If you don’t love cooking, maybe we can help to make it more fun for you?
We know that sometimes we don't find cooking to be all that fun. We can get into a rut just like everyone else.
So that's why we've listed our best "fun" cooking tips for you.
Fun Cooking Tip #1
Check out new recipes.
Sometimes just seeing the beautiful food photos and reading the recipe can spark some inspiration and fun in your kitchen.
You can head to your local bookstore. Or look up your favourite nutritionists, chefs, bakers, and other online foodies. Maybe do a quick search on Google or Pinterest to see thousands of new ideas.
Perhaps you have some ingredients in your fridge that are just waiting to be eaten.
Pro Tip: Searching through recipes can be so fun and inspiring, and can also end up taking waaaay longer than planned. So, consider setting your timer when you start browsing. The last thing you want is to take too much time looking, that you don’t leave enough time for cooking.
Fun Cooking Tip #2
Make grocery shopping fun and inspiring.
When you’re at the grocery store, try something that you haven’t had in a while. Is there a seasonal fruit or vegetable you haven’t had for months? What about a childhood favourite? Did you come across something totally delicious at a restaurant or get-together lately?
Or, browse around the store looking for something you haven't had before; something that is completely new to you. Be adventurous and fun. Then you can go to tip #1 to find new and inspiring recipes when you get home.
Fun Cooking Tip #3
Keep it simple!
Sometimes when we see a great food picture, we immediately get inspired to make it. But if we look at the ingredients or instructions and they're too long, we stop. While there are times when we're inspired and dive into a new great recipe; when we're not all that inspired, we need to keep things simple.
A few ways to keep things simple are to:
Fun Cooking Tip #4
Put on some music and invite someone to join you.
Do you have kids that need to learn the critical life skill of cooking? Perhaps your partner would love to join you? What about having a “cooking party” where everyone brings something and pitches in on the process?
Fun Cooking Tip #5
If none of the other tips work for you, invest in some kitchen swag!
Having proper kitchen tools makes cooking so much easier and faster. When's the last time you sharpened your (our bought yourself a new) knife? Could dicing carrots with a dull knife be draining the fun from cooking? Or is blending a smoothie with a crummy blender, leaving it too chunky to enjoy, making you feel less excited to try new smoothie recipes? I know it does for me.
You know that cooking is key to healthy eating. And, yes, it does get boring from time to time.
Try one (or all) of our fun cooking tips to inspire you to get over to your kitchen and cook yourself some great dishes.
You already know your health will thank you.
Recipe (simple and fun): One Skillet Frittata
¼ cup almond milk, unsweetened
1 tsp olive oil, extra virgin
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 handful baby spinach
1 small zucchini, sliced into thin coins
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 handful cherry tomatoes, halved
1 dash herbs and spice to taste (parsley, sage, paprika, turmeric, etc.)
1 dash salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375F.
Whisk together eggs and almond milk.
Heat an ovenproof skillet (e.g. cast iron) on the stove with the olive oil.
To the hot skillet add garlic, spinach, and zucchini. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the spinach wilts and the zucchini starts to soften.
Add the tomatoes, herbs, spices, salt, and pepper.
Pour in the eggs.
Place the skillet into the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, until eggs are set.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Feel free to substitute your veggies and use what you have on-hand. Try diced pepper instead of tomatoes, or chopped kale instead of spinach. Have fun with this!
The odds are that you or someone you know experiences heartburn. Around half of North American adults experience it at least once per month. Somewhere between 10-20% have it at least once per week! Heartburn, also known as reflux, occurs when the strong acid in your stomach creeps up into your esophagus.
It can feel like a burning sensation; hence the name "heartburn." Other common symptoms include bloating, burping, difficulty swallowing, or a sore throat. Often there is a bitter or sour taste as well. Don't get us wrong, stomach acid is good! Stomach acid is essential for good health and optimal digestion.
We need the acid in our stomach to protect us against harmful microbes (i.e. bacteria) that lurk in our food and drinks. Stomach acid also helps us break down our food, and digest nutrients. But we need that acid to stay in the stomach, and not get up to our esophagus!
Stomach acid doesn't usually burn the stomach itself; this is because the stomach is protected by a layer of mucus.
But your esophagus doesn't have that same protection. It has a valve that is supposed to prevent things from going the wrong way (i.e. keep food, drink, and acid down; not allow it back up). And when your esophagus is exposed to stomach acid too often, it can cause the infamous burning, inflammation, and other potential issues.
We're going to share a bunch of tips that may help you overcome your heartburn symptoms naturally. Of course, if symptoms last for a long time, or get worse, it's probably a good idea to see your doctor.
Tip #1 – Foods to eat (and avoid)
You may notice that when you eat or drink certain things, you get heartburn soon afterward. These triggers may be different for everyone; but often include onions, garlic, chocolate, citrus, tomato, mint, spicy foods, greasy foods, coffee, carbonated drinks, or alcohol. If any of these affect you, reduce them or even try cutting them out to see if it makes a difference.
Heartburn might also result from a sneaky food intolerance. Try eliminating grains, dairy, and processed foods for a few weeks and see if that helps.
Now, you may be wondering: “If I eliminate these foods/drinks, then what can I put in their place?”
Try increasing fiber intake. Yes, this means more whole, unprocessed foods, especially veggies! In fact, potatoes may be a great addition to meals if you suffer from heartburn. Try getting at least five servings of veggies every day.
Tip #2 – How and when to eat
Eat slowly. Use meal times to release stress. Chew your food very well. Don’t eat meals that are too big.
And don’t eat too close to bedtime. You want to avoid lying down with a full stomach. We’re talking finishing eating 2-3 hours before lying down, so schedule your dinner or snack with this in mind.
Tip #3 – Lifestyle techniques
Sometimes strenuous exercise can make heartburn symptoms worse. If this happens to you, then focus on low-intensity exercises like walking and cycling.
If symptoms come on as you’re lying down to sleep, try adding a pillow or two so your head is a bit higher than your stomach.
Another interesting tip is to try sleeping on your left side. Lying on your left side works because the valve that prevents the acid from "leaking" into your esophagus is located on the right side of the stomach. So, when you're lying on your left, the acid is away from that valve.
Heartburn is a very common condition where stomach acid creeps up into the esophagus (where it’s not supposed to be).
If you suffer from symptoms of heartburn, there are many things you can do. There are foods and drinks to avoid and veggies to increase. You can eat slower, chew more thoroughly, and don't lie down within 2-3 hours of eating. Also, try low-intensity exercise and sleeping on your left side.
Try these simple, natural strategies. They can help prevent or relieve heartburn symptoms for you.
Recipe (Not Too Greasy or Spicy): Baked Potatoes
1 small bag of mini potatoes
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
Scrub potatoes and boil them until they're soft. How long will depend on their size, so check them by feeling how easily they're penetrated with a fork or knife.
Drain the water and toss the potatoes with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt & pepper.
Place in a roasting dish at 425F for about 15 minutes.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Don’t have mini potatoes? Use large potatoes or sweet potatoes and chop them to the size of mini potatoes.
Let us ask you this: Have you looked at the ingredients on a food label lately? How about a “processed” food label; like famous brands of cookies, cereals, or junky snack foods?
Do you have those ingredients in your house? Do you even know what all of those ingredients are?
There are a ton of artificial, chemical, "junky" ingredients in foods these days. If you see an ingredient called "artificial flavour," what exactly is it?
For the most part, it’s a secret! Seriously! Big food companies don’t want their proprietary flavours to be known, so they’re allowed to say “artificial flavour” and leave the details out.
That alone gets us upset.
But what makes us more upset is what artificial flavours represent when they're in your food.
We're going to give you the real deal below.
Why use "artificial flavours' in a product?
When you make an apple muffin at home, what gives it the apple flavour?
Apples of course! Like real, whole, chopped or shredded apples or applesauce.
But, let’s say you’re a big food company and you’re making thousands of apple muffins every day. In a factory. On an assembly line.
How would you process the huge amount of apples that are to be chopped, grated or made into applesauce? Would you have a separate "Apple Room" where all the apple processing happens? What if one batch is slightly riper, or tastes slightly different from the rest? Will your customers notice a different taste?
Apples are perishable - they go bad. So how would you guarantee the apples won't go bad? (Remember the saying "it only takes one bad apple to ruin the whole bunch?").
And what if you can have an apple flavour that tastes better than using real apples? Something that makes people want to keep buying them every week. It's true - some of the artificial flavours are engineered to give an even better taste than the real food.
Companies will often opt for the easier and more profitable option like artificial flavours.
Artificial flavours last longer and will be virtually identical batch after batch. In our apple muffin example, artificial flavours used to make an apple muffin are ready to go, so you don't need to peel, cut, or worry about apples going brown, or that they're not tasting "appley" enough.
Oh, and it’s way cheaper than using real, whole apples.
Pro Tip: If the package says "flavoured" in the description, then the flavour is artificial. For example, "apple muffin" contains at least some apple. But, "apple flavoured muffin" contains artificial flavour and no apple.
Safety of artificial flavours
While there are some flavours banned for use in many countries, other countries allow them.
There is an approved list of flavours that are accepted to be safe, and are used by the food industry. They are considered GRAS, or “generally recognized as safe.”
Even if they are 100% safe to ingest, the mere fact that an artificial flavour is in food makes it an artificial food. It's not a real, whole food. Having an artificial flavour as an ingredient almost defines that food to be a processed, "food-like product." Sometimes referred to as "junk."
Artificial flavours in food indicate that the food, regardless of the marketing, or health claims, is not a healthy choice.
Big food companies use artificial flavours to reduce costs, make the manufacturing process simpler, reduce waste and even enhance flavour way beyond what the natural ingredient would taste like.
They are not added to improve the “healthfulness” or nutrition of the food.
Artificial flavours in the ingredient list indicate that the food is not going to optimize your health. These processed foods are most certainly “junk.”
Don’t buy them. Make this recipe instead.
Recipe (All-natural): Apple Muffins
1 cup quick oats, uncooked
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup cooked quinoa
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 cup chopped apples
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large bowl, mix the quick oats and cinnamon. Add the quinoa and mix again. Now add maple syrup, apples and eggs, and mix until just combined.
Place 12 muffin liners into a muffin pan. Fill each muffin cup about ⅔ of the way
Place in oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Before baking, sprinkle each muffin with a touch of cinnamon for extra (natural) flavour.
Glycemic this and glycemic that. Does it matter?
You'll notice that they both begin with "glycemic." That's one tip that they have to do with sugars and carbs. Not only how much sugar is in foods, but more importantly, how it affects your blood sugar levels.
In general, diets that are high on the glycemic index (GI) and high in glycemic load (GL), tend to increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
FUN FACT: Starches like those in potatoes and grains are digested into sugar; this is because starch is just a bunch of sugars linked together. Digestive enzymes break those bonds so that the sugars become free. Then those sugars affect your body the same way that eating sugary foods do.
Glycemic Index (“how fast”)
The most common of the two terms is “glycemic index” (GI).
As the name suggests, it "indexes" (or compares) the effect that different foods have on your blood sugar level. Then each food is given a score from 0 (no effect on blood sugar) to 100 (big effect on blood sugar). Foods that cause a fast increase in blood sugar have a high GI. That is because the sugar in them is quickly processed by your digestive system and absorbed into your blood. They cause a “spike” in your blood sugar.
So, you can probably guess that pure glucose is given a GI rating of 100. On the other hand, chickpeas are right down there at a GI of 10.
Regarding GI: low is anything under 55; moderate is 56-69, and 70+ is considered a high GI food.
Remember, this is a measure of how fast a carbohydrate containing food is digested and raising your blood sugar. It's not a measure of the sugar content of the food.
How the carbohydrates in food affect your blood sugar level depend on other components of the food. Things like fiber and protein can slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream, and this can make even a high-sugar food, low on the GI scale.
So, lower GI foods are better at keeping your blood sugar levels stable because they don't increase your blood sugar level as fast.
FUN FACT: Can you guess which food has a GI of higher than 100? (Think of something super-starchy) White potatoes! They have a GI of 111.
Glycemic Load (“how much”)
The glycemic load is different.
Glycemic load (GL) doesn’t take into account how quickly your blood sugar “spikes”, but it looks at how high that spike is. Basically, how much the food increases your blood sugar.
GL depends on two things. First, how much sugar is actually in the food. Second, how much of the food is typically eaten.
Low GL would be 0-10, moderate GL would be 10-20, and high GL would 20+.
Example of GL and GI
So, let’s compare average (120 g) servings of bananas and oranges:
Serving size (g)
GL per serving
Excerpt from: Harvard Health Publications, Glycemic index and glycemic load for 100+ foods
As you can see, the banana and orange have almost the same glycemic index.; this means they both raise your blood sugar in about the same amount of time.
But, the average banana raises the blood sugar twice as high (11) as the orange does (5). So, it contains more overall sugar than the same amount (120 g) of orange.
Of course, this is all relative. A GL of 11 is not high at all. Please keep eating whole fruits. :)
What does this all mean for your health?
Certain people should be aware of the effects that foods have on their blood sugar. People who have diabetes or pre-diabetes conditions like insulin resistance need to be aware of the glycemic index and glycemic load of foods they are eating regularly.
The GI and GL are just two factors to consider when it comes to blood sugar. Some high GI foods are pretty good for you but if you want to reduce the impact on your blood sugar, have them with a high-fiber or high-protein food.
If you have blood sugar imbalances or diabetes, you should probably be aware of the GI and GL of your food.
If you are at risk of diabetes or heart disease, you might try swapping out some higher GI/GL foods and replacing with lower GI/GL foods.
Oh, and try this low GI recipe we have for you!
Recipe (low GI): Mediterranean Salad
1 cucumber, chopped
½ cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed
½ cup black olives
¼ red onion, diced
½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp basil
½ tsp oregano
1 dash sea salt
1 dash black pepper
Place first five ingredients together in a bowl.
Add remaining ingredients to a jar (to make the dressing) with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously.
Add dressing to salad and gently toss.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Add chopped avocado for even more fiber and healthy fat.
We all have some level of stress, right?
It may be temporary (acute), or long-term (chronic).
Acute stress usually won’t mess with your health too much. It is your body’s natural reaction to circumstances, and can even be life-saving.
Then, when the “threat” (a.k.a. “stressor”) is gone, the reaction subsides, and all is well.
It's the chronic stress that's a problem. You see, your body has specific stress reactions. If these stress reactions are triggered every day or many times a day that can mess with your health.
Stress (and stress hormones) can have a huge impact on your health.
Let's dive into the "stress mess."
Mess #1 - Increased risk of heart disease and diabetes
Why save the best for last? Anything that increases the risk for heart disease and diabetes (both serious, chronic conditions) needs to be discussed.
Stress increased the risk for heart disease and diabetes by promoting chronic inflammation, affecting your blood "thickness," as well as how well your cells respond to insulin.
Mess #2 - Immunity
Did you notice that you get sick more often when you're stressed? Maybe you get colds, cold sores, or even the flu more frequently when you are stressed?
Well, that's because stress hormones affect the chemical messengers (cytokines) secreted by immune cells consequently, they are less able to do their jobs effectively.
Mess #3 - "Leaky Gut."
Stress can contribute to leaky gut, otherwise known as "intestinal permeability." These "leaks" can then allow partially digested food, bacteria or other things to be absorbed into your body.
The stress hormone cortisol can open up tiny holes by loosening the grip your digestive cells have to each other.
Picture this: Have you ever played "red rover?" It's where a row of children hold hands while one runs at them to try to break through. Think of those hands as the junctions between cells. When they get loose, they allow things to get in that should be passing right though. Cortisol (produced in excess in chronic stress) is a strong player in red rover!
Mess #4 - Sleep Disruption
Stress and sleep go hand-in-hand, wouldn’t you agree? It’s often difficult to sleep when you have very important (and stressful) things on your mind.
And when you don't get enough sleep, it affects your energy level, memory, ability to think, and mood.
More and more research is showing just how important sleep is for your health. Not enough sleep (and too much stress) aren't doing you any favours.
Reducing stressors in your life is an obvious first step.
No matter how hard you try, you won’t eliminate stress altogether. So, here are a few things you can try to help reduce its effect on you:
Stress is a huge and often underappreciated factor in our health. It can impact your physical body much more than you might realize.
Stress has been shown to increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes, affect your immune system, digestion and sleep.
There are things you can do to both reduce stressors and also to improve your response to it.
You can ditch that stress mess!
Recipe (relaxing chamomile): Chamomile Peach Iced Tea
1 cup steeped chamomile tea, cooled
1 peach, diced
Place both ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Add ice if desired.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can use fresh or frozen peaches.
Inflammation. It’s not just for health headlines.
It’s a fact.
Scientists are measuring levels of inflammation in our bodies and finding that it can be pretty bad for our health; this is especially true when it's chronic (i.e. lasts a long time).
Inflammation has been linked to obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer's, and diabetes, just to name a few.
But, instead of writing all about what it is, how it's measured, and where it comes from; why don't we focus on some foods packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants that are proven to help reduce it?
Here are our top anti-inflammatory food recommendations:
Anti-inflammatory Food #1: Berries, Grapes, and Cherries
Why save the best for last? Perhaps the most amazingly delicious anti-inflammatory foods are a sweet favourite of yours?
Berries, grapes, and cherries are packed with fiber, and antioxidant vitamins (e.g. vitamin C) and minerals (e.g. manganese).
Oh, and did we forget to mention their phytochemicals (phyto=plant)? Yes, many antioxidants such as "anthocyanins" and "resveratrol" are found in these small and delicious fruits.
In fact, berries, grapes, and cherries may be the best dietary sources of these amazingly healthy compounds.
Anti-inflammatory Food #2: Broccoli and Peppers
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains the antioxidant "sulforaphane." This anti-inflammatory compound is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.
Bell peppers, on the other hand, are one of the best sources of the antioxidants vitamin C and quercetin. Just make sure to choose red peppers over the other colours. Peppers that are any other colour are not fully ripe and won't have the same anti-inflammatory effect.
We pack these two super-healthy vegetables together in this week's recipe (see below).
Anti-inflammatory Food #3: Healthy Fats (avocado, olive oil, fatty fish)
Fat can be terribly inflammatory (hello: "trans" fats), neutral (hello: saturated fats), or anti-inflammatory (hello: "omega-3s), this is why choosing the right fats is so important for your health.
The best anti-inflammatory fats are the unsaturated ones, including omega-3s. These are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
Opt for fresh avocados, extra virgin olive oil, small fish (e.g. sardines and mackerel), and wild fish (e.g. salmon). Oh and don't forget the omega-3 seeds like chia, hemp, and flax.
Anti-inflammatory Food #4: Green Tea
Green tea contains the anti-inflammatory compound called “epigallocatechin-3-gallate”, otherwise known as EGCG.
EGCG is linked to reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, and Alzheimer's.
Drinking steeped green tea is great, but have you tried matcha green tea? It's thought to contain even higher levels of antioxidants than regular green tea.
Anti-inflammatory Food #5 - Turmeric
Would a list of anti-inflammatory foods be complete without the amazing spice turmeric?
Turmeric contains the antioxidant curcumin.
This compound has been shown to reduce the pain of arthritis, as well as have anti-cancer and anti-diabetes properties.
We've added it to the broccoli and pepper recipe below for a 1-2-3 punch, to kick that inflammation.
Anti-inflammatory Food #6: Dark Chocolate
Ok, ok. This *may* be slightly more decadent than our #1 pick of berries, grapes, and cherries.
Dark chocolate, with at least 70% cocoa is packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants (namely "flavonols"). These reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping your arteries healthy. They've even been shown to prevent "neuro-inflammation" (inflammation of the brain and nerves). Reducing neuro-inflammation may help with long-term memory, and reduce the risk of dementia and stroke.
Make sure you avoid the sugary “candy bars.” You already know those aren’t going to be anti-inflammatory!
There are just so many amazingly delicious and nutritious anti-inflammatory foods you can choose. They range from colourful berries, vegetables, and spices, to healthy fats, and even cocoa.
You have so many reasons to add anti-inflammatory foods to your diet to get your daily dose of "anti-inflammation."
Recipe (Broccoli, Pepper, Turmeric): Anti-inflammatory Quinoa
¾ cup dry quinoa (pre-rinsed)
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 dash salt
½ tbsp turmeric
1 dash black pepper
2 cups broccoli, chopped
In a saucepan place 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the quinoa and simmer until the water is absorbed (about 10-15 minutes).
Melt coconut oil in a skillet. Add diced onions, turmeric, pepper and salt, and lightly sauté for a few minutes.
Add broccoli and lightly sauté for 5-6 minutes, until it becomes softened.
Add the cooked quinoa and stir everything together.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Add some cayenne pepper or curry spice for an extra spicy kick.
Do you soak or sprout your nuts, seeds, grains and legumes?
Is it to help improve their digestibility? To help increase their nutrition?
Perhaps, it’s to reduce phytic acid?
Phytic acid is naturally present in most nuts, seeds, grains and legumes; it is the plant's storage form of the mineral phosphorus and is used as energy when the plant starts to grow.
The highest levels of phytic acid are found in rice bran, wheat bran, wheat germ, almonds, and walnuts.
Phytic acid and minerals
Have you heard of phytic acid being referred to as an “anti-nutrient?”
Phytic acid binds to the minerals iron, zinc, and calcium preventing them from being fully absorbed when eaten; this is why phytic acid is known as a "mineral reducer."
FUN FACT: Phytic acid's effects only apply to mineral-containing foods in the current meal. Once digested, there is no mineral reduction on any future meals and there is no impact to the minerals your body has already absorbed.
Phytic acid’s health benefits
Phytic acid isn’t all bad - it has some health benefits too.
It can act as an antioxidant. It can also help reduce your risk of kidney stones, heart disease, and even some cancers.
Because it loves minerals (which are metals), phytic acid in your gut can also bind to any heavy metals (the metals we don't want too much of) that may have hitched a ride with your food.
How to reduce phytic acid
As you can see, phytic acid shouldn't be a huge concern, unless your main foods at most meals are nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes. Because many of these are nutritious foods, you probably don't want to cut all of them completely out of your diet.
Considering both the good and bad properties of phytic acid, you may still want to reduce how much you consume. Maybe you want to increase your mineral intake. If so, here are two popular methods to naturally reduce phytic acid:
Why do soaking and sprouting help reduce phytic acid in certain foods? It is because being wet is a "sign" to leave their dormant (dry) state and start a new life. Enzymes activated during soaking and sprouting deactivate phytic acid to use its energy and stored minerals for the plant as it begins to grow.
Phytic acid has a bad rap as a mineral reducer. It's found in nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes. Yes, it most definitely prevents absorption of critical minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium, if they're in your gut at the same time. Phytic acid in food can become a health concern if you are deficient in these minerals, or if your diet is largely based on nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes.
But, if you eat a varied diet, then phytic acid shouldn’t be as much of a concern. In fact, phytic acid does have some health benefits.
If you want to reduce it in your food, you can soak or sprout your nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes.
Recipe (soaked almonds): Almond Vanilla Latte Smoothie
¼ cup almonds, soaked overnight & rinsed
½ cup coconut milk
½ cup strong coffee, cold (or chai tea if you prefer)
½ banana, frozen
1 tsp vanilla extract
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend on high until almonds are smooth.
Add ice, if desired
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: By using soaked almonds, they tend to blend up smoother than hard and crunchy dry almonds do.
You may have heard of the "paleo" diet. It was the world's most popular diet in 2013.
But what is it? Is it a fad? Is it right for you?
Scientist and "Paleo Mom" Sarah Ballentyne, Ph.D. defines it as:
“The Paleo diet is a nutrient-dense whole foods diet based on eating a variety of quality meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. It improves health by providing balanced and complete nutrition while avoiding most processed and refined foods and empty calories.”
The name “paleo” is from the “paleolithic” time when earlier humans (thousands of years ago) were hunters and gatherers. It is thought to represent the era of nutrition before agriculture.
What you can (and can’t) eat on the paleo diet
Of course, being a "diet," paleo has food guidelines. The paleo diet was created to increase the amount of whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods; while reducing the number of gut-disrupting, hormone-disrupting, and inflammatory foods.
But this doesn't mean there are only a couple of foods to choose from! There is a pretty wide variety of food to choose from in the paleo diet.
You can include fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat (including organ meats), seafood, healthy fats, fermented foods, herbs, and spices.
The paleo diet excludes processed and refined foods (e.g. sugar, vegetable oils, artificial sweeteners, etc.), grains (e.g. wheat, oats, rice, etc.), dairy, and most legumes (e.g. beans, lentils, peanuts, etc.).
The paleo diet can be thought of as more of a "template," rather than a strict set of rules.
It’s a diet that seems to be easy to maintain, and with little to no negative side effects. There is no measuring or counting of calories or carbs. And there are plenty of delicious and nutritious foods to choose from.
Many proponents of the paleo diet even encourage experimentation by adding in a few of the (healthy whole) foods on their list of exclusions. High-quality dairy, white rice, or potatoes may be added to less restrictive forms of the paleo diet.
How does the Paleo diet affect health?
Several clinical studies have been done to find out whether there are health benefits of eating this way.
Some of the research has shown that the paleo diet can help with weight loss and belly fat. That alone may be reason enough to give it a try.
Not to mention its effect on several modern-day chronic diseases. For example, it can improve risk factors for heart disease. It has also been shown to reduce inflammation, improve glucose tolerance, and even reduce symptoms of some autoimmune diseases.
It’s also thought to be “gut-friendly” because it includes a lot of high-fiber foods (i.e. fruits, vegetables, nuts & seeds), fermented foods (which contain gut-friendly probiotics), as well as being full of nutritious natural foods.
Who should consider a paleo diet?
Some people recommend the paleo diet for those with food intolerances or autoimmune diseases. Those at high risk for heart disease or diabetes may also be good candidates to give the paleo diet a try.
If you react to gluten or lactose, this diet removes them both by eliminating all grains and dairy.
Even if you don't choose to go paleo, the elimination of added sugars, processed and refined foods can be a goal to move toward.
The paleo diet is based on what hunters and gatherers ate thousands of years ago. It is a whole-food based, nutrient-dense diet that focuses on fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat, seafood, and fermented foods.
Science has shown that it can help some people to lose weight, reduce risks of heart disease, improve glucose tolerance, and reduce inflammation.
At the very least, eliminating added sugars, processed, and refined foods are a great goal, even if you decide not to “go paleo.”
Recipe (Paleo): Banana Muffins
3 large eggs
5 mashed bananas
½ cup almond butter
¼ cup coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup coconut flour
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of sea salt
Preheat oven to 350F. Line 12 muffin cups with liners. In a food processor or stand mixer, blend eggs, bananas, almond butter, coconut oil, and vanilla.
In a large bowl mix coconut flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Add blended wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until combined. Spoon batter into muffin tins, ¾ full. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can top muffins with walnuts before baking.
Oh, the words "blood sugar."
Does it conjure up visions of restrictive eating, diabetes medications, or insulin injections?
Blood sugar is the measure of the amount of sugar in your blood. You need the right balance of sugar in your blood to fuel your brain and muscles.
The thing is, it can fluctuate. A lot.
This fluctuation is the natural balance between things that increase it; and things that decrease it. When you eat food with sugars or starches ("carbs"), then your digestive system absorbs sugar into your blood. When carbs are ingested and broken down into simple sugars, your body keeps blood sugar levels stable by secreting insulin. Insulin allows excess sugar to get it out of your bloodstream and into your muscle cells and other tissues for energy.
Why keep my blood sugar stable?
Your body wants your blood sugar to be at an optimal level. It should be high enough, so you're not light-headed, fatigued, and irritable. It should be low enough that your body isn't scrambling to remove excess from the blood.
When blood sugar is too low, this is referred to as "hypoglycemia."
When blood sugar is too high, it is referred to as hyperglycemia. Prolonged periods of elevated blood sugar levels (chronic hyperglycemia) can lead to "insulin resistance."
Insulin resistance is when your cells are just so bored of the excess insulin that they start ignoring (resisting) it, and that keeps your blood sugar levels too high.
Insulin resistance and chronic hyperglycemia can eventually lead to diabetes.
So let’s look at how you can optimize your food and lifestyle to keep your blood sugar stable.
Food for stable blood sugar
The simplest thing to do to balance your blood sugar is to reduce the number of refined sugars and starches you eat. To do this, you can start by dumping sweet drinks and having smaller portions of dessert.
Eating more fiber is helpful too. Fiber helps to slow down the amount of sugar absorbed from your meal; it reduces the "spike" in your blood sugar level. Fiber is found in plant-based foods (as long as they are eaten in their natural state, processing foods removes fiber). Eating nuts, seeds, and whole fruits and veggies (not juiced) is a great way to increase your fiber intake.
FUN FACT: Cinnamon has been shown to help cells increase insulin sensitivity. Not to mention it’s a delicious spice that can be used in place of sugar. (HINT: It’s in the recipe below)
Lifestyle for stable blood sugar
Exercise also helps to improve your insulin sensitivity; this means that your cells don't ignore insulin's call to get excess sugar out of the blood. Not to mention, when you exercise, your muscles are using up that sugar they absorbed from your blood. But you already knew that exercise is healthy, didn't you?
Would you believe that stress affects your blood sugar levels? Yup! Stress hormones increase your blood sugar levels. If you think about the "fight or flight" stress response, what fuel do your brain and muscles need to "fight" or "flee"? Sugar! When you are stressed signals are sent to release stored forms of sugar back into the bloodstream, increasing blood sugar levels. So, try to reduce the stress you're under and manage it more effectively. Simple tips are meditation, deep breathing, or gentle movement.
Sleep goes hand-in-hand with stress. When you don't get enough quality sleep, you tend to release stress hormones, have a higher appetite, and even get sugar cravings. Sleep is crucial, often an overlooked, factor when it comes to keeping your blood sugar stable. Make sleep more of a priority - it will do your blood sugar (and the rest of your physical and mental health) good.
Your body is on a constant 24-hour quest to keep your blood sugar stable. The body has mechanisms in place to do this, but those mechanisms can get tired (resistant). Long-term blood sugar issues can spell trouble.
There are many nutrition and lifestyle approaches you can take to help keep your blood sugar stable. Minimizing excessive carbs, and eating more fiber, exercising, reducing stress, and improving sleep are all key to having stable blood sugar (and overall good health).
Recipe (blood sugar balancing): Cinnamon Apples
2 apples, chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil
½ tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp vanilla extract
Place chopped apples into a small saucepan with 2 tbsp water. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. After about 5 minutes the apples will become slightly soft, and water will be absorbed.
Add 1 tbsp coconut oil. Stir apples and oil together.
Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring every minute or so.
Add cinnamon, salt, and vanilla. Stir well.
Cook for another few minutes, stirring until the apples reach your desired softness!
Serve and enjoy!
Tip: Keeping the peel on increases the fiber, which is even better for stabilizing your blood sugar.
When we think of "vitamins," we know they're super-important for health.
But vitamin D is special.
It's difficult to get enough vitamin D; vitamin D is, therefore, a very common deficiency.
So, let's talk about how much of this critical fat-soluble vitamin we need, and how you can get enough. The three ways to get vitamin D are exposure to are, the sun, consuming vitamin D containing food, and through supplements.
Why is vitamin D important, and how much do we need?
Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium from our food and acts like a hormone to help us build strong bones. Vitamin D can also help with immune function, cellular growth, and help to prevent mood imbalances such as depression and seasonal affective disorder.
Not getting enough vitamin D can lead to bone diseases like osteomalacia. Inadequate vitamin D can also increase your risk of heart disease, autoimmune diseases, certain cancers, and even death. The "official" minimum amount of vitamin D to strive for each day is merely 400-600 IU. Many experts think that this is not nearly enough for optimal health.
To ensure you get adequate amounts of vitamin D, you can implement any combination of the three vitamin D sources mentioned above on a weekly basis.
How can I get enough vitamin D from the sun?
Your skin makes vitamin D when it's exposed to the sun; that's why it's referred to as the "sunshine vitamin." How much vitamin D your skin makes depends on many things. Location, season, clouds, clothing, all affect the amount of vitamin D your skin can produce from the sun. One standard recommendation is to get about 5–30 minutes of sun exposure between 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. to the face, arms, legs, or back. This should be done without sunscreen, at least twice a week. Of course, we should always avoid sunburns and of course in some locations (and seasons of the year) it's not easy to get sun exposure. So, how can we get enough vitamin D in other ways?
How can I get enough vitamin D from food?
Vitamin D is naturally found in fatty fish, liver, and egg yolks. Some mushrooms make vitamin D when they're exposed to the sun.
Some foods are "fortified" (which means vitamin D has been added) with vitamin D. These include milk, some orange juices, breakfast cereals, and yogurt. It will say on the label how much vitamin D has been added per serving.
Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, you can increase absorption of it from your food if you eat it with some fat (healthy fat, of course). Between sun exposure and food, it still may be difficult to get even the minimum of 400 IU of vitamin D each day; this is why vitamin D supplements are quite popular.
How can I get enough vitamin D from supplements?
It's easy enough to just "pop a pill" or take some cod liver oil (which also contains vitamin A). Either of these can ensure that you get the minimum amount of vitamin D, plus a bit extra.
But before you take vitamin D containing supplements, make sure you check that it won't interact with other supplements or medications you may be taking. Always read your labels, and ask a healthcare professional for advice.
Do not take more than the suggested dosage on the label of any vitamin D supplement, except under medical care.
The maximum amount recommended (for the general population) is 4,000 IU/day. Too much vitamin D can raise your blood levels of calcium (to an unsafe level), and this can affect your heart and kidneys.
The best thing, if you're concerned, is to ask your healthcare professional to do a blood test and make a recommendation about how much vitamin in supplement form is right for you. Your healthcare practitioner may recommend higher amounts of vitamin D supplementation for a short time while under their care.
Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin which; many people have a hard time maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D. There are three ways to get enough vitamin D: sun exposure, through certain foods, and in supplements.
We've given you some ideas how you can get the minimum 400-600 IU or vitamin D daily.
If you're concerned, it's best to request a blood test that tests your vitamin D levels to be sure what's right for you. Always take supplements as directed.
Recipe (vitamin D): Super-Simple Grilled Salmon
4 wild salmon fillets
1 bunch asparagus
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 black pepper
1/4 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp. dried dill
4 tbsp olive oil
Preheat the oven broiler and raise the oven rack. Place parchment paper on a baking sheet and place fish on top, skin-side down. Surround with a single layer of asparagus.
Sprinkle the fish and asparagus with sea salt, pepper, parsley, and dill. Drizzle with olive oil.
Broil for 8-10 minutes until fish flakes easily with a fork.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Serve with a side of rice or quinoa.