Month: October 2018

You don’t have to be a health nut to know that soda isn’t good for you. But is it really all that bad?

Is it ok to just have it once in a while? And if you’re going to have it, is it better to have the regular ol’ sugar-filled version or the zero calorie “diet” kind?

Well, let’s weigh-in on the facts:

Regular soda – as bad as they say?

PROS:

  • It doesn’t contain artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, saccharin) that have gotten a really bad rap lately

CONS:

  • The sugar! A 12-ounce can of cola has about 8 teaspoons; almost the daily limit as recommended by the American Heart Association
  • Drinking 1-2 cans a day can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 26%
  • Regular sodas are filled with High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) which is linked to obesity, heart disease and fatty liver disease

Diet soda – is it actually better for you?

PROS:

  • It feeds the craving for something sweet without adding extra calories or carbs, if you’re concerned about this
  • Since it’s sugar-free, diabetics can sip without worrying about the direct hit to their insulin and blood sugar levels

CONS:

The verdict on soda

Neither regular or diet soda are going to improve your health. They are literally devoid of any health benefits. In fact, both are linked to significant health issues.

So what should you choose?

The best bet would be to steer clear of both, if you can. However, if you do decide to have a soda from time to time, the choice is ultimately up to you.

If you’re sensitive to sugar, then perhaps the diet soda may be your best bet. But, if artificial sweeteners wreak havoc on your digestive system, you may want to go with the regular soda instead.

What to drink instead

The healthiest drink you can give your body is plain old water. And while water may not seem as exciting as soda, you can shake it up by adding lemon, lime or berries – or even cucumber and mint for a bit of flavor

Sparkling waters (sugar free and artificial sweetener free) can also be a great alternative for a soda replacement since they still contain some bubbles and fizz.

References

Wiley Online Library – Diet study & waist circumference study

CNN – Diet Soda May Do More Harm Than Good

Harvard School of Public Health – Soft Drinks & Disease

American Heart Association – Sugar 101

Healthline – Is Diet Soda Safe for Diabetes?

There’s a lot of talk about healthy fats these days. People are including more fat in their diets and forgetting about the fat-free diet crazes of the past.

You’ve probably heard about omega fats in the mix, but what exactly are they?

What are Omega Fats? Do they all perform the same function in our bodies?

Omegas are a group of fatty acids known as Omega-3, Omega-6, and Omega-9. They’re numerically named based on their chemical composition.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids (EFA’s). The body is capable of producing some fatty acids on its own, like Omega-9 – meaning you don’t need to get them from food.

But the fatty acids the body can’t create on its own must be obtained from food, and therefore, are considered essential. Both fats are needed for good health, but most diets contain an abundance of omega-6 and not enough omega-3.

This skewed ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 is considered a cause of chronic inflammation that can lead to scary stuff, like heart attack and stroke.

A 1:1 ratio is ideal for keeping inflammation at bay, but it’s estimated that most people have a ratio closer to 20:1!

Low intake of Omega-3’s means most people are missing out on the major health benefits of this essential fat.

The protective qualities of Omega-3’s include:

  • Improved immune system function
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Decreased risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer, arthritis, and depression
  • Improved triglyceride and cholesterol values
  • Critical role in human development – the brain and retina contain lots of omega-3 in the form of DHA

Which foods are the best sources of Omega-3’s?

Omega-3’s actually include several types of fats, including:

  • ALA (alpha linolenic acid) – found in plants, like nuts and seeds
  • DHA/EPA – found primarily in fish

The best sources of ALA include flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts.

Canola and soybean oil are also good sources of ALA, but these oils aren’t the healthy options since they quickly oxidize and turn rancid, which promotes inflammation and cancels out any beneficial effects of the omega-3s they contain.

While meat and dairy aren’t a good source of omega-3s, it’s worth noting grass fed meat and dairy contain higher amounts of omega-3s than conventional grain fed meat.

ALA needs to be converted into EPA or DHA by the body for it to be utilized. This process is pretty inefficient, with estimates of 1-20% of the ALA we consume being converted into a usable form.

Although it would be hard to meet all your omega-3 needs only with sources of ALA, flax, chia, and walnuts are still healthy fats with lots of other good-for-you vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Since fish contains the ready-to-use EPA/DHA form, it is recommended that most people obtain their omega-3’s from fatty cold water fish, like salmon, tuna, herring, and sardines.

Did you know fish don’t actually produce the omega-3s they contain? Instead, algae makes EPA/DHA and fish accumulate the fat from the algae they eat. Cool fat fact! 

If omega-3’s from fish are so good for us, shouldn’t we be eating fish every day? Nope!

How much Omega Fats should we be eating? Do I have to eat fish or take fish oil?

While there are no official recommendations for daily omega-3 intake, it’s thought most people can meet their basic omega-3 needs by consuming fish 2x/week.

To avoid taking in too much mercury, a toxic heavy metal in fish, you should alternate the types of fish you eat and limit varieties known to be high in mercury.

If you choose not to consume fish because of mercury or other concerns, it’s best to supplement with fish oil or, if you’re vegan – try algae oil. Fish and algae oils don’t contain mercury as a result of processing.

It’s generally considered safe to consume up to 3 – 6g of fish oil per day. If you include a high quality fish oil supplement and a variety of sources of healthy fats in your diet, you don’t have to worry about counting omega-3s.

People who are managing symptoms of heart disease or other illness may benefit from even higher, therapeutic doses of omega-3’s.

However, high doses of fish oil could interfere with blood clotting. If you’re currently taking blood thinners or have surgery scheduled, you should check with a healthcare provider before supplementing.

References

Healthline – Omega 3 Fatty Acids: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

National Institutes of Health – Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Precision Nutrition – All About Fish Oil

Precision Nutrition – All About Healthy Fats

If you’ve heard that red wine is one of the healthiest of all alcoholic beverages, it’s for good reason.

Thanks to the antioxidants found in the skins of grapes from which it’s made, red wine has been widely publicized as being “healthful”. The kind of antioxidants found in red wine, like RESVERATROL, have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.

Inflammation and oxidation are considered the root causes of most disease, so consuming antioxidant-rich foods is a key component in disease prevention.

Moderate consumption of red wine has been linked to improved heart health, along with other health benefits, like decreasing the risk of:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • diabetes
  • certain cancers
  • depression

Some of the buzz around red wine’s health benefits comes from its prominent role in the well-studied Mediterranean diet.

The Mediterranean diet includes lots of fruit, vegetables, fish, olive oil, and red wine, and is believed to contribute to a long lifespan and low incidences of heart disease and cancer among Mediterranean populations.

The health benefits of red wine are also thought to contribute to low rates of heart disease among the French, despite this population traditionally eating a diet high in saturated fat (think cheese, cream, and buttery croissants!).

How exactly does red wine improve heart health?

But, does a glass of red wine a day really keep the doctor away? Maybe.

Studies have linked regular consumption of red wine with the following positive outcomes:

  • increased HDL cholesterol (the good, protective kind)
  • lowered LDL cholesterol (the bad, inflammatory kind)
  • lowered triglycerides (fat or lipids found in the blood)
  • improved blood pressure
  • more stable blood sugar levels

High blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, and undesirable cholesterol and triglyceride levels are all contributing factors in the development of more serious heart disease, like heart attacks and stroke.

Is red wine an essential part of a healthy diet?

The short answer is no.

If you aren’t a fan of wine or choose not to consume alcoholic beverages, there’s no reason to start drinking red wine for the sake of your health!

Plenty of other diet and lifestyle factors, like eating lots of fruits and vegetables, getting regular physical activity, not smoking, and managing stress can provide the same health benefits.

If you enjoy drinking wine, you should choose red varieties over white for the added antioxidants and health benefits. While white wine does contain some antioxidants from grapes, red wine contains much higher amounts.

Like any other alcoholic beverage, it’s also important to remember to limit wine consumption. The health benefits of red wine only apply when it is enjoyed in moderation. Surprise!

When consumed in excess, any alcoholic beverage can negatively impact your health, contributing to alcohol dependence, organ damage, and increased risk of several cancers.

A good rule of thumb for alcohol intake is to limit consumption to one (1) drink per day for women and one to two (1-2) drinks per day for men. The serving size for one standard glass of red wine is 4 oz.

Since the size of wine glasses can vary, use a liquid measuring cup to familiarize yourself with what a 4 oz pour of wine looks like. Then, stick to that serving size!

References

Healthline – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/red-wine-good-or-bad

Healthline – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/red-vs-white-wine

Time.com – http://time.com/4070762/red-wine-resveratrol-diabetes/

Whether you call them pimples, blemishes, or zits, ACNE is a common skin condition that can be a source of discomfort, frustration, and embarrassment for those who experience it.

There’s quite a lot of behind-the-scenes action happening in your body that contributes to the development of it.

What Is Acne?

Acne can occur at any age, but is often experienced during distinct phases of hormonal shifting, like adolescence, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. This is because fluctuating hormone levels can increase the amount of oil produced by the skin.

A bout of acne or even the appearance of a single pimple is the result of a buildup of oil, skin cells, and/or bacteria in the pores of the skin.

Causes of Acne

Studies have linked acne to:

  • Inflammation – the root cause of all disease
  • Compromised gut health (i.e. leaky gut, not enough good gut bacteria)
  • High blood sugar and unstable insulin levels
  • Hormonal imbalances

The foods you eat don’t usually directly cause breakouts, but can contribute to acne by promoting inflammation, impairing gut health, and spiking blood sugar and insulin levels.

Inflammatory foods include those high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, and unhealthy fats. Examples include:

  • White breads, pasta, and rice
  • Candy, baked goods, and other sweet desserts
  • Sweetened drinks, like soda
  • Fried foods
  • Hydrogenated oils, trans fats, and saturated fats found in margarines, processed foods, and many animal products

Refined carbohydrates (many of which are high glycemic index foods), contain little fibre and protein, which helps slow digestion and prevent blood sugar spikes.

Instead, these sugary foods are quickly digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, causing blood sugar to climb and lots of insulin to be released.

Excess insulin can affect other hormones and cause too much oil to be made by the skin, resulting in those dreaded breakouts.

Typical Acne Treatments

Most people deal with breakouts on the surface, relying on topical cleansers, creams and lotions to treat their blemished skin as fast as possible.

However, relying solely on these types of treatments can result in a cycle of continuous breakouts and can delay complete healing of the skin.

‘Spot treatments’ are just that – they treat the symptom (the acne), but never address the underlying root cause.

Instead of reaching for the harsh topicals and concealer, try healing your skin from the inside out.

Treating Acne Holistically

It’s important to consider any foods you may be sensitive to and to try avoid or minimize those. Your immune system can react to certain foods, causing even more of an inflammatory response.

If you suspect your breakouts may be caused by a food sensitivity, consider testing or trying an elimination diet to identify the food trigger. This is best done under the guidance of a nutrition professional or healthcare practitioner.

Common food triggers include sugar, wheat, soy, and dairy (cow’s milk).

To heal skin and prevent future breakouts, focus on foods that contain plenty of fibre, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats like:

  • A variety of fruits and vegetables – the more colourful your diet, the better!
  • Nuts and seeds, especially flax & chia for the extra dose of omega-3 fats
  • Wild-caught salmon
  • Lean, grass fed meats
  • Whole grains & seeds, like quinoa, oats, and brown rice

COOL TIP: When a breakout occurs, you can use the same healing foods topically to help soothe, hydrate, and cleanse irritated skin.

The foods that are health-optimizing for your insides can also be soothing and calming for the outside!

References

Healthline – Foods that cause acne

Healthline – Anti-acne diet

Healthline – Symptoms of acne

Recipe:

Soothing DIY Acne Face Mask

Ingredients

¼ cup papaya, mashed

1 Tbsp oatmeal

1 tsp raw honey

Optional

2 – 4 drops tea tree oil (or combo tea tree and lavender)

How to prepare

Stir together ingredients in a small bowl. Apply to clean, dry skin (face, neck, shoulders, back – anywhere you have irritated, acneic skin).

Leave on 15-20 minutes, then rinse off completely, and pat dry. And voilà, happily refreshed skin.

* If you choose to “taste” your mask before slathering it on, do NOT ingest if you have added essential oils!