wellness

Why I Love the F Word

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I’m a big fan of the F word – I use it all the time. My kids don’t like it, my husband just ignores it and often friends don’t want to hear me say it anymore.

That’s right … Fiber. I’ve said it and I'm not taking it back. 

But you may be wondering why I am such a fan? 

You see, for years I had the stoggy English diet – think meat pies, scones, cornflakes and heaps of potatoes and gravy and very little fibre.  I was constantly constipated- my stomach stuck out like I was 4 months pregnant; I felt tired and uncomfortable. 

As I discovered the wonderful world of nutrition, and my diet naturally became more fiber-intensive with beans, seeds, whole fruit, heaps of veggies and nuts, these issues receded. However, I continued to find if I was traveling or out of my routine, some of the same issues would come back. 

My hallelujah moment came when I started adding ground flax and chia seeds to my morning smoothie bowl.  It took everything to a whole, new level! 

Now that I've discovered the magic of fiber in the form of flax and chia seeds, I never start my day off without them. 

I buy the seeds in bulk, store them in a glass container in the cupboard, then once a week, grind about one cup of each into a powder and store them in a glass jar in my fridge.  That way, they’re ready for my smoothie bowl every morning!

Of course, I make sure I keep eating all those wonderful plant foods that continue to provide  my foundational fiber source. 

7 Great Reasons for YOU to love FIBER, especially GROUND flax and chia seeds! 

  • Goodbye constipation:  Hello flat stomach! Yes, we need fiber to end our days of constipation, which can have a negative effect on our mood, energy and overall health.
  • Hello Radiant skin:  Fiber helps move toxins out of our bodies instead of through our skin, which can means less acne, rashes or itchy skin conditions and more glow!
  • Yes to Weight Loss: Fiber helps slows down our digestion, making us feel fuller for longer so we are not reaching for those quick ‘hits’ like chips, candy and muffins!
  • Mood stabilizer: Soluble fiber helps to slow down the digestion of simple carbs/sugar helping control our blood sugar levels, so we are not on that sugar ‘rollercoaster’.
  • Heart health: An inverse association has been found between fiber intake and heart attack, and research shows that those eating a high-fiber diet have a 40 percent lower risk of heart disease.
  • Stroke: Researchers have found that a greater dietary fiber intake is significantly associated with lower risk of a first stroke. (1)
  • Gastrointestinal disorders: Diverticulitis/Hemorrhoids: Increasing your dietary fiber intake helps with a number of gastrointestinal disorders, including, diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, gastroesophageal reflux disorder, duodenal ulcers and of course, constipation. (2)

Quick Fibre Facts
Did you know that there are 2 types of fiber?

Soluble

This fibre dissolves into a gel-like consistency and slows down our digestion helping us feel fuller for longer. Found in foods like berries, pears, winter squash, cucumbers, beans and nuts.

Insoluble fiber

  • This fibre adds bulk to our stools and helps food to move through your digestive tract more quickly for healthy elimination. Found in foods like dark green leafy vegetables, green beans, celery, and carrots.

Ground/unground chia seeds:  Mixture of soluble and insoluble fibre

Whole flax seeds: Insoluble fiber only, due to their hard outer shell. 

Ground flax seeds: Mixture of soluble and insoluble 

BRIT BEET Tip: When increasing fiber in your diet such as chia and flax seed, it's best to start off slowly, whilst increasing your intake of water.  Begin with one teaspoon amounts, increasing every 3 days until 'smooth banana-like' bowel movements are a daily experience. (*Note: Fibre can be damaging when there is a compromised digestive tract, so adjust accordingly or talk to a Holistic Nutritionist.) 

Are You Listening To Your Gut?

Did you know that over 70% of your immunity is housed in YOUR GUT (aka your digestive system)?

Confused? Let me explain: Our gut is a 16-24ft long tubular set of muscles that run from the mouth to the anus, and, according to Elizabeth Lipski, Ph.D., author of 'Digestive Wellness', it's a self-running, self-healing miracle, sloughing off and renewing its lining every three to five days. 

Inside is a host of bacteria, comprising 99 percent of the DNA in our bodies! In fact, we have approximately 10 TIMES more bacteria in our gut than cells in our body. A healthy person's gut will contain mostly good bacteria (aka beneficial bacteria) and it's the good bacteria that we need in order to keep our immune systems running like well-oiled machines, #keeping us healthy and vital!  

But that's not all. Having a healthy gut, full of good bacteria doesn't just increase our immunity; it also helps: 

  • control our weight
  • makes us feel happy (smiley face)
  • help us sleep (love that!) 
  • prevent diabetes
  • combat certain cancers
  • lessen the likelihood of cardiovascular disease

Sounds really good, doesn't it! However, there's a catch!  

We can sabotage our gut friendly bacteria if we do any of the following: Get stressed out, eat a nutrient deficient diet, take medications, ingest chemicals, drink too much alcohol, pick-up a bacterial or microbial disease and a number of other factors that are too many to name! Of course, all of us are doing one or many of these self-sabotaging events on a regular basis!  So what we need to understand is that this tips the delicate balance of good bacteria and we end up with a proliferation of bad bacteria that takes up residence in our gut like bacterial squatters. The result:  A heap of long term negative health issues, most notably a significant drop in our overall immunity.  

But before you get panicked about 'nasties' wiggling around in your gut, I have happy news for you!  If we feed our gut with probiotic-rich foods, we can help tip the balance back to the good side. Why? Because probiotic foods are FULL of good bacteria. Actually, probiotic foods are the good bacteria in a jar.  It's that's simple. 

Which are these probiotic-rich foods, you ask? Really any food that is fermented or cultured because it contains Probiotics - aka the good bacteria! These foods have been used for hundreds of years by many cultures  for their health giving benefits - sauerkraut in Europe, kimchi in Asia and yoghurt in the form of a lassi in India: Fermented and cultured foods are gaining in popularity in north America and you need to get on that probiotic immunity train.  Not sure what foods are fermented and cultured?  I've got you covered.  Here's a shortlist of the more common ones at your local health food store:   

 

  • Chocolate (great start!)
  • Kefir (diary or coconut)
  • Kimchi (I love LIVE brand)
  • Kombacha (delicious tea-like concoction)
  • Miso (go for the lighter colors for a mellower flavour)
  • Olives (who doesn't love an olive or two)
  • Pickles (brine-cured, not vinegar)
  • Sauerkraut (favourite lunch addition)
  • Tempeh (more of an acquired taste)
  • Wheat grass juice 
  • Yoghurt (unsweetened, naturally!)

Always opt for glass bottles and certified organic, when possible. Most of these item you will find in the fridge section of your local health food store. 

One final BRIT BEET tip: Since the good bacteria do not stay permanently in our gut, we need to eat fermented and cultured foods regularly. So on that note, how often do I eat them? I indulge in them EVERYDAY and my immune system has never felt or been so strong.  I've even got my husband hooked... in fact he couldn't wait for me to finish this blog because it's time for our daily helping ... someone's been listening to their gut!

Grains ... Are they Messing with your Health?

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Warning: Read This BEFORE You stock-up on those bran muffins!

Do you remember being told what a good source of fibre bran muffins, whole grains, and cereals are?

Well…. That might be true, but it may not be the whole story.

According to a growing number of experts, including Dr. Loren Cordain, a professor at Colorado State University and an expert on Paleolithic lifestyles, humans are NOT designed to eat grains, and doing so may actually be damaging to our gut and our long-term health.

Dr. Cordain explains: 

"There's no human requirement for grains. That's the problem with the USDA recommendations. They think we're hardwired as a species to eat grains.

You can get by just fine and meet every single nutrient requirement that humans have without eating grains. And grains are absolutely poor sources of vitamins and minerals compared to fruits and vegetables and meat and fish."

Ironically, the high-fiber bran portion of grain – a key part that makes it a whole grain and is meant to be so healthy for us – actually contains anti-nutrients.

Two of these anti-nutrients are protein substances called gliadin (it's what gives wheat bread it’s dough texture) and lectins (a built-in survival mechanism by which plants protect themselves from being eaten).

However, both these protein substances can interfere with our absorption and digestion processes and may alter the bacterial make-up in our gut, leading to gas, bloating, cramps and other chronic health issues, such as autoimmune diseases. (1)

So be your best judge.  Do you feel bloated, gassy, suffer from abdominal cramps, headaches, aches and pains or just don’t feel yourself after eating your morning muffin or lunch-time bagel? If so, you may want to stop eating grains and seek guidance from a nutrition professional. 

References

(1) http://scorecard.goodguide.com/health-effects/explanation.tcl?short_hazard_name=immun

How to Go to the Next Level of Living with Performance Nutrition

When people hear the term performance nutrition, they will often confuse it with either sports nutrition or think of it only as something competitive athletes need.  In fact, performance nutrition is for anyone.  That is, anyone who wants to get the most out of life.  You see, in order to get the most out of life, you will need to get the most out of yourself.  Performance nutrition can help you do that.

I define performance nutrition as the strategic planning and tactical use of food and supplements to help you improve both your work and adaptive capacity. 

What does that mean for you? 

Well, having a great work capacity means you will be able to get more done.  Whether in the gym or at work, you will have the energy you need to thrive at a higher level of productivity.  Having greater adaptive capacity means that your body can take on more demands, continuing to be healthy without breaking down. 

For example, with training, it isn’t so much what you do in the gym that helps you improve your performance.  It is how your body adapts to the demands of training that will ultimately determine your rate of performance.  And if you are not adapting to the demands you place on your body, well, that just ends up likely becoming an injury. 

Performance nutrition is a mindset shift in which you focus your intake of food and supplements to help you feel and perform at your best in all you do. 

In my two decades of working with some of the world’s top performing teams, Olympians and business professions, there is a common thread with how most people think about nutrition.  The typical thought process is, "how can nutrition help me look better and loose fat."  This pattern typically plays out like this.  Food choices and dietary planning is focused around changing your body composition so you can look better.  More often than not, this ends up making you not feel good and ultimately robs you of your performance and your health. 

I propose taking a performance nutrition mindset in which you focus on what will help you feel your best, so you can perform at your best.  And when you perform at your best, you will end up looking your best, without compromising your long-term health. 

Performance nutrition is made up of what I call the inner zone and the outer zone.  The inner zone is what you do before, during and after a workout to help your body energize, repair and protect itself for the demands of training.  The outer zone is what you do the rest of the day to maximize your energy, resilience and adaptive capacity. 

Specific strategies that are typically employed when following a performance nutrition approach include determining your energy balance equation, strategic nutrient timing and leveraging the use of supplements to help you get what your body needs and nothing it doesn’t.  

As an example, we can look specifically at the post exercise part of the inner zone of performance nutrition.  Right after you workout, your body is primed for repair and restoration of the energy you expended while working out.  This is a crucial window that your body uses specific nutrients to help build stronger, healthier and more resilient tissues. 

The two most important macronutrients during this post exercise time are carbs and protein.   Protein to help with rebuilding stronger, leaner muscle tissue, and carbs to replace depleted energy stores.  This post exercise window last about 30 minutes but I recommend you take a combination of protein and carb right after you stop training. 

There is a strongly held believe out there that not having anything after a training session will help your body burn more fat and this is a myth.  In fact, studies have proven that maximizing this recovery window with protein and carbs can increase your body’s ability to burn more fat and help you feel better all day long. 

I recommend pre-formulated supplements that are created specifically for this recovery window.  They are more convenient and ready to use without any preparation. 

This is a small glimpse of how performance nutrition can help you get the most out of yourself each and every day. 

For more information visit, www.feelingprettyremarkable.com or to check out the full line of CrossFuel high performance supplements, visit www.mycrossfuel.com

My Favourite Food Stores in Toronto

I'm always on the hunt for that magic combo of quality, variety and competitive prices when it comes to food shopping. I have yet to find one store that has it all! That means I'm a busy bee buzzing from one store to another. Even though it makes for a few more stops in the car than I would like, coming home with bags of healthy food that tick all the boxes feels very satisfying. 

So to save you from doing the run-around looking for the best food stores in Toronto, I've done the research for you. Here are my 3 top current favourites (in my shopping order): 

HERBS AND NUTRITION

Location: Bloor & Bathurst (opp. Honest Eds)
Variety:  Very similar to Noah's except they have a extended personal care section
Quality:  Good depth in the quality of products: organic, gluten free selections in all departments
What keeps me coming back:  The prices! I usually start my shopping here for all the basics, then head to Noah's for the bulk items and finally to Whole Foods for veggies/fruit, fish and meat. Plus it's clean, check-out is quick and they play classical music which is very soothing!

Noah's Natural Foods

Locations:  With locations in midtown, uptown and the core, Noah's is very accessible
Variety:  For small stores, Noah's carries a surprisingly broad range of products, including a small offering of the most popular fresh fruits/veggies
Quality:  The store carries premium products as well as mid/low range offerings for all budgets
What keeps me coming back: They have THE best selection and price when it comes to  organic bulk bin items: seeds, beans, nuts, flours, dried fruit, grains, teas and herbs, to name a few. Plus on the last Friday of every month, they have a 10% sale... it's a great day to stock up! 

Whole foods Market

Locations:  (Yorkville, Yonge & Sheppard & Bayview/Eglinton (sometime in 2015)
Variety:  Pretty much has it all covered.
Quality:  Top quality in whatever you are looking for
What keeps me coming back:  Three main reasons: Meat, fish and produce + 1.5 hours of free parking right under the store if you spend $25 which isn't hard to do!  

Meat

I like to know where my meat comes from and how the animals were treated. WF's have a Global Animal Partnership 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating which I find very helpful when deciding what I'm going to be feeding my family with.  

Step 1:  No crates, no caging, no crowding. No antibiotics/hormones. May be fed with grain
Step 2:  Enriched environment (ie: pigs have balls to play with)
Step 3:  Enhanced outdoor access
Step 4:  Pasture-centred.  100% grass fed from birth
Step 5:  Animal-centred. Entire life of the animal is spent on one farm (not available in Toronto) 

fish

  • WF's partnered with the Blue Ocean Institute (BOI) to independently audit the fisheries which supply their stores and the Marine Steward Council (MSC) only using fisheries that are committed to sustainable fishing practices.
  • Whole Foods Market® is ranked #1 in Greenpeace’s 2013 Seafood Sustainability Scorecard as the retail leader with the most rigorous sustainable seafood policies in the industry.
  • They also have a  sustainability ratings program for wild-caught seafood, through their partnership with Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium.  I can use their color-coded ratings to make informed decisions about my seafood purchases.  I find this really sways my buying choices. 

Produce

WF's offers a wide range of organic and locally grown produce. If you don't like the look of the produce on offer, just ask their friendly staff to check in the back for fresh supplies. 

So there you have it!  Please let me know if you have any stores you find are a 'must' on food shopping list. I would LOVE to check them out. 

Books That Are My Constant Companions

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Books I live by:

Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford

It’s one of my go-to sourcebooks, bringing together current western research on health and nutrition with authentic traditions of Asian medicine.

Fat Chance by Dr R. Lustig, M.D., M.S.L

I had the pleasure  met Dr Lustig at a Ramsey Talk in Toronto. He is such a compelling speaker and a man on a mission. If you want to understand why obesity has become the world’s No.1 health problem and what we can do about it, this book is for you.

Superfoods by David Wolfe

My sister sent me this book and I couldn’t’ put it down. It’s packed with fascinating details on the top superfoods, breaking each down into easy to understand bite-sized morsels of info

Superimmunity For Kids by Leo Galland, M.D.

This book was a constant bedtime companion for me as my boys were growing up.  Easy tips on how to feed our kids to maintain peak immunity, from pregnancy to teenage years. I must have used up a whole marker pen, highlighting all the great info.

The World’s Healthiest Foods by George Mateljan

I’ve used this book so much it is falling apart. A fabulous resource on how to choose and prepare foods for our optimal health. It also has beautiful colour photos, which are really easy on the eye!

The Detox Solution by Dr Patricia Fitzgerald

My detox ‘bible’ - tons of must-have info on how to keep our toxic load down. 

 


Books for Women:

The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Breast Cancer by Sat Dharam Kaur, N.D

This is an invaluable book for any woman who is looking for clarity about breast cancer and what preventative steps to take.  I have yet to find a book that has more in-depth and easy to follow guidelines when it comes to breast cancer prevention. 

A Smart Woman's Guide To Hormones by Lorna Vanderhaeghe

It's a no fuss, no muss book on the basics of understanding how our hormones work and how to get them working for our best selves.   


Cook Books that have never let me down:

Vegetable Soups by Deborah Madison

My son Sebastian bought this book for me and I have had such pleasure recreating Deborah's delicious and nutritious soups. They are always family favourites. 

Meals That Heal Inflammation by Julie Daniluk, RHN

If you are concerned about inflammation and are looking for advice and recipes to make changes, Julie's book does not disappoint. 

Superfood Kitchen by Julie Morris