphoric, which drains calcium ions from the body through urine. Depending on the type and quantity of dairy, even the protein in dairy products can inhibit overall calcium absorption. Calcium in foods like whole grains and dark green vegetables like kale is also blocked, this time by the oxalic and phytic organic acids. The best way to assure the highest retention of calcium from your diet is to incorporate a wide variety of whole foods, cooking whole grains and vegetables like spinach, greens, chard and kale. Going “meatless” one day a week by incorporating tofu, beans and small amounts of low-fat dairy has benefits too – not just for the sake of controlling cholesterol intake but also lowering the body’s phosphorus stores. Using plenty of fresh herbs is one more natural supplement – basil, dill and thyme are all incredibly high in calcium per serving, and because they lack the antagonistic acids the mineral finds its way into the body more readily.

Clearly, the “natural” route of getting your calcium is the most effective (and tastiest) method. However, if you are a person who does not regularly consume dairy or fortified products, you can’t kick your caffeine habit or sweet tooth, are over 50 or already have marked bone degeneration, the best option in the supplement aisle is calcium citrate in an amount no more than 500 mg per day, ideally split into two 250 mg pills taken away from food.

Here’s an awesome calcium-rich recipe packed with fruit to try out at home! It’s vegan and gluten free, and really kid friendly (especially if you add a little maple syrup!) and provides 31% of the RDA in one serving!

Smooth Move
Makes 2 “adult” portions or 4 “kid” portions
1 cup of frozen, unsweetened blueberries
1 large, ripe mango, chopped
1 cup strawberries
2 tbsp rice bran
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 ¼ cups low-fat, plain soy milk (I use Silk Plain Light)
10 oz low-fat, silken tofu (Mori-Nu or similar)
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth and pourable.
  2. Serve immediately, or pour into popsicle moulds and freeze for snacks.
Amount Per (Adult) Serving
Calories: 279.5
Total Fat: 6.9 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 202.3 mg
Total Carbs: 45.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 9.1 g
Protein: 16.1 g
Calcium: 31%
Vitamin D: 19%

Sarah Reid is a Holistic Nutritional Consultant with her company NEW-trition

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Good Fat, Bad Fat

Good Fat, Bad Fat
Sarah Reid, RHNC

The word “fat” has long been the unofficial “swear word” of the weight-management sector. Butter, bacon, nuts and cheese are all laden with the stuff – and if we don’t want to be labelled with the awful “extra large body proportions” stigma, we must eschew it all from our menus, right?

At least, that was the thinking during one of the varied “cycles” of quick-fix dieting in the 1980’s and ‘90’s. Now, most of us understand and agree that there are different types of this molecule – each behaving in different ways. Fat is a macronutrient, and vital to our body’s proper function. It keeps our cell membranes intact, helps bile form to trap toxins in our gut and even forms the basis of most of our hormones. Who’d have thought that a lack of libido could be the result of trying to look slim and sexy?

The types of fat are commonly divided into two categories based on their impact on cholesterol levels. The “bad” fats are the saturated and trans-fatty acids, which are solid at room temperature and have a tendency to thicken the blood. In fact, their effects can be so powerful that the blood taken from a patient who had eaten a fast-food meal (full of these compounds) 1 hour before solidified in the vial. Saturated fat is what most of us are familiar with in foods like butter and lard, and is also common in coconut oil, nuts, and meat. Saturated fat has been linked to higher LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and risk of type 2 diabetes. Most trans-fats are from partially hydrogenated sources, meaning a liquid oil is saturated with hydrogen under high pressure to have an end result that is solid at room temperature. They have been shown to increase LDL while reducing the “good” HDL cholesterol, and have been linked to cancer, depression and liver disease. Labels are allowed to claim a product is “trans fat free” if it has under 0.5g of trans fat per serving – but watch the serving sizes too, because many of the new label claims also come with a smaller portion too!

 The “good” fats are unsaturated – liquid at room temperature and commonly referred to as “oil” instead of “fat”. This category also includes the omega-3 (Ω-3) and omega-6 (Ω-6) fatty acids, also called the essential fatty acids because our bodies don't make them -- we have to get them from food. Polyunsaturated fatty acids(or PUFAs) decrease the risk of developing ALS (or Lou Gehrig's Disease) The EFAs in PUFAs also decrease the risk of depression, high blood pressure, and even have a link to lowering ADHD symptoms. You can find polyunsaturated fats in nuts, seeds, vegetable oils such as corn and safflower oil, and fatty fish. Foods containing monounsaturated fats (such as meat, milk products, nuts, olives and avocadoes) reduce LDL cholesterol, but carry a higher risk of oxidizing into free radicals, so should be eaten in moderation.

When it comes to the weight loss war, it’s important to remember that fat of any kind contains 9 calories per gram. While it is important for our bodies – and should make up about 20% of our total daily calories – going hog-wild with the butter knife and having the extra cheesy pizza will not give your body the total support it needs. Choose your sources judiciously and enjoy every bite!

Sarah Reid is a Holistic Nutritional Consultant with her company NEW-trition

Friday, May 20, 2011

Skipping Breakfast Increases Food-Related Thoughts and Eating

Some people just aren't hungry in the morning. Fair enough. It could be that you had a big dinner the night before or maybe eating too early in the morning makes you nauseous; to each their own. But if there's one thing we know for sure about maintaining a healthy weight and keeping your metabolism burning strong, it's that having breakfast within an hour of waking is critical. Now, we have even more evidence that skipping breakfast can in fact lead to weight gain.

The old standard explanation for why skipping breakfast is bad and may lead to weight gain, is that you're most likely to get really hungry a few hours later and over eat at lunch time or at dinner. We know that having only a few larger meals per day, as opposed to 5 or 6 smaller meals, can slow down your metabolism which is your body's ability to burn calories when it is at rest. Now, thanks to the findings of a recent study, we know that skipping breakfast actually has an effect on your brain which ends up making you eat more throughout the day.

Researcher Heather Leidy, from the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at MU, and her colleagues looked at MRI’s to find out whether eating a breakfast, especially with extra protein, reduces brain signals related to food motivation and reward. The healthy breakfasts included cereal and milk, or a higher protein breakfast of waffles, yogurt and syrup. A third group skipped breakfast.

According to the brain scan results, the researchers found that eating breakfast in the morning reduced brain activity in the regions associated with motivation and reward, which is also where dopamine is released. Dopamine is a hormone that plays a role in emotional well-being and pleasure. They also found that consuming a higher protein breakfast was associated with greater feelings of satiety (fullness/satisfaction) and more feelings of reward from eating breakfast compared to the normal protein milk and cereal meal.

The researchers concluded that “This research provides additional evidence that breakfast is a valuable strategy to control appetite and regulate food intake”. Since eating breakfast, especially one higher in protein, triggers reward and satisfaction pathways in the brain, skipping it can therefore lead to increased snacking and late night eating to fill the void. So all you breakfast skippers - it's time to take note and quit that bad habit!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

To Cook or Not to Cook?: "Raw?" is the Question

We all know we have got to eat our fruits and veggies. Sure, you can get plenty of fibre, perhaps more than enough for the day, from whole grains and fibre supplements, but fresh fruits and veggies are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which are potent disease fighters. In today's world - you need those guys on your team.

When it comes to fruit, we don't typically cook it (unless we're making some kind of dessert) but veggies are consumed in a variety of ways. And yet the decision to cook veggies is being questioned more and more - so what is actually best? Raw or cooked? Unfortunately, the answer is less than simple: "it depends". Darn.

What does it depend on? Firstly, from a food science perspective, we have to consider what the fibres are like in the foods we're eating. The nutrients, enzymes and juices that we seek out of fruits and veggies are locked within their cellular structures like little ziplock bags. If our bodies are able to break them down and open those 'bags' up, we can effectively absorb those nutrients and utilized those enzymes without having to cook the food in question. However, if the fibres and cell walls are tough and rigid, meaning we can't break them down without a little help, they will pass right through our bodies or we will only absorb a small fraction of all that goodness. So what can we do?

Cooking helps to break down the cellular structure of fruits and veggies. That's why produce shrinks and wilts when it is exposed to heat - those little 'ziplock bags' burst and break down, releasing those juices and nutrients. Cooking also improves food safety by destroying potentially harmful pathogens that might be lurking on the surface of your food. Who knows what happened anywhere along the way from the farm to your store? But just as raw is one extreme, there is another extreme when it comes to cooking - overcooking! It's great for jams and fruit fillings for pies, not so great for veggies at dinner.

Since we know that the colour of fruits and veggies is due to their antioxidant pigments, brighter or more intense is better. Dull is what needs to be avoided. Overcooking fruits or vegetables causes their nutrients to leach out into their cooking environment in addition to destroying active enzymes, when the goal is for them to be released inside of your body. The best way to cook veggies is to gently steam or saute them or just blanch them in boiling water until their colour intensifies. They should be 'al dente' just like properly cooked pasta; little softer on the outside with a tougher 'bite' on the inside.

Consuming too many raw vegetables may lead to the accumulation of homocysteine in the body, a compound that builds up when a person lacks B12, B6 and folic acid which are present in whole grains and dark leafy greens. Unfortunately, if those nutrients can't be absorbed in high enough quantities, we end up with nutritional deficiencies. Individuals who eat mostly raw foods tend to be deficient in vitamin B12 in addition to having lower bone densities, meaning they aren't absorbing enough calcium. As with all things, we can't forget that balance is key.

Some produce that is healthier when cooked includes: spinach, tomatoes, kale, butternut squash, pumpkin, red peppers, carrots and sweet potatoes. Cartenoids, a group of antioxidant phytochemicals found in these foods, responsible for yellow and orange colours, are easier to absorb when foods are cooked. The same is true for lycopene, another antioxidant pigment found in tomatoes.

On the flip side, sulphurophanes found in broccoli, in addition to folate and vitamin C are destroyed by heat. However, with gentle cooking, you're more likely to break the cell structures down and actually absorb more nutrients overall even though some might be destroyed. It's a bit of a trade-off.

The rest boils down to personal preference and health status - if you're getting all you need out of your diet and you're in good health, congratulations and all the power to you. For me, I don't like my broccoli raw but I like raw carrots. Am I going to be less healthy than a raw foodie? Probably not.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Step Away from the Baloney!

Step Away from the Baloney!
Sarah Reid, RHNC

I’ve always been a bit put off by the constancy of colour and texture in my supermarket’s deli case. Where else has it always been perfectly acceptable to consume meat that’s a shade of pink reminiscent of Barbie’s car? Most of us would prefer not to think of what goes (or doesn’t go) into the deli slices slapped onto our sandwiches, but along with the colouring, preservatives, and seasonings are some hidden nasties you’re better off knowing. The infamous baloney now has almost 20 ingredients – a long way from it’s roots in traditional Italian cuisine.

The infamous SPAM (introduced in 1926) is actually for the most part pork! The pig shoulder and ham are minced to more or less of a paste and “secret spices”, binding potato starch, salt and preserving chemicals are added before canning. Other “formed meat” products common in the grocery store sometimes use meat by-products (including lips, intestine, stomachs, tongue and heart) and (more commonly) processed soy proteins to bulk up the small amount of expensive “authentic” meat expected by consumers. Binders and starches, usually wheat, corn, soy or seaweed based, help the distinctive circles keep their shape. Oils, milk products and brined injections of salt, sugar and water help boost the final sale weight of the slices and keep with the expectation of providing a consistent texture, taste and level of moisture, even on day 14.

To protect their billion-dollar industry from product losses due to spoilage, a wealth of preservatives lace their way into the protein component of a deli meat. Traditional salt and sugar are added in massive amounts, nitrites and nitrates get folded in, and all of a sudden the highly perishable “meat” can last in it’s BHT-ridden packaging for almost three weeks. Nitrates usually become nitrosamines, carcinogenic substances known about in the medical community for years, promoting tumours on the esophagus, larynx, mouth, liver and stomach.

Should your meat be smiling at you?

Not all the preserving agents used in sliced meats will necessarily pickle you or give you cancerous tumours, though. Some of the deliberate additions to the products have a more devious activity in mind. To fight the risk of Listeria bacteria on mass-produced cold cuts, in 2006, the FDA approved the spraying of six viruses onto the meat prior to their packaging and sale.

To block out the flavour of these preserving chemicals and microbes and mask the natural “essence” of the meat by-products while enhancing the qualities of sugar, salt and other additions, many lunchmeats contain monosodium glutamate (MSG) or “hydrolyzed vegetable protein” (which is the same thing). Neurosurgeons have successfully linked the compound with headaches, sudden cardiac arrest, and toxic damage to brain neurons.

Think about the last time you had a ham & Swiss at the coffee shop or a turkey on rye at the deli. Most adults don’t eat all that much processed meat on their own, excepting a few hot-dogs and cafe lunches every year, but the additions to your child’s bologna sandwich slices just  might have you pausing before you hit the checkout.

Sarah Reid is a Holistic Nutritional Consultant with her company NEW-trition

Move Over Energy Bars, It's Time to Relax

Just as the 'energy' food and drink industry continues to expand with bars, shots, gels, drops and candies, relaxation is taking on a whole new meaning. It seems that these days, with our busy lives and constantly being on the go, it's hard to find time or the ability to relax after a caffeine, taurine, guarana and ginseng-filled day.

As a result, some people figured that if we can take just about anything to amp up our energy levels for 5 hours, 8 hours or whatever the claims may be, why not offer the same sort of promises when it comes to relaxation? And so were born relaxation drinks. Now, we can welcome into the world some fudgey 'relaxation brownies'.

As the antithesis to red bull, slow cow and similar drinks have been increasing in popularity, especially in the states. According to the website, slow cow is a "relaxation beverage that helps in the improvement of concentration, memory and learning capacity without causing sleepiness." The active ingredients include L-Theanine for relaxation, and improvement in the brain’s capacity to concentrate, learn, memorize as well as increasing cerebral levels of dopamine, which boosts feelings of pleasure. In addition, it contains chamomile to help combat insomnia, passiflora for relaxation, and finally Valerian, Linden and Hops to reduce nervousness. It also contains sodium and potassium, so it's sort of like a sugar-free version of Gatorade to help replenish your electrolytes, especially after a workout.

While Slow Cow contains no calories, you can bet that these new s0-called "relaxation brownies" certainly do. With names such as "Lazy cakes", these treats work along the same principle, except you get to enjoy a chocolatey dessert, perhaps before hitting the sack after a long day. Similar to drinks like Slow Cow, Lazy Cakes contain Valerian root in addition to rose hips and melatonin to help "let your problems melt away". These bad boys aren't meant to be used to improve memory and concentration, they're pretty much meant to do the opposite.

In case you don't know, melatonin is a compound that is naturally produced in the body that helps you fall asleep. It is also a commonly prescribed over the counter remedy for sleeplessness and jet-lag; take enough and you may actually slow your breathing to dangerous levels. According to the Lazy Cakes website, this product may "cause excessive use of the word "Dude"". And no, they don't contain any other special ingredients not listed on the label (as far as we know!).

Unfortunately (or maybe not), Lazy cakes are currently only available in the U.S. Actually, I think you can get just about anything in America! In any case, as this industry is up and coming, I don't doubt we'll be seeing plenty of copycats and new products being offered on the market to help our high-stress society chill out and focus. What do you think is next?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Getting Honest About Food Labels

Even if you're a pro at reading nutrition labels, chances are you're not a food scientist. Maybe you are, but for the rest of us it may be hard to decipher exactly what butylated hydroxytoluene is, and whether or not it's safe for you. Well, perhaps now you may set your fears and concerns at ease because a bunch of geniuses (no sarcasm implied - I'm impressed!) have finally come out with an app for both iPhones and androids that clears up all the smoke and mirrors on food labels.

The app, very appropriately called Honest Label, allows you to use your phone to scan the barcode of the food in question, and customize the information you want to know about that food. Instead of sifting through long lists of even longer ingredient names, you can flag key nutrients and a few additives that you're interested in to see if the food is appropriate for you.

While the idea is superb, as I said - I'm impressed - the app itself needs a lot of work as yet. As with anything good, more substance would make this app awesome, but for starters, it needs to work here. I just downloaded it and scanned a bunch of labels, and what did I get? Zip. It doesn't recognize them yet. Unless I'm doing something wrong, there are still lots of barcodes that need to be inputted for this app to be particularly useful. For now, I'll keep playing around and I encourage more people to download it - it's free! Let's see what this thing can do once it's fully up and running!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Is Black the new Green?

Intensely coloured foods are known as nutritional powerhouses. Their colours aren't just for show in our dishes, they're indications that those foods are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that are essential for good health.

Among these intensely coloured foods, which we often use as table decorations, are the dark greens. Although not as pretty (depending on who you ask), they're the foods we are often told to include more of in our diets thanks to their wonderful nutritional properties. But it now seems that something strange is happening among foodies and health professionals alike; several of our green staples are being swapped for their lesser-known and still nutritionally packed black alternatives. Is black the new green?

You might be able to list a couple of black-coloured foods off the top of your head, but it might be a challenge. In any case, here's a breakdown of some super-healthy swaps you might want to try incorporating into your diet to change up the old standard.

Black tea: Just like its more famously antioxidant-loaded green counterpart, black tea is a nutritional hero in disguise. Black tea contains flavins which are compounds associated with improved memory and concentration levels. Other studies have also associated black tea with lower rates of certain cancers, such as stomach, prostate and breast cancer. It has also been shown to improve blood vessel function by up to 50%, which cuts the risk of developing heart disease and strokes.

Black lentils: Also known as beluga lentils, just one cup of these bad boys contains 8mg of iron, which is a hard find among vegetarian diets. Beluga lentils contain antioxidant pigments called anthocyanins which are also found in blue, purple and red foods, most notably berries. To cap things, lentils and other beans and pulses are high in fibre as well as protein, which helps boost immunity and repair muscle tissues.

Blackberries: In addition to being decadently sweet and tart, these beautiful berries are jam-packed with antioxidants and fibre. Blackberries contain the antioxidant compounds polyphenols and anthocyanins which can help reduce the risk of cancer by fighting free radicals in the body. In addition, these little gems are full of folate, vitamin C and manganese which can help support the immune system. One cup will only set you back 75 calories but will provide you with nearly 8 grams of fibre!

Black rice: We know that white, refined rice is the worst version of this grain, and that brown is superior. So what about black rice? Unbeknownst to many, it is actually a superfood that is revered in China, but it is not as popular over here. It turns out that the outer husk of black rice contains higher amounts of vitamin E than its counterparts, in addition to being high in fibre, iron, and once again, antioxidants. Studies have found that black rice plays a role in boosting memory function and reducing the risk of heart disease, thanks to its many nutritional virtues. In fact, just one spoonful of "forbidden" rice contains more anthocyanin antioxidant pigments than blueberries.

Black Soybeans: We're so used to the green ones that many people don't even realize they come in other colours. It's a good thing they do, though, because black soybeans are packed with isoflavones, fibre and the heart healthy omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid. Studies have found that black soybeans included in the diet can help fight obesity, lower cholesterol and cut the risk of diabetes. That's a lot of power in one food!

So before you find yourself sticking to your old fall-back while doing your groceries, why not switch things up with these superfoods? You've got nothing to lose!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Is Eating Like the French a Good Idea?

The image that often comes to mind when we think of French women is that they are high-fashion, ultra stylish and, of course, thin. There are even books out there to help explain the phenomenon of how French women stay slim and how we can all do the same by following their examples. The odd part about all this is that French cuisine is some of the most rich and indulgent fare out there. Staples of French cooking include everything ‘real’ and from the earth – heavy cream, eggs, butter, bread, cheese and meats including duck and foie gras. And don’t forget about wine – there’s plenty of that too. And the sweets; Oh my! French pastries are some of the most simple yet decadent and indulgent in the world. So even though they look slim and vibrant on the exterior – what’s going on inside? Are they really healthy?

French researchers were curious to know exactly how and what the French eat, and how this relates to their risk of developing chronic diseases. The study called Nutrinet- Santé is following the eating habits of 500,000 people over a 5 year time span. So far, what has been found is that 61% of the participants are regular snackers. While that is actually great, since eating in smaller amounts of food in regular intervals is good for the metabolism, it isn’t so great if the snack choices are not healthy ones. In this case, it turns out that the French have got a mean sweet tooth! According to the study, close to a quarter of the calories consumed by the French on a daily basis come from carbohydrate-rich sweets, cakes and pastries. I won’t lie – if I lived there, I would most likely do the same.

The study is still unfinished, so we’ll have to sit tight and wait to find out what all this sweet snacking means for our health. In the meantime, as I mentioned, healthy snacking is a great way to stay lean and trim if we make the right choices. Some excellent high-protein choices include egg whites, cottage cheese with fruit, tuna and even low-sodium beef jerky! In addition, there are plenty of lower-calorie protein bars and low sugar granola bars, in addition to low-cal protein shakes for people who need something nutritious on the go. A tablespoon of peanut butter spread over apple, pear or banana slices is a sweet and salty snack that is sure to keep you full and satisfied in between meals.

You can also pack some light string cheese, low-sodium and calorie popcorn, or tuna and crackers on the go. Fruit or veggie sticks on their own or with a little bit of hummus or peanut butter are a no-fail fan favourite. And lastly, since May long weekend and summer are just around the corner, you might find yourself on a patio enjoying a drink or two in the sunshine. In those scenarios, reach for a Molson 67 at only 67 calories per bottle of light beer like Bud, Coors or Corona light at just about 100 calories per 12 oz bottle.

Healthy snacking doesn’t have to be hard, even if you’ve got a sweet tooth. It’s amazing how quickly that sweet tooth disappears once you start making healthier choices and eating a little bit more protein in your diet. Even if we don’t eat like the French, we can look just as good (or better) if we make the right choices!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pros and Cons of "Living Like a Squirrel in the Forest"

Healthy eating guidelines are confusing enough, but what happens when the lines between nutrition, health and environmental responsibility start to get blurred? We are regularly advised to limit our consumption of red meat for health reasons and opt for more fish and lean meats, but when you start to consider the environmental consequences of increased fish and poultry consumption, the situation becomes far less simple. This is why the environmentally-slanted dietary advice of the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council is causing some critics to say that the Council wants Australians to live "like squirrels in the forest".

The Council recommends that Australians limit their intakes of beef, dairy, fish, unsaturated margarines and oils like vegetable and olive oils. The trouble is that these recommendations are not actually based on nutrition - they are based on environmental concerns. We know that some of the healthiest foods we can eat are fish and olive oil and that low fat dairy products can help individuals manage their weight as well as obtain nutrients that are essential for optimal health. In addition, beef products in moderation provide iron and, if lean, are an excellent source of protein. If people limit these healthy foods too greatly without knowing how to compensate for the missing nutrients, it is possible to end up with nutritional deficiencies.

In the words of Australian Food and Grocery Council chief executive Kate Carnell, "To indicate to young women that they should eat less red meat when there are already issues (with under-consumption of red meat) ... could end up with worse nutritional outcomes,". On the flip side of the coin, we know that following a vegan diet, which completely eliminates all products derived from animals or their labour, can be perfectly healthy if the appropriate substitutions are made to promote good health.

So unless the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council is prepared to give the proper guidance to Australians to help them stay healthy without eating as much beef, dairy or fish, these recommendations may be treading on dangerous territory.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Vitamin E is Key

Even though we usually imagine vitamin E as a translucent gel cap filled with oil, like the ones pictured in the photo, vitamin E is not one singular, uniform substance. It is actually made up of a group of compounds known as tocopherols and tocotrienols. While those terms are a mouthful, all you need to know is that it's good for you - and here's why.

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and potent antioxidant that helps protect our cells from being damaged by free radicals. Working in concert with vitamin C, glutathione, selenium, and niacin (vitamin B3), vitamin E helps prevent the damage that can be caused by oxidative stress in our bodies that is associated with aging. Additionally, vitamin E has been implicated in helping prevent bladder cancer, prostate cancer and Alzheimer's disease.

Another popularly stated function of vitamin E is the protection of our skin cells from UV damage. Many people believe that it's a good idea to take vitamin E supplements while on holiday in sunny places, but this is not necessary. Supplements contain unnaturally high doses of single nutrients, which are valid and useful in some cases, but dangerous in others. Supplements are useful when it can be difficult to obtain those nutrients through dietary means (Vitamin D, iron, folate), but vitamin E isn't one of those.

There are plenty of rich sources of this antioxidant vitamin all around you. Certain dark leafy greens like mustard greens, Swiss chard, and turnip greens are excellent sources of vitamin E, while spinach is considered a good source. Since vitamin E is fat soluble, you'll find it in fat-containing foods, especially oils. For example, just 1 ounce of sunflower seeds (164 calories) will provide you with 47% of your daily requirement, and an ounce of almonds (about 22 almonds, 167 calories) will provide you with 36% of your daily requirement. You won't have any difficulty making up the difference if you throw in some whole grains, papaya, mangoes, avocados and blueberries into the mix!

It's pretty fitting that vitamin E is associated with being out in the sunshine, because a spinach salad with blueberries, avocados, sunflower seeds, almonds, mango and papaya definitely screams summer to me!

Monday, May 9, 2011

They May Be Little, But Their Needs Aren’t – Common Problems in Childhood Nutrition

They May Be Little, But Their Needs Aren’t – Common Problems in Childhood Nutrition
Sarah Reid, RHNC

A strong nutritional foundation in childhood is the cornerstone for a lifetime of health and a healthy weight. Thanks to the prevalence of pre-processed, cheap and “artificial” food in our modern world, though, the balancing act of macro- and micronutrients is being upset, and unfortunately it is the youngest generation that are paying the price. Often parents are overly concerned with their picky children not getting enough vitamins and minerals in their diet, especially if they have the notorious “picky eater” syndrome. Deficiencies are very real in the paediatric diet and should always be addressed with food first – because the common “cure-all” technique of giving them a multivitamin can cause problems as well.

The most common deficiency is iron. Worldwide, iron is a major nutritional stumbling block for both adults and children. Although developing countries tend to report higher levels of iron deficiency in their populations, the western world is not immune. The Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance Survey in 2008 found iron deficiency anemia in 15% of children under five, and the numbers don’t get much better as the ages increase. Girls hitting puberty are often exhausting their small stores of the element through menstruation, and inadequate intake in the diet (along with low vitamin C, which helps absorption) does not replace it. For children 1-3 years old, 7 mg is needed daily, which increases to 10 mg for those 4-8. Once puberty starts, women need 15 mg daily until menopause, while men need 11 mg. Animal products, eggs, beans, tofu, dark leafy greens and fortified grains are all ways to get this mineral.

63% of toddlers are lacking Vitamin E. An important antioxidant and body tissue nourishment, it also requires some fat to be absorbed. Infants under 1 year should be getting 5 mg daily, which increases by 1 mg every three years until age 9, where 11 mg is needed. Nuts, seeds, olives and avocado, along with eggs, full-fat dairy and oily fish, are great sources.

Staying inside impacts Vitamin D. Vitamin D is needed for the body to deposit calcium in bones and is a key player in preventing bone losses later in life (bones stop being “built” after age 30). Low levels also have ties to diseases, including diabetes. A half hour in the sun (even with sunscreen) allows for a staggering 10,000 IU to come into the body, while a glass of milk only has 100. The recommended amount for children over 1 is 600 IU, so it doesn’t take much.

Calcium can be sneaky. A calcium deficiency will probably not show up until well into adult life, but it is crucial during the formative years. Less than 15% of girls under 18 have the healthy level of 1300 mg per day, even from both food and supplement sources. Beans, shellfish, tofu and dark leafy greens are all excellent ways to add the mineral.

EFAs The right types of fat – particularly polyunsaturated fats – are missing in both child and adult diets. Polyunsaturated fats provide Omega-3s and that helps control cholesterol. Look for fatty fish like salmon, eggs, avocados and most nuts and seeds to get your daily dose.

Fibre is the first thing to be removed during processing. The indigestible portions of whole carbohydrates have starring roles throughout life when it comes to enhancing immunity, preventing gastric problems and keeping a healthy weight. Most people, especially children, just don’t get enough — only 15 g daily — thanks to the commonality of “white” foods and a diet high in fibre-less meat. The absolute minimum intake for fiber should be 14 g per 1,000 calories, or 25 g per day for women and 38 g per day for men. Nutritionists and dietitians recommend 40-50 g per day for adults and 30-40 g a day for children in order to prevent digestive tract disease and later complications from bacterial overgrowth in the colon, which can take years to show up. Load up on the fruit and vegetables, have a vegetarian bean-based dish once a week for dinner, and switch to 100% whole grain bread and pasta to get things moving.

We can never “properly” feed ourselves or our children at all times, but working towards providing a solid foundation of good nutrition makes large strides in the quest for the ultimate goal of lifelong wellness. It is a world of opportunity for every generation to truly live.

Sarah Reid is a Holistic Nutritional Consultant with her company NEW-trition

Eating Candy Makes Life Sweeter for Healthy Folks

The spectrum of healthy lifestyles is so diverse; as with every spectrum, there are most definitely extremes. With healthy eating and exercising, we can probably all think of at least one person who fits the bill for being a health extremist and one who just doesn't give a hoot. You would perhaps expect those extreme healthy eaters to have lower risks of disease, as they likely consume plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, beans, legumes, seeds and nuts, healthy fats, fish and lean meats. Chocolate bars and candy are probably not on their menus. Interestingly, however, they are for some healthy folks, and they're probably happier as a result.

A new study has found that a little bit of candy from day to day is not associated with higher health risks but it is associated with having a smaller waistline and a lower chance of having metabolic syndrome (higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes). It turns out that people who take good care of their health aren't afraid to indulge in a little bit of sweetness because they probably make up for the extra calories by exercising and balancing things out in their diets. In addition, there is a good chance that people with smaller waistlines who watch what they eat and exercise are aware of how much candy might be appropriate for them without being overly unhealthy, so they don't go overboard.

The average candy or chocolate bar is about 2 ounces, but only about an ounce of pure chocolate is associated with better health outcomes. If someone didn't realize this, or thought that all chocolate is healthy and the more the better, they may end up overindulging without even knowing it. That's where the trouble begins.

As with all of these interesting health studies, we have to take a moment to think about the other factors that could be contributing to the results. It is not simply the case that eating candy and chocolate every day makes people skinny as some headlines might suggest. This misinformation is not only confusing but may end up causing people to eat more candy, thinking they might lose weight!

The bottom line is that a balanced diet, healthy lifestyle including physical activity and a little bit of nutrition and health knowledge (reading nutrition labels, understanding what calories mean and how many you need each day) can allow for a greater sense of dietary freedom. If you want a little bit of cake or candy or alcohol, knowing how much is appropriate allows you to literally have your cake, eat it, and stay healthy too! It all boils down to balance.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Coffee's Antioxidants May Keep Cells Healthy

Despite its many noted health benefits, coffee is most frequently consumed as a stimulant to help keep us alert and awake, especially in the morning. In contrast, antioxidant-rich green tea is perceived as a natural health product that might ward off cancer and disease. While this is true, mounting evidence is pointing to the fact that coffee is an antioxidant powerhouse that can be just as good as its leafy alternatives.

Coffee is actually loaded with antioxidants that help protect our cells from damage from free radicals that may cause Alzheimer's and heart disease. Free radicals are unstable compounds that we are constantly exposed to in the environment that high jack the stability of our healthy calls by attacking them. Not many people are aware that caffeine is actually an antioxidant, and coffee is one of the main sources of antioxidants in people's diets.

Thanks to new research published recently, we know that caffeine is responsible for most of the antioxidant activity in coffee. But don't worry if you prefer decaf - there are still plenty of health benefits associated with consuming the non-jittery kind! Try mixing things up between coffee, green tea, white tea and black tea for a variety of antioxidants and health benefits from day to day.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Renee Zellwegger Looking Healthier Post-Breakup

If there's one thing we know about Renee Zellwegger, it's that she loves diets...all kinds of diets. She's eaten 4,000 calories a day to become a curvy size 14 for her role as Bridget Jones, and she's gone all the way down to a very bony size 0 not long after filming, earning her the name 'Bridget Bones'. But this week, she's looking like she's found a healthy middle ground, despite her famous break up with her long-term boyfriend and A-team star Bradley Cooper.

At 42 years old, Zellwegger works darn hard to earn and maintain her newly muscular physique. Despite most recommendations to train 5 days a week and rest for 2, Zellwegger reportedly throws caution to the wind and trains 6 days a week for 2 hours each time! In addition, she's addicted to running and feeling the 'runner's high' by running 3-6 miles (5-10k) every day! Ouch! Watch your knees, lady. Actually, watch your hips - apparently her doctor has warned her against 'running until it hurts', as she tends to do, because she's got existing hip problems. I suppose some people are willing to pay a steep price for vanity in Hollywood.

As you might have guessed, taking diets and exercise to such extremes is neither sustainable nor healthy and especially not realistic for most people! Workouts in the caliber that Zellwegger follows are in fact OK a few times a week, but certainly not 6 times a week. 30-45 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise (meaning you can still have a conversation while performing your cardio) in addition to strength training, alternating body parts from day to day for 5 days a week and a healthy, calorie-controlled diet are all it takes to be in fabulous shape. That's still a daunting challenge, but looking fabulous doesn't come very easily for most people.

If you simply want to be in good health and moderately fit, you can tone that down even more, but sticking to a healthy diet should always be the foundation. From time to time, it is a good idea (and somewhat fun) to look to Hollywood to find excellent examples of what NOT to do for long term health benefits.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Front and Center Grocery Store Produce May Pack More Nutrition

While shopping for fruits and veggies at the grocery store, common sense tells us to choose the stuff at the back of the shelf or what's underneath. Those items are usually the freshest and/or have the latest expiry dates. But now you might have more of an incentive to buy whats up top, or front and center, because it might actually contain more nutrients than the stuff that's buried. Is this real or just a scheme to get us to buy more of the older stuff? Lets see.

Gene Lester, a research plant physiologist at the United States Department of Agriculture in Beltsville, Md was curious as to whether or not those bright, blinding fluorescent lights at the grocery store would have any effect on the ability of fruits and veggies to undergo photosynthesis. Even after they're picked and packaged, plants still contain various chlorophyll molecules, which they use to convert sunlight into energy and nutrients.

In the study, Lester housed bunches of spinach under conditions typically found in grocery stores, down to the packaging and temperature. The difference was that he exposed one bunch to fluorescent lights like the ones found in grocery stores and another was kept in a dark bag to keep the light out. Ultimately, he found that the spinach exposed to fluorescent light, which mimics the spectrum of natural light, contained higher concentrations of folate, as well as vitamins C, E, and K. After just 3 days, the concentrations of some nutrients rose 10-20%, while after 9 days, some rose by 100%.

Whether or not these increased nutrient concentrations are significant is a matter of personal preference, since most people aren't deficient in these particular nutrients to begin with. The thing is, fruits and veggies are in fact better for you when consumed as close as possible to when you buy them, even if buying produce with a sooner expiry date may not be ideal for everyone. In most cases, nutrients start to deteriorate just days after produce is purchased, so be sure to get them while they're fresh!

Eating for One

Eating for One
Sarah Reid, RHNC

So you’ve just had a baby – congratulations! While the new bundle of joy is certainly something to celebrate and enjoy, the bump caused by the little one’s growth is still sitting there. So why do all those Hollywood celebs suddenly reappear as their old size 2? The fact is that those women have an arsenal of tips, tricks and professionals watching their every move and preparing every piece of their diet. They have the time and job necessity to hit the gym for hours at a time, and they have the staff to watch the infant while they are running the treadmill. But the very basis of their postpartum lives, under all the glitz and glam, is as common as the rest of us who watch them – and is perfectly achievable for any woman with a baby on their hip. Adapting a healthy, nourishing diet and moving a little more can even be done with your newborn, which is a great way to give them the “ground-up” love of being healthy. The harder part will be remembering to take time away from it all for you – but it won’t be as hard as their first day of school will be!

Food is always at the centre of losing the baby weight. Used to supporting a new, developing life, the body rightly had demands for extra calories, protein and fat. Though you are no longer pregnant, if you are breastfeeding some extra calories still need to be taken in – after all, you’re the grocery store for your child! And going – or keeping – organic is probably the best way to go if you breastfeed, since studies have shown that children whose mothers had the most pesticides in their bodies during pregnancy and while breastfeeding had IQs 7 points lower than those with minor exposure. Regardless of whether you breastfeed or not, a gradual reduction to your pre-pregnancy eating habits – including lots of water, lean proteins, low-fat milk or fortified substitutes such as soy, and a plethora of whole grains, fruit and vegetables – should be your focus in the store. Look for things you can use to make meals that you can eat one-handed, with minimal “in the kitchen” time, or elements for batch cooking the week’s lunches and dinners. Good ideas are sandwiches, veggies and hummus for crudités, bite sized fruit like grapes, whole almonds and nutrition-packed smoothies – and when you’re on your feet all day eating mini-meals like these might just suit you better.  

Of course, burning off the baby weight is also key, but you have to give yourself a bit of time. Nobody wants you to wind up incapacitated after a 1-hour kickboxing class you signed up for two weeks after coming home! If the weather’s nice, drag out the stroller, bundle up the baby and power walk your neighbourhood. You’ll feel great, free your mind, and you and your child will get a breath of fresh air. “Mom-and-tot” classes are a great way to get moving and get social with those just like you as well, and you might even make a few friends for your child’s later playdates. Muscle toning, especially the abs and back, should definitely be a part of your regime, to help you carry the ever-heavier babe and all their gear. Just be realistic about your weight loss goals – 1 ½ pounds a week is perfectly logical to shoot for, half that while breastfeeding. Remember – the weight didn’t come on in a week, so it won’t come off in one!

All in all, enjoy your bouncing baby and your new (or renewed) status as a mom. You’ve done a remarkable thing by creating a perfect new life in only nine months, and that’s something only mothers – celebrity or pedestrian – can claim.

Sarah Reid is a Holistic Nutritional Consultant with her company NEW-trition