Lunch in a jiffy!

 

For those days when you literally only have 5 minutes to grab a healthy meal. Grab an avocado, a tomato, a can of tuna, and with a couple of your fav condiments, you are done! 

In addition to its high percentage of monounsaturated fat, avocado offers other unique fat qualities. It provides us with phytosterols including beta-sitosterol, campesterol, and stigmasterol. This special group of fats has been shown to provide important anti-inflammatory benefits to our body systems, including our cardiovascular system. Along with good fibre content, it also improves conversion of beta-carotene in the tomato into active vitamin A.

Tuna provides some healthy Omega 3 fats, which are also anti-inflammatory, and which our cells need to function optimally. 

  • 1/2 can tuna, packed in water
  • 1 small tomato
  • 1 small avocado (or half large)
  • salt/pepper
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  1. Mix the tuna with some olive oil, lemon juice, and pepper first, then transfer to a plate and add the tomato and olive oil. Alternatively, put everything on the plate first and simply drizzle olive oil and lemon juice over top and finish with salt and pepper.

Slow Cooker Pepper Steak

One of my favorite childhood meals was pepper steak! I enjoyed the sweet and spicy combo, and it was a welcome break from the “meat and potato” suppers that dominated our household. In order for it to remain in my current meal repertoire, I needed to give it a makeover…ketchup and brown sugar be gone!  I’m sharing my remake since my husband, who is not a fan of stew-style dishes, loved it!  Some recipes do this dish in a wok, but I love slow cooker meals on weekdays. Either way, it’s yum!

  • 2 lbs round steak* (cut diagonally across the grain into thin strips (sirloin or stew beef works too))
  • 2 bell peppers (any color, thinly sliced)
  • 1 cup onion (sliced into 1/2 inch wedges)
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions (for garnish)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger or 3/4 tsp dried
  • 3-4 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1 cup organic beef bouillon (low sodium)
  • ¼ cup gluten-free soy or tamari sauce ( )
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (you can sub with cider vinegar)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca or arrowroot starch (Rebooters, use 1/2 tablespoon coconut flour )
  1. In a bowl combine ginger, garlic, bouillon, soy sauce, vinegar, and black pepper. Set aside.
  2. Place about ½ of the steak strips at the bottom of the slow cooker, top with sliced bell peppers and onions, and remaining steak. **

  3. Pour liquid mixture over meat.
  4. Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours, until meat is tender and cooked.

  5. About 30 minutes before serving, in a small bowl whisk together four tablespoons of cold water and starch or coconut flour. Set the slow cooker on high (if it isn’t already) and pour the thickener into the pot, stir, then cover and cook another 30 minutes or until ready to serve.

  6. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve over rice (or cauli or zucchini rice if on a Reboot) and garnish with sesame seeds and scallions.

*Grass-fed beef is higher in healthy Omega 3 fats, so I recommend it where possible.

** If you are able to add the peppers in about halfway, that is ideal. They won’t be as soft. If you are at work all day, then adding them in with the meat is the only option (but know they will be soft, not crunchy).

Adapted from: https://www.theironyou.com/2017/09/crock-pot-pepper-steak.html

Grilled Eggplant and Sun-dried Tomato Salad

 

Tired of the same old green salads?  This recipe should be called the Super Simple Summer Salad! Grilled eggplant, sun-dried (or fresh) tomatoes, fresh basil, red onion, arugula and olive oil = mediterranean magic! I was transported back to my travels in Italy and Greece. Make it today (and devour it tomorrow, as it requires an overnight to really develop the flavour). 

  • – 1 large eggplant (sliced into 1" thick pieces)
  • – 4 ounces sun dried tomatoes in olive oil
  • – ¼ cup fresh basil leaves (chopped)
  • – 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • – 4 cups arugula (washed and spun dry)
  • – ¼ red onion (sliced thinly)
  1. – Preheat grill and cook eggplant 10-15 minutes flipping every few minutes and keeping a close eye to prevent charring (will be on the crisp side).
  2. – Remove eggplant and let sit until cool enough to handle.
  3. – Place tomato (if using sun-dried; if using fresh, wait until right before serving to add), basil and oil in food processor.
  4. – Whiz until coarsely chopped.
  5. – Place in glass or ceramic bowl and stir eggplant in and cover tightly.
  6. – Chill overnight; remove from refrigerator 10 – 15 minutes before serving on top of arugula, with onion on top of that as a starter or add your favorite protein to create a full meal.

Recipe credit: www.paleoista.com

*Not suitable for those avoiding nightshades. 

Gut Lovin’ Chocolate Chip Cookies

Can a classic cookie be low carb, low sugar and still delightful? You bet! Theses flour-free cookies are made with almonds, so you already benefit from fewer carbs and more protein and healthy fat. The clincher is, almonds are a prebiotic (they feed the good bacteria in your gut). Very low in sugars, which feeds the wrong bacteria in your intestines. I used Lakanto, made from monkfruit. It can replace up to half the sugar called for in a recipe without affecting flavor, yet it is zero net carbs. (Whole Foods should carry it, or your health food store can order it for you, or buy on Amazon!) Using coconut oil or grass-fed butter are both beneficial fats for gut health as well. Bet you can’t eat just one!

Gut Lovin' Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 cups almond meal (or almond flour)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil or grass-fed butter (softened or melted)
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup Lakanto or coconut sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup Enjoy Life dark chocolate chips (this brand is free of allergens)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda.
  3. In separate bowl mix the butter/coconut oil, egg and vanilla extract, add to the dry ingredients and stir well. Dough should be easy to form. If you need to add a teaspoon or so of water, do so.
  4. Fold in the chocolate chips, then form balls using a tablespoon’s worth of dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  5. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes, or until tops start to brown. Allow to cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then serve or store in fridge or freezer.

(adapted from recipe by Wellness Mama)

Ultimate Guide to Buying Yogurt

Yogurt…a staple of many daily diets here in Canada and abroad. It is considered a nutritious food choice, and it is, if you know what to look for and what to avoid.

Most commercially made yogurts today are little more than liquid candy; full of sugar (or just as bad, artificial sweeteners), artificial colors and flavors, thickeners, and more; essentially a chemical sh$t storm… While they’re supposed to contribute healthy bacteria to your gut flora, these nasty ingredients can actually have the opposite effect.(1, 2, 3)

Adding to the confusion is a mind-boggling array of yogurt styles to choose from; low-fat, low calorie, Greek, Skyr, Balkan, probiotic, and more.

I promise, by the end of this blog you’ll be navigating the yogurt aisle like a nutritionist! It’s not as complicated as it seems.

What is Real Yogurt?

The only ingredients required to make yogurt are milk (or cream, or both) and live bacterial culture. That’s it, that’s all! These are left to ferment for different periods of time, from 4 – 24 hours, depending on the type of yogurt being made and the ethics of the food manufacturer…some choose profit over integrity…gasp!! 

During the fermentation period, the bacterial culture breaks down the naturally occurring sugar in milk (lactose) into lactic acid, which causes the yogurt to taste sour. The breakdown of lactose explains why some folks with lactose intolerance can tolerate yogurt, particularly those which have been fermented longer.  

Since this is a long blog (there’s ALOT to say about yogurt!),  I’m unveiling my top picks for best yogurts, rank-ordered, right at the outset:

  1. Grass-fed, organic, whole-milk yogurt,
  2. Organic, whole-milk yogurt,
  3. Conventional whole-milk yogurt     

But I encourage you to read through for the why; why grass-fed, why organic, and why/what the heck is whole milk. 

Plus, you’ll find a mini-checklist and a yummy recommendation! If you’re dairy-free, my Mini-Checklist for Buying Yogurt will still be helpful for you. 

Types of Yogurt

Standard/regular Yogurt – the vast majority of yogurts in the grocery stores today will fall here, in the category of “Junk Food Disguised as Health Food”. Now that you know the only 2 ingredients required to make yogurt, check out the ingredient list from this peach flavoured yogurt from Yoplait:

Pasteurized Grade A Low Fat Milk, Sugar, Modified Corn Starch. Contains 1% or less of: Kosher Gelatin, Citric Acid, Natural Flavor, Potassium Sorbate Added to Maintain Freshness, Annatto Extract (for color), Yogurt Cultures (L. bulgaricus, S. thermophilus, L. acidophilus), Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3.

It’s labeled as “Low Fat” (as if that’s a good thing!), but I guess that kind of makes up for the whopping 30 grams of sugar per serving!! For reference, 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar. You do the math.

In addition to standard yogurt products, there are “specialty” yogurts. As you’ll see, it doesn’t mean they’re any better.

Greek Yogurt: Greek yogurt differs from standard yogurt in that it is strained. Straining  removes the liquid whey, as well as some of the lactose, salt and water, leaving behind a thicker yogurt which is higher in protein and also usually lower in sugar (and therefore, carbohydrates). Sounds like a great option, but scanning the nutritional label is vital. Remember my point about food companies chasing profit first?

As a side note, if you are eco and/or agri-conscious, you might like to know that every cup of Greek yogurt takes up to three cups of milk to make, which results in a lot of wasted product, which then needs to then be disposed of. Compare this to standard yogurt, where the ratio of milk to yogurt is 1:1. (4)

Icelandic/Skyr Yogurt: As its name implies, this is Iceland’s traditional way to ferment milk. Like greek yogurt, skyr is strained (whey is removed), so the protein content is, again, higher than standard yogurts and it’s consistency is thick and curdy. It is naturally a non-fat yogurt made with skim milk and active bacterial cultures. Some skyr producers add cream back into the product to up the fat content (due to consumer demand or different taste…not sure…).

Like greek yogurt, it takes 4 times as much milk to make one cup of skyr as compared to regular yogurt. (5)

Balkan-Style: Balkan-style yogurt is made in small individual batches rather than in large vats. Warm cultured milk is poured into containers then incubated without any further stirring, giving it it’s characteristically thick texture.

Probiotic Yogurt: The sheer numbers of friendly bacteria within the human body and their central role in virtually all aspects of our well-being is the talk in all health circles today, as the science keeps stacking up. (7) Along with being a balanced source of protein, fats, and carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals (especially calcium), yogurt offer us a tasty, convenient way to replenish our gut microbes.

Culturing (fermentation) time, temperature, and microorganisms added to the milk all play a part in determining probiotic outcomes in a yogurt.

These will differ between food companies, so to keep things simple for you:

  •  Search out a yogurt that contains “live” or “active” cultures, because some yogurts can be heat-treated after the bacteria has been added.
  • The higher the probiotic count (expressed as CFU’s), the better (provided it’s without added sugar and other junk ingredients)!

In Canada, all yogurts must be made with the strains; lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophilus. Some manufacturers add in additional strains.

Most commercially made yogurts are estimated to provide up to 300,000 live bacteria per serving, an amount too low to provide health benefits. (6A, 6B)

Commercial yogurt brands whose products offer greater numbers of bacteria will typically promote this on their labels. I commonly see labels stating the product contains one billion CFUs.  A select few have tested consumer interest in a higher CFU containing yogurt. For example, DanActive (Danone) and BioBest Maximmunité (Astro) offer up 10 billion live bacteria per serving. This may sound like alot but in my practice that is the minimum I look for in a probiotic supplement. 

Theoretically, these would be a great choice. But remember to check that ingredient list – it’s a better indicator of how nourishing a food is. What good will those extra probiotics do for you if they come with massive amounts of sugar and other non nutrients which disrupt the balance of your gut flora and your metabolic health?!

Besides, if probiotic benefit is the main reason you eat yogurt, look to kefir my friends! You’ll get a greater variety of strains (as high as 32!!) to complement your existing tribe of microbes, and a longer fermentation period allows those good guys to keep on multiplying.

Low-Fat / Low-Calorie: I’ll lump these into one since they’re both targeting dieters, and they’re both so very problematic! First, any yogurt that is missing fat and/or carbohydrates typically has a long list of junk ingredients to make up for those missing macronutrients, and the unbeatable taste and texture they provide.

Second, observational studies have concluded that “diet yogurts” are not associated with a reduced risk of obesity. (8)

Did you know that fat and sugar substitutes, including artificial sweeteners, may actually diminish weight-loss efforts?

The artificial sweetness present in these yogurts may confuse your taste buds and contribute to more sweet cravings. Also, human and animal studies have demonstrated that some artificial sweeteners can raise your blood sugar levels even more than if you consumed table sugar! Bad news, since insulin dysregulation is a big factor in overweight/obesity crisis. (9A, 9B)

You need to eat fat in order to lose fat. If you haven’t heard it already, going fat-free is downright detrimental to your health – read more about that here. If you’re someone who eats factory farmed animal products daily, including meats, eggs, and dairy from conventionally raised animals, consider that the saturated fat present in these products encourages inflammation in the body, so yes, cut back. But why not swap some of your meat-based meals for plant-based meals, and enjoy yogurt in it’s natural state, fat and all.

Frozen Yogurt: Unlike yogurt, frozen yogurts do not need to meet any specific government standards to be called frozen yogurt. Therefore, companies may skip the actual fermentation process, or not use live bacterial cultures at all. Even if they do, the number of live bacteria remaining after freezing is so minute after the freezing that it’s irrelevant. Basically, there is virtually no probiotic benefit in this style of yogurt, and a whole lot of sugar. Best to consider this one dessert. (10)

Ultimate Guide to Buying Healthy Yogurt

In Canada, all commercially made yogurts are made from milk that has been pasteurized (and many have also been homogenized), which alters its natural state, dramatically affects it’s nutrient profile, and creates issues in the digestive tract. (11)

In a perfect world, you would be able to benefit from yogurt made with raw milk, which is far better tolerated and more nutrient-dense. Sadly, raw milk is outlawed in Canada despite being deemed safe, health-promoting, and therefore legal in Europe and many US states. (12, 13) As an aside, I believe the mass consumption of altered milk may be a factor behind dairy being the most common food allergen. It’s also a very common food sensitivity.  

So, what’s the next best option, you ask? In 2014, the Cornucopia Institute concluded that yogurt which was grass-fed, organic, and whole-milk (meaning unmodified milk, so no “modified milk ingredients” such as skim milk powder) was the best option of all commercial yogurts. (14)

There are several reasons for this;

1. You avoid chemical defoamers permitted in conventional yogurt production,

2. You receive greater nutrition from organic, grass-fed dairy. Most notably, there is a better ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids, which is useful in fighting inflammation, the main suspect in an ever-growing list of chronic diseases.

3. Whole milk has naturally occurring fat. The presence of fat ensure that fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) will be absorbed into the body. This study found that calcium may be more readily absorbed in the presence of fat. So when non-fat or skim milk is used to make yogurt, the benefits of these fat-soluble nutrients are lost.

Be sure to buy plain; you can flavour it yourself using a little jam, honey, stevia, berries, vanilla, granola, etc. Most yogurts contain far too much sugar, which actually feeds disease-causing bacteria, yeast, and fungi in your gut.

If grass-fed dairy is not within your reach, but organic is, that’s still good. You’re avoiding the toxic residues known to be present in the products of factory farmed animals which can interfere with our delicate gut flora.

Third place goes to a plain, whole milk yogurt, which still supplies you with decent nutrition including Omega 3 fatty acids, protein, calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin D, vitamin K2, enzymes and probiotics.

To recap, my top picks for best yogurts, rank-ordered:

  1. Grass-fed, organic, whole-milk yogurt: if you’re in Ottawa or Montreal, here’s a local producer, Upper Canada Creamery, whose products are in mainstream grocery stores! I can personally vouch for their yogurt, it’s outstanding! While they’re required to pasteurize their milk by law, they don’t homogenize it, so the naturally occurring fat globules are left unaltered. 
  2. Organic, whole-milk yogurt,
  3. Conventional whole-milk yogurt     

**For those who are dairy-free, the criteria below also apply to dairy-free yogurt shopping.


Mini-Checklist for Buying Yogurt

  • Minimum number of ingredients: Remember, real yogurt should only contain milk (ideally whole, not skim), maybe cream, and active bacterial cultures.
  • Active Cultures: Real yogurt should contain whole milk and live or active bacterial cultures on the ingredients list, this will ensure that you are getting true fermented yogurt and the probiotic benefit.
  • Fat Content: If you’re buying grass-fed, grab the highest fat yogurt (typically 3.25% to 4%) so you can benefit from the higher amounts of Omega 3 fats. All yogurt is a source of another helpful fatty acid, known as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA has been shown to reduce the risk for heart disease, reduce belly fat, lower cholesterol, increase metabolism and more. (15) Don’t forget the other benefits of fat as mentioned above, absorption of fat soluble vitamins.
  • No Added Sugars: Milk contains natural sugar (lactose). While the live cultures break some of it down, all yogurt- even plain- will have some sugar content. Natural plain yogurt contains about 7 grams of sugar per serving, but sugar should not be found on the ingredient list.

Transitioning to plain yogurt can be a little rough on the palate for some, but if you’re wanting to eat foods that nourish instead of foods that rob you of your health, you’ll make it happen!


Since yogurt is a healthier option than milk, why not swap your usual chocolate pudding for the easiest, healthiest chocolate pudding ever?!

One Minute Chocolate Pudding

Mix 1 cup of yogurt with raw honey or stevia, and 2 teaspoons of pure cocoa. Mix well and refrigerate for 2 hours before enjoying.

Like this article? Please help me to spread the word! Thanks so much!

Are Your Gut Bacteria Behind Your Excess Weight?

According to Statistics Canada, an alarming 61 per cent of all adult Canadians are either overweight or obese. In fact, with almost 26% per cent of the Canadian population aged 15 and over considered obese, Canada is among the most overweight countries worldwide.(1)

Those numbers are only expected to rise, so it’s clear that what we’re doing isn’t working. Despite having access to gyms, online workouts and diets of all kinds, we are the sickest, most overweight generation in our history.

We’ve all heard the main causes of excess weight are the wrong diet, a sedentary lifestyle and perhaps some unlucky genes. In recent years, however, researchers have become increasingly convinced that the trillions of microbes which reside in our digestive tracts play a hidden role.

This makes perfect sense when you understand that the health of your gut flora is dependent upon…you guessed it…diet and lifestyle (think eating habits, stress, toxic load, sleep habits, use of certain medicines, and even mindset).

The microbiome does not replace or contradict other long-understood causes of obesity…it is thoroughly entangled with them!

In a nutshell, here’s what John Hopkins University researchers concluded in a meta-analysis of 21 studies, published in March 2018,

“Dietary agents for the modulation of the gut microbiome are essential tools in the treatment of obesity and can lead to significant decreases in BMI, weight and fat mass.” (2A)

Gut microbiota has been found to impact weight in various ways. It is often underscored as playing a major role in the development of insulin resistance and inflammation that is directly associated with excess weight gain.(2)

Scientists are also studying how gut flora regulate genes responsible for energy/caloric expenditure and storage, and their interaction with hormones that make us feel hungry or full.

Here’s a startling finding; transfer of intestinal bacteria from fat mice transforms thin mice into obese ones! (3)

In human studies of twins who were both lean or both obese, it was found that the gut community in lean people was like a rainforest brimming with many species. In contrast, the microbial community in the obese was less diverse, with fewer species. For example, lean individuals tend to have a wider variety of Bacteroidetes, a large tribe of microbes that specialize in breaking down bulky plant starches and fibers into shorter molecules that the body can use as a source of energy.(4)

In keeping with the theory of less microbial diversity as a factor in obesity, Professor Martin Blaser, New York University, has flagged the absence of a particular bacterium, H. pylori, as important. H. pylori has long been vilified as the cause of peptic ulcers. But Blaser asserts that this bacterium isn’t fully understood, as his team has found it helps to regulate appetite by modulating levels of ghrelin—a hunger-stimulating hormone.

The less ghrelin in your bloodstream, the less hungry you feel, so the less likely you are to overeat. Blaser and his team have shown that those with H pylori in their stomachs have less ghrelin circulating. But H pylori, once abundant in our digestive tracts, now rarely makes an appearance. Blaser asserts this reduction is due to hyper-vigilance around germ control (i.e. the overuse of hand sanitizers and antibiotics). (5)

Diet is critical in shaping the gut ecosystem.

A diet of highly processed foods, for example, has been linked to a less diverse gut community in people. As mentioned already, less gut diversity is associated to excess weight.(6)

A Washington University team demonstrated the complex interaction among food, microbes and body weight by feeding their so-called humanized mice a specially prepared unhealthy chow reflective of the Western diet, (high in “bad” fats, low fibre). Mice with microbes linked to obesity grew fat.(7)

Blaser ‘s NYU team conducted another study whereby young mice were given low doses of antibiotics, similar to what farmers give livestock. Interestingly, the mice developed about 15 percent more body fat than the control group. The mice were then given a high-fat diet along with antibiotics. The outcome? They became obese!

These findings seem to reflect the Canadian reality. Most Canadians are eating a “Western diet” and are regularly being exposed to antibiotics, either through medical use or simply through the daily consumption of factory farmed animal products. Could this explain why over two-thirds of us are overweight or obese? Food for thought!

Another interesting tidbit, from our friends to the South. Professor Blaser found that states with the highest rates of antibiotic use also have the highest rates of obesity.

A 2016 article published in the journal, Frontiers in Microbiology, reviewed the negative impact antibiotic over-exposure is having on the human microbiome and our health. In a nutshell, our immune and metabolic homeostasis is disrupted, and that’s bad news for weight management.(8)

Fact: the interaction between diet and gut bacteria can predispose us to obesity from the day we are born! Studies have shown that both formula-fed babies, and infants delivered by cesarean section, have a higher risk for obesity and diabetes than those who are breast-fed or delivered vaginally. Babies who pass through their mother’s birth canal (another bacteria rich part of the human body), and those who are breast-fed, end up leaner and healthier overall. (9)

We’re still light years away from being able to pop a probiotic with the precise strain which will enable you to shed the weight while still enjoying those 3 cans of Coke each day and running around at Mach 3 speed much of the time. Okay, a bit tongue in cheek…

I hope you can appreciate that obesity (or any disease state for that matter) is not that simple. Remember, everything in the body is connected, and it is no coincidence that my clients are not able to lose weight until they deal with their underlying gut weaknesses, which may or may not be evident to them.

So my goal is to get clients healthy to lose weight rather than lose weight to get healthy. Consider trying to grow a lush green garden in a dump. To grow a thriving garden, you need the right foundation. The same principle applies to your gut garden.

How do you grow a healthy gut garden? It starts with diet and lifestyle of course!

  • Diversify your diet. Eating a wide range of foods will encourage microbial diversity.(10We’ve significantly lost dietary diversity over the past 50 years. If you compare the ingredients of the countless packaged foods which line grocery store shelves, you’ll notice lots of repetition. Food scientists create processed foods with the primary goal of creating something you’ll repeatedly buy for the lowest cost possible. Because of this, the ingredients they are using are not diverse at all. Various forms of wheat, milk, corn, and soy dominate.

I often tell clients to mostly shop the perimeter of the grocery store, as most processed, dead, extended shelf-life food is in the aisles.

To keep it simple, Eat Real Food! Stay away from packaged, convenience foods as much as possible.

  • Eat fermented food daily, which are full of probiotics (the good microbes). Here is a blog I wrote which lists common fermented foods available to you.
  • Eat prebiotic foods daily, which act like food for our resident microbes. Here is a list of prebiotic foods.
  • On the lifestyle side of things, consider what parts of your life need your attention. Develop a routine to counter stress. There are so many ways; walking in nature, exercise, prayer or meditation, or anything else that leaves you feeling refreshed and emotionally lighter. Lessen your toxic load. Choose less toxic toiletries, cleaning supplies, and opt for essential oil diffusers rather than artificially scented candles and air fresheners. Finally, get proper and adequate sleep! Enough said. 

3 Ways Wheat Can Hijack Your Weight

It is estimated that 99% of all wheat grown worldwide is either dwarf or semi-dwarf variety. (1) This higher-yield wheat was developed in the 1950s to address concerns with the world’s overpopulation and food shortages.

Since wheat became the global commodity of choice, it has been hybridized (crossbred with other grains and species), and traditional preparation methods have been lost in our industrialization of food.

[box] Make no mistake, the standard wheat products we eat today are vastly different from that which our great grandparents consumed:

~ Wheat flour is bleached (unless indicated otherwise).

~ The “whole grain” (germ, bran, and endosperm) is often stripped away, along with valuable nutrients.

~ Fast rise packs of yeast are used instead of a traditional ferment of several hours with a starter culture (aka sourdough bread), but fermentation is what makes grains digestible!

~ Gluten, a naturally occurring protein in wheats, barley, and rye which gives bread its spongy texture, is now often on the ingredient list. Ah yes, the “if some is good, more is better” mentality!  Except it isn’t better…[/box]

Today’s wheat contains more starch, more gluten, and it alters our intestinal health…all bad news for regulating body fat! (2) This applies to whole wheat products as well.

Let’s look at how each of these hijacks your health in more detail.

1. Starchy Carbohydrates

Grain products contain a particular starch known as amylopectin A. This is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, quickly raising blood sugars and consequently, insulin levels. And insulin is a key driver in weight management. (1, 2, 3)

In his book “The Obesity Code – Unlocking the Secrets to Weight Loss”, Dr. Jason Fung, a nephrologist who specializes in treating obesity, writes “wheat is converted to glucose more efficiently than virtually any other starch….Whole wheat and whole grain flours retain some of the bran and germ, but suffer from the same problem of rapid absorption.” 

This makes sense, since they all contain amylopectin A. Moreover, any food which is pulverized into fine dust will be quicker to digest and enter the bloodstream, creating blood sugar and insulin spikes. Translation: metabolic mayhem and subsequent weight gain.

2. Gluten Galore!

Gluten is the main protein found in wheat and a few other grains like rye, spelt, kamut and barley. This protein gives bread its sponginess, it’s what makes bread soft and pliable.

Dr. Mark Hyman, MD, founder of The UltraWellness Center, a four-time New York Times bestselling author, and an international leader in the field of Functional Medicine asserts, “ The new dwarf wheat contains twenty-eight, or twice as many chromosomes, and produces a large variety of gluten proteins, including the ones most likely to cause celiac disease.” (4)

On top of dwarf wheat inherently containing more gluten, many commercially made breads and bread products add gluten as an ingredient! So your digestive tract is contending not only with higher gluten content naturally present in the wheat flour itself, but with extra doses the bakeries add into their products!

Think gluten is only an issue for celiacs? Think again! Research has revealed that gluten causes increased intestinal permeability in all individuals, not just those with celiac disease. (2, 5, 6, 7)

Bear with me for one paragraph, while I explain what happens physiologically when you eat wheat…After chowing down that footlong sub – or any wheat product – gliadin, a component of gluten which doesn’t get fully broken down in the body, provokes increased production of zonulin. Zonulin is the substance known to act as a gatekeeper – regulating the opening and closing of the junctions between the cells of the small intestine, which is where food enters into the bloodstream. The more zonulin there is, the more open your intestinal gate.

This means food particles can escape from the digestive tract into the bloodstream before they’re fully broken down, inviting an immune response. (2, 5, 6, 7)

So if you’re regularly eating white or whole wheat products, you may be unknowingly creating chronic inflammation, either overt or lurking below your pain threshold. Although the exact mechanisms are not fully understood, we do know that chronic low-grade inflammation is directly tied to obesity. (8)   

Gluten sensitivity has become a recognized clinical diagnosis in recent years; officially known as Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS). It outnumbers gluten allergy (celiac disease) by six to one, according to current estimates. (9) One study found that adult females are especially susceptible. (10)

Gluten sensitive persons can experience a seemingly endless number of symptoms throughout the body, not just digestive issues. Everything from chronic pain, weight loss or gain, headaches, depression, anxiety, fatigue, hormonal imbalance, and more. (11, 12, 13). In fact, a 2002 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine listed 55 different clinical manifestations associated with gluten reactivity (14).

3. Altered Gut Microbiota

Being gut health focused, this blog got me wondering whether any study has looked specifically at the impact to gut microbiota (the trillions of micro-organisms that live in your digestive tract) from gluten. Sure enough, a human-based, randomized, crossover trial published in 2014 confirmed that gluten consumption alters the microbiome. (15)

This is not surprising when you consider that most gluten we eat comes in the form of bread and packaged foods made from dwarf wheat and too much sugar. Both bread and packaged foods are highly refined. They are quickly broken down in your body and cause a rapid rise in blood sugars. Highly refined, simple carbs are the food choice of a pathogenic microbe present in your intestines, known as candida.

Candida is a term that refers to yeasts, or one-celled fungi, which harmlessly inhabit your microbiome – provided there is a preponderance of beneficial bacteria to keep them in check.

Eating a lot of simple carbs encourages dysbiosis, an overgrowth of pathogenic microbes, like candida, in your gut. Again, bad news for your health, especially if you’re wanting to shed some weight. But that’s another blog post.

There’s so many research findings about common wheat’s negative effects on the body, I was forced to abbreviate this post and stick to a few highlights.


Bottom Line: First, everyone would do well cutting back on refined carbs – which includes any grain-based flours; wheat, gluten-free, or otherwise – in favour of whole foods. Second, wheat is proven to create metabolic dysfunction, mess with intestinal function, and disrupt gut flora. Consider swapping some of your wheat-based dietary staples for alternative grains.


Why not cut back on common wheat (white, whole wheat, in pasta it’s labeled as “durum semolina”) and try other alternatives? There are so many options available to you! Common wheat has some cousins (i.e. spelt, kamut, red fife, and einkorn). There are also a multitude of gluten-free grains and grain-like seeds such as teff, millet, quinoa, brown rice, wheat-free oats, sorghum, amaranth, buckwheat (wheat and gluten-free) to name a few.

Look for sprouted or sourdough versions of those breads, which allows for easier digestion. For those who consider glycemic impact of their meals, sprouted breads have the lowest glycemic response. (16)

Before grabbing the first loaf of sprouted bread you see, be sure to read the ingredient list! Store-bought breads that claim to be sprouted or sourdough will most likely contain a number of other undesirable additions. All you really need in a bread is the flour, some water, and a leavening agent (sourdough or yeast). Local bakers are your best bet.

If you’d like to read further on how wheat is thought to be addictive, it’s impact on the brain, and on LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind of cholesterol), head over to Healthline’s blog.

Like this post? Please share it – let’s ALL be well! 

References

1. Dr J Fung, “The Obesity Code – Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss.”, Greystone Books, 2016.

2. Dr J Axe, “Eat Dirt – Why Leaky Gut May be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and 5 Surprising Steps to Cure It.” Harper Wave, 2016

3. Dr M Hyman, “The Blood Sugar Solution: The Bestselling Programme for Preventing Diabetes, Losing Weight and Feeling Great.” Hodder & Stoughton, May 24, 2012

4. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/wheat-gluten_b_1274872.html

5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16635908

6. http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/7/3/1565/htm

7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3384703/

8.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2952901/

9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3292448/?report=classic

10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24885375/

11. drhyman.com/blog/2012/02/22/how-hidden-food-sensitivities-make-you-fat/

12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24885375/

13. https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-gluten

14. Farrell, RJ, and CP Kelly. 2002. Celiac sprue, New England Journal of Medicine 346 (3): 180-88 Review

15. https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/two-randomized-crossover-trials-assessing-the-impact-of-dietary-gluten-or-wholegrain-on-the-gut-microbiome-and-host-metabolic-health-2167-0870.1000178.php?aid=30184

Orange Gut Blaster!

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Old Man Winter loves to dole out some harsh weather here in Ottawa, which is why my husband and I love to escape to the sun, sand, and ocean every winter. In a matter of days I’ll be doing sun salutations (yoga lovers know these well!) on the beach, so my thoughts are currently on immune support.

In 2006 I was knocked off my feet for 2 days with a horrible stomach bug while I should have been out touring Turkey, and I hope to never repeat that experience!

Enter “immunity foods”, and this lovely sweet potato and orange based smoothie!

Good for those of us in travel mode, but equally good for those of us toughing it out here in Canada, while wanting to avoid colds and flu.

This beverage is loaded with two immune supportive vitamins; A and C, thanks to the oranges and sweet potato. Plus it contains not one, not two, but THREE spices which fight inflammation, along with the coconut milk. Weight loss seekers take note! Dr Barry Sears, a medical authority on the subject of low-grade inflammation, states: “…chronic low-level cellular inflammation that is below the perception of pain….  is the driving force in the development of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes” (1)).

Another benefit of sipping on some sweet potato is its prebiotic fibre – which is what feeds the good guys in your microbiome. Did you know that 70-80 % of your immune tissue is based in your gut? (2) So a healthy microbiome will support healthy immune function.

You can tweak this recipe as much as you like, you really can’t go wrong with this one. Add extra ginger for some more body…throw in some yogurt or kefir for a probiotic punch…increase protein content with some hemp seed …make it sweeter with a dash of honey, maple syrup or stevia (for weight loss seekers) or simply combine, blend, devour as is!

Orange Gut Blaster Smoothie

Ingredients

1 Sweet potato, cooked

1 Banana (frozen)

1/2 tsp Turmeric

1/4 tsp Cinnamon and ginger

1.5 tablespoons Ground flax

1 Navel oranges, peeled and sectioned*

1/2 cup full fat canned coconut milk**

1/4 cup water and/or a few ice cubes

Directions

Toss everything into a high speed blender and blend until smooth.

*If you own a regular blender, and you find it doesn’t fully pulverize the white membrane on the orange sections, try using a little orange juice instead.

**The coconut milk should be organic ideally, to avoid extra additives which can irritate the gut lining.

 

 

 

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Green Detox Soup (to Start the New Year)!

 

I love the start of a new year! I love the sense of hope it brings, the idea of starting fresh, and pondering what aspect of my life I will work on in the coming year. This is the time of year many people decide to make health a priority, be it exercising more, stressing less, modifying their diet, or all of the above. If you’re one of them, I have this piece of advice on the diet front; In order to jumpstart your body’s natural detoxification pathways after a few weeks of over-indulgence, this soup is your answer! 

When I stumbled across it on sproutedroots.com, I was thoroughly impressed with its long list of detoxification enhancing foods: It contains two powerful members of the cruciferous family, kale and broccoli, which increase the amount of glucosinate in your system. Glucosinate helps rev up your liver, your main detox organ. Cilantro and parsley, both left in their raw form, contain blood purifying chlorophyll and assist in the removal of heavy metals. Garlic, left mostly raw, is one of the most powerful immune boosters on the planet, with antibacterial and antiviral properties. A load of onions deliver 2 specific phytonutrients (allium and allyl disulphide) which convert to allicin when the bulb is cut. Onions also deliver a good dose of quercetin. Studies show these 3 compounds to have cancer and diabetes-fighting properties. Lemons also assist in liver function. In fact, their peels contain components known as salvestrol Q40, flavonoids, and limonene, which are known to fight against cancerous cells in the body! 

So, with all of these incredible health benefits, let’s dive in, shall we?!

  • 3 medium or 2 large yellow onions (peeled and roughly chopped)
  • 1 zucchini (washed but not peeled, and roughly chopped)
  • 10 leaves kale (roughly chopped (leave out stems if you don’t own a high speed blender))
  • 1 head broccoli (roughly chopped (leave out stems if you don’t own a high speed blender))
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (ideally homemade or organic)
  • 1 head garlic (cloves peeled and minced)
  • ½ cup packed cilantro
  • ½ cup packed parsley
  • Juice and peel (thinly grated of 1 lemon)
  • 3 tbsp raw (unrefined coconut oil)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  1. In a large pot, heat coconut oil over medium-high until warm. Add onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add zucchini, kale and broccoli and cook for 5 additional minutes.
  3. Pour in vegetable stock and bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes or until broccoli is easily pierced with fork.
  4. Turn off heat and add garlic, then let cool, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
  5. Working in batches if necessary, blend with cilantro, parsley, lemon and sea salt until very smooth.

(Slightly adapted from www.sproutedroutes.com)

Survive Holiday Indulgences – 6 Tips!

Tis the season for overindulgence! Without even realizing it, most of us tend to take in far more calories, in the form of sugar, alcoholic beverages, and other simple carbohydrates, this time of year. This translates into digestive distress, energy deficits, extra weight, imbalanced gut flora, extra aches and pains etc. No wonder we all feel so drained come January 1!

Below are some pointers for surviving holiday festivities:

  1. Eat pre-event! A meal with fibre, healthy fat and protein will fill keep you fuller, longer so you’ll have less room to sample too many treats.
  2. Drink an elixir of raw apple cider vinegar and water (up to 1 tablespoon to 1 cup water) a few minutes before heading out to the event. This helps wake up your stomach’s own gastric secretions, to help you digest better. It has also been shown to prevent the typical spike in blood sugar that happens after we eat refined carbs such as breads, crackers, and cookies. That is, it helps offset the negative metabolic consequences of refined carbs! (Avoid if you are diagnosed with hyperchlorhydria, or high stomach acidity)
  3. For your biggest holiday meals, consider using digestive enzymes. Our bodies naturally release enzymes to help us digest our food. But any big meal will be too much for your system to handle. Find a good quality brand of digestive enzymes at your local health food store to help you in digesting protein, fats, and carbohydrates.
  4. Sip on ginger or peppermint tea post-meal (or anytime, they are caffeine-free). Both are powerful digestive tonics.
  5. Eat naturally fermented foods at least twice daily – Start the day with a banana and berry smoothie, adding flaxseed (there’s your fibre!) and using organic, plain greek yogurt or organic, plain coconut yogurt. Throw in a handful of spinach for a festive flair, plus bonus B vitamins for an energy boost. Add a side of naturally fermented sauerkraut or kimchi to your holiday meals. If this doesn’t excite your tastebuds, try drinking kombucha tea, a fermented tea beverage which is loaded with enzymes and probiotics. Find this at many grocery stores, farmers markets, or certainly at your health food store.
  6. Set your mindset to “moderation” before you go! If you wait until January to think about what you’ve eaten and drank for the month of December, it’s a bigger hole to crawl out of.

Allow yourself some indulgence this season (I sure do!). But these tips will help you offset the damage so your body doesn’t take a beating.

Wishing you a beautiful Christmas filled with peace, happiness, and of course, vibrant health!