by Michele Borboa, MS Nov 14, 2008
by Kate Geagan MS, RD 06/13/2013
Looking for a super simple addition you can make to your diet this summer that delivers significant health benefits? Say hello to hemp.
If the thought of eating hemp makes you a little uneasy, rest assured that the edible hemp seeds you see in the store do not contain THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana). In fact, you should think of hemp in the same way you do poppy seeds – which come from the opium plant.
Hemp has rapidly gone mainstream, available in most supermarkets in seeds, powder, milk, butters and oils. And its impressive nutrition prowess makes it worthy of superfood status. Here’s why:
Hemp seeds are packed with high-quality protein and all the essential amino acids we need. Just 2 tablespoons of hemp hearts provides 5 grams of protein – almost as much as an egg, which has 6 grams.
Hemp is rich in essential fatty acids, such as omega-3 fats, which may help reduce the risk of depression and reduce the clotting factors associated with heart disease. Hemp is also a good source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid that plays an important role in regulating blood pressure and inflammation. Score one more for hemp because hemp hearts offer an almost perfect balance of the omega-6 to omega-3 fats at a 3:1 ratio, making them a wonderful food to include for promoting optimum health.
Vitamin E and More
As with many other seeds, hemp seeds deliver a significant amount of vitamin E, an antioxidant. Magnesium and iron are two other nutrients of note in this mighty little seed.
How to Enjoy Hemp Now:
- Hemp seeds (also called “hearts”) can easily be added to yogurt, hot or cold breakfast cereal, salads or smoothies.
- Swap out 1/4 of the flour called for in baking for hemp: cookies, muffins or pancakes can get a nice nutrition boost.
- Need an extra protein boost before your workout? Try adding a scoop of hemp powder.
- Toast hemp seeds to make a crust for salmon therefore getting double your dose of omega-3s.
- For a summer snack blend hemp seeds, chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and cumin to make a hemp hummus: enjoy with a plate of your favorite sliced veggies.
- Try hemp milk instead of cow’s milk or soy milk.
- Look for hemp oil in the grocery store-and use in salad dressings drizzled on your favorite stir fry. (Note: Hemp oil is a bit fragile, so it should be stored in a cool, dark place).
By Sherry Guastini June 13, 2012
Do you ever feel depressed or disconnected from your daily life, as if you’re just going through the motions? Are your relationships suffering because you feel numb and joyless? Do you forget appointments or events and then wonder why? Do you have a child who seems to cry easily, feel sad a lot or just seems withdrawn?
If so, you are not alone. Depression rates in the U.S. “have roughly tripled over two decades,” according to several studies and reported in CBS News TV show “Sunday Morning,” which aired on March 18. That translates to 27 million Americans taking pharmaceuticals such as Wellbutrin, Celexa, Pristiq, Cymbalta, Lexapro, Paxil, Zoloft, Effexor and Prozac. Studies show that these antidepressants work for only 30 to 45% of people and many of these drugs come with serious side effects such as suicide, violence, psychosis, abnormal bleeding and brain tumors.
There are many valid reasons why people could become depressed, such as the financial impact of the economy, the death of a loved one, foreclosure and abuse to name a few. However, turning to these mood-altering drugs doesn’t appear to offer a healthy solution. In fact, most of those drugs target Serotonin (the feel-good hormone) uptake while new studies show that depression is linked more closely to too much Cortisol (the stress hormone) in our system.
In fact, studies show that there are many lifestyle adjustments that can be applied for free that help to lift our mood from “can’t get off the couch” to moving through our day with a smile of accomplishment. A few changes in your daily routine can make a big difference in your mental/emotional state. Try spending time in nature or with a pet, taking a long walk, moving your body in some form of exercise you enjoy, turning off depressing news reports, finding a spiritual path that speaks to you, mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, meditation, and engaging in supportive relationships.
By far, one of the most disturbing facts on depression rates is that pre-schoolers are the fastest-growing market for antidepressants claims a study published in “Psychiatric Services,” April 2004. What?! The preschool years have always been among the most innocent and joyful times of life! At least four percent of preschoolers, over a million, are clinically depressed. The rate of increase in depression among children is an astounding 23% and is currently escalating, claims a Harvard University study reported in “Harvard Mental Health Newsletter”, February 2002.
Some might claim that doctors are simply getting better at diagnosing depression. I have a different opinion and it involves nutrition or the lack thereof.
Our brains, especially our growing brains, need good fats to be healthy. No, wait a second – don’t run to the freezer for ice cream quite yet! While ice cream is fatty and does taste great it will only make you feel good for a little while…. What I’m talking about are Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s).
Of all of our body parts, it’s the brain that’s most in need of high-quality fats. In fact, the brain is made up of 60% fat, mostly an Omega-3 fat called DHA. Its job is to support cellular communication and when present in the right ratio, it produces happiness while increasing learning and memory skills. If our brains are deficient in Omega-3’s we can experience depression, anxiety and bi-polar disorder. Not surprisingly, Americans are deficient in Omega-3’s. Some reports indicating 95% of us lack enough Omega-3’s to support our brains!
One reason for this is our reliance on processed, nutrient-deficient foods. Ask any kid what his favorite foods are and you’ll probably get a long list of junk foods like Cheezits and Ring Dings! Not only are processed foods lacking in Omega-3’s, but are also high in Omega-6’s that unbalances the ratio of EFA’s and is the leading cause of inflammatory issues.
Once again looking to the past to solve a present day crisis provides a solution. In ages past, we had an understanding that food was medicine. When we return to the way our ancestors ate and include many natural whole foods into our diet, the dense nutrition begins to balance our brains and the rest of us as well! The lowest rates of depression are found in societies with the highest consumption of EFA rich foods.
One of the biggest sources of Omega-3’s is from fish, particularly salmon, sardines and halibut. Wild-caught fish are far healthier than farm-raised. Some people are vegan or don’t like the taste of fish and choose to supplement with fish or krill oils. Choosing a highly purified version of fish oil is wise, as many fish are contaminated with PCP’s and mercury, resulting in a very expensive toxic sludge.
Walnuts are also a good source of Omega-3’s, but be sure to buy them raw for the biggest impact.
Soy is also high in Omega-3’s. However, soy is among the most genetically modified (GM) foods on the market. GM foods contain proteins not found in nature and for many they lead to digestive issues as these strange proteins are not easily broken down. The UK experienced a 50% rise in pediatric allergies the year that GM foods were introduced in their markets. Coincidence? I think not.
Flax seeds are also a great source of Omega-3’s. To access all the nutrition they hold you must be sure to grind them up. Refrigerating Flax is a must because the oil quickly becomes rancid.
Lastly, chia seeds, nature’s forgotten superfood, are so chock full of Omega-3’s they are sure to put a smile on your face! As a nutrition coach, I feel chia is the superior choice for Omega-3’s. They contain 30% EFA’s and the most antioxidants of any food researched, including blueberries. Not only does that mean the oil stays very stable without the seeds needing refrigeration, but it also imparts anti-aging support to your brain and the rest of your body as well. Because the seeds have an extremely thin outer shell (unlike flax) they needn’t be ground, they are completely bio-available. Another wonderful aspect of chia seeds is that bugs don’t like the plant. This means you needn’t worry about herbicides, pesticides, mercury, PCP’s, rancidity or genetic modification.
How’s that for a superfood? Eat some and get happy – superhappy!
Maria Rodale July 6, 2013
We all have those moments–a forgotten appointment, a name we can’t recall, a word that’s on the tip of our tongue. For the most part, these incidents don’t worry us. However, as we age, they seem to increase in significance. We wonder if we’re losing our edge. With Alzheimer’s disease and dementia constantly in the news, we can find ourselves falling prey to a climate of fear that plays on our worst anxieties about losing our cognitive capacities.
Luckily, there are a number of steps we can take to preserve our mental sharpness. Like any other organ, the brain responds to input. Not just mental and emotional input, but diet and exercise, as well. Many of the strategies we adopt to maintain overall health also support the brain. We can keep that mental acuity, and it only takes a few simple brain-friendly habits.
1: Brain-Friendly Food and Supplements
One of the brain’s biggest enemies is oxidative stress from excess free radicals, which are generated by toxins, exercise, illness, stress, and normal metabolic processes, among other factors. Like a lunchroom bully, free radicals (atoms or molecules that are short one electron) take what they need from other atoms. As levels of free radicals increase, one theft leads to another, creating a cascade of inflammatory chain reactions that can damage cells down to their DNA.
Antioxidants can help block this cycle, which is why we hear so much about these super nutrients, and there is a wide variety of sources–foods, herbs, and supplements–to choose from. Blueberries are a rich source and have been shown to protect neurons from oxidative stress. Other good antioxidant food choices are beans, cranberries, artichokes, prunes, and raspberries. Herbs and spices like sage, rosemary, ginger, and turmeric are chock-ull of antioxidant compounds to protect the brain and support numerous other areas of health, as well.
Stock up on foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, flaxseed, raw nuts and seeds, and grass-fed beef. While omega-3s are more often touted for their heart-health benefits, they are crucial to brain health, too. A study published in the journal Neurology found that people deficient in omega-3s had smaller brains and did more poorly in cognitive tests. The researchers asserted that omega-3s reduce signs of aging in the brain.
Vitamin E has also been associated with improved cognitive health. In addition, one study indicated it can help patients recover after a stroke. Vitamin E is also a potent antioxidant. Be sure to look for the natural form called d-alpha tocopherol, often found with a blend of mixed tocopherols. Avoid dl-alpha tocopherol, a form that is synthetic and not well absorbed.
As noted, oxidation can play a big role in damaging neurons, leading to cognitive decline. One of the most potent antioxidant supplements is a botanical called honokiol. Derived from magnolia bark, honokiol is 1,000 times more powerful as an antioxidant than vitamin E and has been shown protect the brain in numerous ways. Because its molecules are so small, honokiol taken orally is very easily absorbed, and even has the unique ability to pass through the blood/brain barrier. This allows honokiol to exert it effects directly on brain tissue. Honokiol is shown to improve mood, influencing GABA and other neurotransmitters that help mediate both anxiety and depression. It also is shown to aid in stroke damage and protect against the amyloid plaque associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Another supplement that benefits brain health is curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric. In a recent study from the Salk Institute, a drug derived from curcumin reversed Alzheimer’s disease in mice. This is not an isolated study. Other research has shown that curcumin influences neuron creation and enhances memory.
Multiple studies have shown a close relationship between exercise and improved brain function. One project found that women over 65 who walked 30 minutes a day slowed their cognitive decline. When measuring mental acuity, the researchers found that the people who exercised appeared several years younger than those in the control group, who did not exercise at all.
Another study comparing activity levels and brain health looked at people over age 70. The more active group was significantly less likely to develop cognitive problems. The study also helped clarify the types of activities that promote cognitive health. In addition to “normal” exercise, the researchers found that simple actions, such as standing up and walking around the room, were also beneficial.
Other research has shown that exercise can actually increase brain size. One study used MRIs to compare brain sizes in people who exercised with those who did not. The group of exercisers did significantly better. Maintaining a larger brain is important because one of the side effects of aging is reduced brain volume, which may be implicated in cognitive decline.
The calming effects of meditation are well documented. However, some research has shown that the practice actually changes brain architecture. Scientists at UCLA found that meditation increases the folding in the cerebral cortex, a process called cortical gyrification, which improves the brain’s ability to process information. Specifically, increased gyrification helps us retrieve memories, form decisions, and focus.
To me, the most striking aspect of these recommendations is their applicability to overall health. Diet, appropriate supplements, exercise, and meditation also benefit heart health, and they can reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome–plus, they simply make us feel better. In the big picture, good practices support health at all levels, forming a foundation for mind-body wellness, longevity, and vitality.
By Kat Tancock
Make these twenty small changes to your routine to get healthy the easier way.
You’re already making healthy choices every day: You never leave home without eating breakfast, you’re diligent about getting eight glasses of water a day and you’ve perfected your flossing technique. But for every good habit you have, a tiny upgrade can reap huge benefits. “Small tweaks can take your health and wellness to that next level,” says Michelle MacLean, a holistic health coach in Halifax who helps people set and reach their health goals. Here are some simple suggestions to get you there.
1. If you’re already unwinding with an evening bath, why not try turning off the lights and lighting some candles to get your brain ready for sleep. “Light is stimulating,” says Danielle Mika Nagel, director of studio development for the Chopra Yoga Centers in Toronto and Vancouver. “Before bed we want to go into winding-down mode.”
2. If you’re already setting your alarm for an early awakening, why not try a gentle alarm, such as the Philips Wake-up Light (from $120, philips.ca). It gets gradually brighter for 30 minutes before the time you set, so you can avoid the stress of an abrupt wake-up.
3. If you’re already chugging water first thing in the morning, why not try adding a squeeze of fresh lemon to your glass of H2O. “Lemon is cleansing and refreshing for the breath,” says Nagel. It also provides a shot of vitamin C and aids digestion.
4. If you’re already waking up with a big stretch, why not try warming up your body by moving your spine in six directions, suggests Nagel. Move your spine forward, backward and side to side, and twist your body to the left and right.
5. If you’re already moisturizing after you shower, why not try using a body oil to give yourself a stress-busting massage as well, suggests Nagel, who uses jojoba oil to stroke her shoulders, knees and other joints.
6. If you’re already enjoying a healthy morning snack while catching up on your emails, why not try closing your email to snack mindfully instead. This will boost satiety and prevent overeating. If you’re distracted when you munch, you are not as aware of how much you’re eating, says Nagel.
7. If you’re already eating salad a few times a week, why not try having a big bowl of raw or cooked greens (think kale, chard, collards or bok choy) on the days you don’t have salad. “They’re packed with vitamins and minerals, and they build bone strength,” says MacLean.
8. If you’re already eating fish every week, why not try boosting your intake of healthy omega-3s by eating sardines weekly too. They’re canned so you can keep them on hand at all times, says MacLean, who recommends Raincoast Trading’s range of wild Pacific sardines.
9. If you’re already doing yoga once or twice a week, why not try subbing in Pilates a few times a month to boost your core strength and keep your body and mind from plateauing. “When a workout becomes monotonous and predictable, your chances of sticking with it are far lower,” says Brent Bishop, a personal trainer in Toronto.
10. If you’re already reaching for the five-pounders in your favourite weights class, why not try lifting heavier weights. Choose a size that is heavy enough to challenge you for about the last two of 15 reps while keeping good form. Your muscles have a good memory. Surprise them with new challenges to avoid plateauing, says Bishop.
11. If you’re already doing Meatless Mondays to help lower your fat intake, why not try doubling your recipes so you have meatless leftovers for lunch the next day or a quick meal later in the week.
12. If you’re already repeating your favourite 20-minute walking route every day after dinner, why not try increasing your endurance and calorie burn by doubling the distance once or twice a week.
13. If you’re already drinking a soothing cup of black tea for your afternoon pick-me-up, why not try snacking on a handful of heart-healthy almonds as well for energy that will last.
14. If you’re already making muffins for breakfast, why not try upgrading to a recipe with more fruit and fibre, and less sugar.
15. If you’re already eating yogurt a few times a week, why not try taking a probiotic such as Align ($40, aligngi.com) every day to boost your healthy bacteria levels.
16. If you’re already choosing whole wheat over white flour, why not try eating a wider variety of whole grains, such as quinoa, brown rice and millet, a few times a week to increase the variety of nutrients in your diet.
17. If you’re already hitting the sack by 11 p.m., why not try making bedtime 10:30 p.m. or even earlier. “The hours before midnight are when you get your deepest sleep,” says Nagel. Plus, getting enough shut-eye is linked to fewer colds and a lower calorie intake.
18. If you’re already enjoying a lunchtime walk around the block, why not try inviting a coworker to join you so you can enjoy a social boost at the same time.
19. If you’re already shutting off screens an hour before bedtime,why not try improving sleep by thinking about your day, suggests Nagel. “Fast-forward your day from morning to bedtime. Shift into that witnessing mode of awareness and let all the events go.”
20. If you’re already hitting the treadmill religiously for your regular workout, why not try investing in a heart-rate monitor to get you out of your comfort zone. “If you have an external device that’s telling you you’re comfortable, guess what? You’ve got to pick it up a little bit,” says Bishop.
By Chyna Smith March 23, 2013
A journey to health should be gradual and fun. If you don’t believe that getting healthy can be exciting, wait until your body thanks you with more energy than usual and great skin. There’s no need to stress about trying to be healthy, because that’s counterproductive to your goal.
All you need to do is listen to your body after you’ve eaten and heed its advice. An instant headache, or the need to take a nap, for example, are all signals that something isn’t right.
Here are a few things to remember when looking for healthy meals or snacks that your body will love.
1. The more recognizable the ingredients, the better. You know when you read a label and there’s an ingredient that goes by “socio-chlor-phosphate,” and you wonder what on earth that could be? Me too. That’s definitely something our body will not thank us for.
2. Leave the fried stuff alone. Most of us have an abundance of omega-6 fatty acids in our diets, found in vegetable oils like canola, soy, and cottonseed, but not nearly enough omega-3 fatty acids found in foods like fish, walnuts, flax and chia seeds. Overconsumption of omega-6 fatty acids can lead to inflammation, which is associated with numerous health issues.
3. Spice up that steamed broccoli with freshly squeezed lemon, salt, pepper and garlic.
4. Dip everything! White bean dip and hummus complement almost any raw veggie.
5. You can still have French fries. Buy the potatoes (or even better… sweet potatoes), slice them like fries, add a little olive oil and your favorite seasoning, and throw them in the oven. Magic!
6. Your taste buds may being saying “yes” to that sweet black tea during lunch, but your body probably disagrees. Try herbal tea sweetened with honey instead.
7. When in doubt, always go for the brown stuff over the white. For example, if you’re thinking pasta, bread or rice, try sprouted wheat bread or pasta and brown rice. You’ll eat a lot less of it.
8. Season, season, season! Many people complain that eating healthy is boring. Well, I say spice it up! Stock your spice rack with basil, chipotle seasoning, chili powder, curry, cumin and red pepper flakes. This will give you so many possibilities.
The most important tip is to be committed to loving and caring for yourself at all cost. We all have those days when we desire food that’s less than ideal for our health. Make that conscious decision and vow to have a better day tomorrow. You deserve to be in a state of health where motivation, alertness, and clarity are all the norm. Think about it, then eat it.
BY SARA COURTER JUNE 11, 2013
“I eat a healthy, plant-based, balanced diet, so why do I need to take supplements?”
I know, I know. I was singing the same tune myself not so long ago. There’s no definitive answer, as every body is vastly unique, and there are many people who can get away with taking no supplements at all. The truth, though, is that we’re all quite deficient in certain areas without evening knowing it.
There are two “golden supplements” that I personally recommend in addition to a plant-based, intuitive eating plan.
- A high-quality fish oil (or vegan alternative).
- A high quality probiotic.
“I eat fish, why do I need to take fish oil?”
The answer is that a high-quality fish oil supplement provides concentrated, clean nutrition that supports healthy cholesterol levels, eye health, cardiovascular health and joint health, to name a few.
I’m not going to recommend a particular fish oil because, again, our bodies are different as are our budgets and physical needs. What I will give you are some MUSTS in terms of selecting a fish oil supplement:
Third Party-Tested Product (preferably IFOS, International Fish Oil Standards, tested). This guarantees that the fish oil you’re consuming is pure, and that the peroxide, anisidine, PCBs, heavy metals, lead and mercury levels, among other things, have been tested and deemed low or practically nonexistent.
Concentration. Check the labels. Do you need to take five capsules of one brand to get the same amount of omega-3s you’d get in one capsule from another brand? The labels are tricky. All in all, you end up getting the same bang for your buck but with a lower quality product. So investigate the numbers and don’t be afraid to hound the health food store staff with your questions!
Enteric Coated. Having an enteric coating on your fish oil capsules ensures that the supplement will make it into the intestines, where it can be assimilated by the body. This coating protects our stomach acid from dissolving the capsule before it ever makes it to the small intestine. Without this coating the capsule is obliterated by the body’s powerful stomach acids and you’re not only losing out on the nutrients, but you’re wasting your money!
Ok, so we have fish oil covered. Now, why take a probiotic?
It’s simple. To improve digestive health. Probiotics are known to support the immune system, yeast balance, and balance ailments such as constipation, indigestion, gas, bloating, yeast infections, candida and the side effects of antibiotics.
Eighty percent of our immune support resides in our gut. There are three times the number of bacteria in our tummy alone (trillions) than there are cells in our entire body!
So, how do you go about choosing a probiotic?
First and foremost, there are shelf-stable probiotics and there are refrigerated probiotics. Typically, the difference in these two is potency. Refrigerated probiotics will have higher potency, typically 5-200 billion CFUs (colony-forming units), while shelf-stable probiotics will offer anywhere from 1-10 billion CFUs.
When you look at the plethora of toxins many of us have been exposed to through food, medication and environment throughout our lifetime, we can really use all the digestive support we can get. Even the most health-conscious clean eater would benefit immensely from the lowest strain probiotic. Proper digestion is truly the key to our overall health.
When selecting a probiotic to help balance your digestive health, be on the lookout for these MUSTS:
- Guaranteed potency THROUGH the expiration date.
- High CFU (colony-forming units).
- Multiple strains (the more L’s, Lactobacillus strains, and more B’s, Bifidobacterium strains, the better).A good recommendation for someone on a tight budget would be to splurge on a refrigerated, high-potency probiotic to jumpstart the digestive system, then transition to a less expensive, but still high quality (potentially shelf-stable) probiotic for maintenance. Again, this depends entirely on your own body and needs.