Ingredients: (Serves One)
– 1 1/2 cups seedless watermelon cubes
– 3 tbsp. water
– 1 tbsp. chia seeds
– 1 slice lime, for garnish
– Sprig of mint, or strawberries, for garnish
1. In a blender, puree watermelon and water until smooth.
2. Stir in chia seeds and let them sit for about 5 minutes (to thicken up).
3. Stir again, and let it thicken for as long as you’d like!
4. Pour into a glass over ice and garnish with lime and sprig of mint or strawberries.
Constipation is the opposite of diarrhea – it’s when stool tends to stick around longer than necessary. Often it’s drier, lumpier, and harder than normal, and may be difficult to pass.
Constipation often comes along with abdominal pain and bloating. And can be common in people with certain gut issues, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
About 14-24% of adults experience constipation. Constipation becomes chronic when it happens at least three times per week for three months.
Constipation can be caused by diet or stress, and even changes to our daily routine. Sometimes the culprit is a medical condition or medications. And sometimes there can be a structural problem with the gut. Many times the cause is unknown.
Whether you know why or not, there are some things you can do if you get constipated.
1 – Eat more fibre
You’ve probably heard to eat more prunes (and figs and dates) if you get constipated.
Why is that?
It comes down to fibre.
Dietary fibre is a type of plant-based carbohydrate that we can’t digest and absorb. Unlike cows, humans don’t have the digestive enzymes to break it down. And that’s a good thing!
Even though we can’t digest it ourselves, fibre is very important for our gut health for two reasons.
First, fibre helps to push things through our system (and out the other end).
Second, fibre is an important food for feeding the friendly microbes in our gut.
There are two kinds of fibre: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fibre dissolves in water to make a gel-like consistency. It can soften and bulk up the stool; this is the kind of fibre that you want to focus on for helping with constipation. Soluble fibre is found in legumes (beans, peas, lentils), fruit (apples, bananas, berries, citrus, pears, etc.), vegetables (broccoli, carrots, spinach, etc.), and grains like oats.
Psyllium is a soluble non-fermenting fibre from corn husks. It’s been shown to help soften stools and produce a laxative effect.
Insoluble fibre, on the other hand, holds onto water and can help to push things through the gut and get things moving. It’s the kind found in the skins and seeds of fruits and vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, celery, zucchini, as well as the skins of apples, pears, and potatoes.
It’s recommended that adults consume between 20-35 grams of fibre per day.
If you are going to increase your fibre intake, make sure to do it gradually. Radically canging your diet can make things worse!
And, it’s also very important to combine increased fibre intake with my next point to drink more fluids.
NOTE: There is conflicting evidence on how fibre affects constipation. In some cases, less insoluble fibre may be better, especially if you have certain digestive issues. So, make sure you’re monitoring how your diet affects your gut health and act accordingly. And don’t be afraid to see your healthcare provider when necessary.
2 – Drink more fluids
Since constipated stools are hard and dry, drinking more fluids can help keep everything hydrated and moist. This is especially true when trying to maintain a healthy gut every day, rather than when trying to deal with the problem of constipation after it has started.
And it doesn’t only have to be water – watery foods like soups, and some fruits and vegetables can also contribute to your fluid intake.
Always ensure you’re well hydrated, and drinking according to thirst; this is recommended for gut health as well as overall health.
3 – Probiotics
Probiotics are beneficial microbes that come in fermented foods and supplements. They have a number of effects on gut health and constipation. They affect gut transit time (how fast food goes through us), increase the number of bowel movements per week, and help to soften stools to make them easier to pass.
Probiotic foods (and drinks) include fermented vegetables (like sauerkraut and kimchi), miso, kefir, and kombucha.
More research is needed when it comes to recommending a specific probiotic supplement or strain. If you’re going to take supplements, make sure to read the label to ensure that it’s safe for you. And take it as directed.
4 – Lifestyle
Some studies show a gut benefit from regular exercise.
Ideally, aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes most days.
In terms of stress, when we’re stressed, it often affects our digestive system. The connection between our gut and our brain is so strong, researchers have coined the term “gut-brain axis.”
By better managing stress, we can help to reduce emotional and physical issues (like gut issues) that may result from stress. Try things like meditation, deep breathing, and exercise.
And last but not least – make sure to go when you need to go! Don’t hold it in because that can make things worse.
Optimal digestion is so important for overall health. Constipation is a common problem.
Increasing our fibre and water intake and boosting our friendly gut microbes are key things we can do to help things move along.
And don’t forget how lifestyle habits can affect our physical health! Exercise, stress management, and going to the bathroom regularly can also help us maintain great gut health.
Have you found that fibre, water, or probiotics affect your gut health? What about exercise, stress, and regular bathroom trips? I’d love to know in the comments below!
Recipe (high soluble fibre): Steel Cut Oats with Pears
1 cup steel cut oats, gluten-free
2 cups water
2 cups almond milk, unsweetened
2 medium pears, sliced
4 tsp maple syrup
4 dashes cinnamon
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
Toast oats by placing them in a large saucepan over medium-high heat for 2-4 minutes. Make sure to stir them frequently to prevent burning.
Add salt, water, and almond milk to the saucepan of toasted oats.
Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20-30 minutes, or until desired tenderness is reached.
Divide into four bowls and top with pears, walnuts, maple syrup, and cinnamon.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: If you want to roast your pears first, place them in a baking dish at 375F for about 10 minutes while you’re cooking the oats.
- 1 lb. beets, washed, peeled and diced
- 1/2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and diced
- 1 sweet onion, diced
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped
- Beet greens (from 6 beets), chopped
- 5-6 kale leaves, ribs removed, chopped
- 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
- Handful fresh parsley
- 3-4 fried eggs
- In a fry pan, put in diced raw beets and potatoes with plus enough water to cover them (about 3 cups). Season with salt and bring to a boil and cook for about 7 minutes.
- Drain and set aside the beets and potatoes.
- In the same pan, add olive oil, onion and garlic and sauté for a few minutes.
- Add in kale and beet greens, and cook until wilted (2- 3 mins). Set aside.
- Heat oil in the fry pan over med-high heat. Add back potatoes and beets and press firmly into a layer, and allow the veggies to brown. Once crispy, flip to the other side.
- Add kale and beet greens, stirring to combine. Let the entire mixture crisp up for another few minutes.
- Top with 3-4 fried eggs and parsley. Serve immediately and enjoy!!
I’ve been reading Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle is the Way, and it got me thinking about obstacles, how we deal with them and tips to overcome them.
Chances are if you’ve set goals to accomplish something challenging, it could be anything, let’s say weight loss for example, that you have or will hit obstacles on your way.
Heck, life is full of them. If you’ve played sports, it comes up there too.
It’s never a straight line to success and things come up. If you’re trying to improve your health or lose weight, maybe it’s a business trip that your boss needs you to go on. Or maybe your schedule has changed or something has popped up that is making it harder to stay on track. Any of this sound familiar? What would you do? Make sure you still did what you had to do to move forward towards your goals. Or something else?
Maybe your son or daughter got sick and or couldn’t sleep. Maybe your boss slammed you with some extra work or another project. Usually when things come up our default response is to get frustrated, or complain or give up or make an excuse as to why we can’t do something. Guess what?? It’s not meant to be easy. It’s simple but no one said it would be easy. This is the part most people miss on their journey. I think secretly they hope it will be smooth, easy without bumps on the road.
If you’re thinking this is great, but man you have no idea what it’s like to stay up all night because you don’t have kids. You’re right, I might not know what that’s like yet but I can relate going through my own challenges and can at least empathize that the feelings might be similar.
After all, I’m working on overcoming obstacles myself. We all are.
So want to know the secret sauce?? Are you ready?? Reframe the problem. That’s right…change your perspective. This gives you a chance to see the opportunity to improve or move forward vs dwelling in the negative frustrated state. Have you ever given advice to a friend who was just mired or troubled by an obstacle and you could see the answer so clearly but they couldn’t. Well, it’s because you were seeing it from a different lens minus all the frustration and emotion. By the end of it much of all that stuff is out of your control but you can control how you choose to think about something and how you will respond.
Here are a few other tips to help you after you’ve reframed the obstacle.
- TAKE ACTION
- Learn from Failure
- Practice Persistence
Once you reframe your obstacle you need to do something about it. By taking action you are now moving forward towards your goal and taking the obstacle head on. This is empowering and it changes the game from being a victim of your feelings to tackling the obstacle.
When we take action sometimes our actions don’t always lead to the result we are looking for. This is when we need to listen and learn from our failure. If you aren’t making mistakes you can’t learn what you need to do to overcome what’s holding you back. In the case of losing weight or getting healthier, maybe you need to change up some foods or try intermittent fasting. Maybe you need to prep your meals so you make sure you don’t eat foods that will sabotage your goals.
Either way, taking action will lead to a result. Either it worked or it didn’t and that’s an opportunity to figure out what to change if it didn’t.
This leads to persistence. At this point you can either quit or be persistent and take action until you figure it out.
I like this quote from Ryan Holiday, “Genuis is really just persistence in disguise.”
Epictetus said, “Persist and Resist.” Persist in your efforts. Resist giving in to distraction, discouragement, or disorder. (Holiday, 2014)
If you find yourself feeling like the obstacle is too much. I’m here to tell you that there is another way. Make your choice. One will empower to find something positive out of the challenge and figure out a way to take it on. One will just lead to a lot of wasted energy. If you need to vent or let it out do it and then move forward.
The choice is yours.
Leave a comment below if you found this article helpful.
Have a great day!
Our digestive system is a huge portal into our bodies. Lots of things can get in there that aren’t always good for us. And because the system is so complex (knowing which tiny molecules to absorb, and which keep out), lots can go wrong. And that’s one reason why 70% of our immune system lives in and around our digestive system.
This makes food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances a huge contribution to an array of symptoms all over our bodies. Things like autoimmune issues, inflammation, and even our moods can be affected by what we eat. If you have digestive issues or any other unexplained symptoms, you may consider trying an elimination diet.
An elimination diet is one where you strategically eliminate certain foods to see if you react to them. It can help immensely when trying to figure out if a particular food is causing symptoms because you’re sensitive to it.
You generally start out by eliminating the most common food allergens for a few weeks. Then you slowly add them back one at a time and note any symptoms (better or worse).
Let’s go over the pros and cons of this diet.
Pros of elimination diets
The main benefit is that, by tuning into your body’s reactions to certain foods, you can pinpoint sensitivities and intolerances that you may not otherwise know of. Experiencing results first-hand can be very motivating when it comes to sticking to eliminating a certain food.
Elimination diets can be less expensive, and in some cases more reliable, than standard allergy testing.
It can also be very empowering to be in control of what you eat, learn about food and the compounds they contain, and try new recipes that exclude eliminated foods. Having a good plan makes things much easier (even exciting). If you love grocery shopping, cooking from scratch, and trying new recipes, you’re going to draw on all these skills.
These diets can be customizable, which is a great pro (see first con below).
Cons of elimination diets
You may not figure out everything you’re sensitive to. Your plan should be strategically created to ensure that the most common food allergens are eliminated. This will give you the highest likelihood of success. It can become complicated if you let it.
t’s a commitment for around 4-6 weeks, if not longer (which can be difficult for some people).
If you’re not used to tracking all foods and all symptoms every day, you’re going to have to start doing it.
You may find that you’re intolerant to one of your favourite foods, or even an entire group of your favorite foods.
When you’re eliminating certain foods (or parts of foods, like gluten), it can be HARD! You almost need to prepare all of your foods, snacks and drinks yourself from scratch. If you don’t take full control like this, it can be so easy to accidentally ingest something that you’re cutting out. And at that point, you might need to start all over again.
Elimination diets can be a very useful tool to identify food sensitivities. They can be empowering and customized.
However, they can be difficult to adhere to and, sadly, you may find out that you’re sensitive to your favorite foods.
Have you done an elimination diet? What was your experience? Let me know in the comments below.
Recipe (Elimination diet friendly): Steamed Salmon and Vegetables
2 medium zucchini, sliced thinly
½ pint mushrooms, sliced
2 tsp olive oil
4 tsp water
2 boneless, skinless salmon fillets, no more than 1 ¼ “ thick
½ clove garlic, diced
2 dashes salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 450F.
Toss vegetables with olive oil.Tear two sheets of parchment paper and fold in half. Open the sheets and place half of the vegetables onto each sheet on one side of the fold.
Add 2 teaspoons of water and place a fillet on top. Top with garlic, salt, and pepper.
Fold the other half of each sheet over the fish, and tightly crimp the edges.
Put packets flat on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes.
Remove from oven and check to ensure fish flakes easily with a fork (be careful the steam is hot).
Open each pack and place onto plates.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can mix up the vegetables or herbs, following your elimination diet protocol.
Broccoli and kale are often touted to be “superfoods.” And, yes, they really are amazingly healthy for you.
If you’re wondering what exactly is in these green powerhouses that makes them so “super,” I’ve dived into the research to give you some nerdy reasons to make these a staple in your diet.
To start, they’re both considered cruciferous vegetables related to each other in the Brassica family. This family of super plants also includes cauliflower, cabbage, mustard greens, and Brussels sprouts.
These superfoods have a tonne of nutrition, and other health-promoting compounds, they’re relatively inexpensive and easy to cook too!
Broccoli and kale are full of nutrition: vitamins, minerals, fibre, etc. They’re both considered to be nutrient dense which is a measure of nutrients per calorie – and these both have a lot!
100 grams of broccoli (about 1 cup, chopped) contains:
- 34 calories
- 8 g protein, 0.4 g fat, 6.6 g carbohydrates, and 2.6 g fibre.
- Good source of B vitamins (when eaten raw)
- >100% of your daily vitamin C
- Almost 100% of your vitamin K
- Good source of manganese
- Traces of all the other vitamins and minerals
One cup of loosely packed kale contains:
- 8 calories
- 7 g protein, 0.2 g fat (including omega-3), 1.4 g carbohydrates, and 0.6 g fibre.
- Contains pre-vitamin A (beta-carotene).
- Several B vitamins, including B1, B3, B5, B6, and folate (B9)
- Rich in vitamins C and K
- Lots of minerals including manganese, magnesium, iron, potassium, sulfur, copper, phosphorus, and calcium
As you can see, these two foods contain a lot of nutrients.
NOTE: Too much vitamin K may interact with certain blood-thinning medications. If you’re taking one of these medications, talk to your doctor or pharmacist before incorporating too much of these superfoods into your diet.
Broccoli and kale also contain other health-promoting compounds.
Super health-promoting compounds
Broccoli and kale tend to taste a bit bitter – but that bitterness equals healthfulness!
This bitter flavour is from some of the health-promoting compounds in these super plant foods. Things like glucosinolates (e.g., sulforaphane and isothiocyanates) and polyphenol flavonols.
There are a few different types of kale – from curly kale, to dinosaur kale, to red/purple kale. The different colours result from slight differences in the amounts of the compounds these plants contain.
One of the main active ingredients in cruciferous vegetables are glucosinolates. These antioxidant compounds are very useful to help detoxify and protect against cancer.
FUN FACT: It’s the precursors to glucosinolates that are in cruciferous vegetables, not the compounds themselves. When fresh broccoli and kale are eaten (or even chopped/blended) raw the active compounds are produced. *This fact is incorporated into a trick I use in this week’s recipe*
NOTE: Glucosinolates may affect iodine absorption and thyroid health, particularly in people prone to thyroid disease. In this case, you may not have to ditch these superfoods altogether – just cook them first.
These superfoods also contain flavonols like kaempferol and quercetin. Flavonols have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and they decrease your risk of cancer.
Kale also contains carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids are known for promoting eye health and are protective against many cancers.
When cooked, kale contains another anti-cancer compound called indole.
Broccoli and kale are cruciferous superfoods. They are packed with nutrition and have a whole array of health-promoting compounds.
Almost everyone should be eating these regularly. Just be cautious if you’re taking blood-thinning medications; and, if you have thyroid issues, cook them first.
Do you, or anyone you know, absolutely love (or hate) these superfoods? Do you have a favourite recipe to share? Let me know in the comments below.
Recipe (Broccoli & Kale): Superfood Soup
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp garlic, chopped
2 large handfuls kale
4 stalks celery, chopped
4 stalks broccoli chopped
8 cups broth
½ cup tahini
2 tsp sea salt
Sautee garlic in olive oil in a large soup pot. At the same time do steps #2 and #3.
Add half of the raw kale, celery, and broccoli to your high-speed blender (in that order). Cover with up to 4 cups of broth and blend.
Pour soup into the pot with the sauteed garlic. Do the same for the other half of the veggies and broth.
Heat soup and simmer for up to 5 minutes.
Remove from heat. Add tahini and sea salt. Stir well.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: If you want the soup to be extra creamy, you can re-blend after it’s heated.
The world of food can be so confusing at times. There was a time when it was clear what food was – it came directly from nature – whether foraging, hunting, or farming.
Now there are so many things we eat that don’t resemble a natural food.
Michael Pollan has a famous quote, he said:
- Eat Food – Not too much – Mostly Plants
And in his famous book, In Defense of Food, he defines what food should be. He says, “Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”
And, we can all agree that some things are obviously not recognizable by our great-great-grandmothers: candy bars, fast food, and sports drinks.
We can also say that many of the common health issues we face today: heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, cavities, etc. didn’t exist at anywhere near the rates before industrially processed foods became available.
But, where do we draw the line? How do we define processed? How processed is processed? And what the heck is ultra-processed?
Allow me to let you in on the internationally recognized classification system. And we’re going to go through it step-by-step with an apple.
According to NOVA, the official definition of unprocessed or natural foods is:
“The edible parts of plants (seeds, fruits, leaves, stems, roots) or of animals(muscle, offal, eggs, milk), and also fungi, algae, and water, after separation from nature.”
This is like eating a whole apple right off the tree – clearly unprocessed.
Minimally processed foods are:
“natural foods altered by processes such as removal of inedible or unwanted parts, drying, crushing, grinding, fractioning, filtering, roasting, boiling, pasteurization, refrigeration, freezing, placing in containers, vacuum packaging, or nonalcoholic fermentation. None of these processes adds substances such as salt, sugar, oils or fats to the original food.”
So, with our apple example, once you cut the apple’s core out and put the slices into a container to bring with you for your afternoon snack, you are processing it – minimally. You can even peel and boil that chopped apple to make applesauce. And, as long as you don’t add anything else (like cinnamon), it’s still considered minimally processed.
Processed foods, on the other hand, are relatively simple products made by adding sugar, oil, salt or other processed ingredients to unprocessed foods.
“Most processed foods have two or three ingredients. Processes include various preservation or cooking methods, and, in the case of bread and cheese, non-alcoholic fermentation. The main purpose of the manufacture of processed foods is to increase the durability of unprocessed foods, or to modify or enhance their sensory qualities.”
So, if you take that applesauce, add cinnamon, and/or use it in a recipe, you technically have processed the apple.
This can still be a healthy choice, as you’ll see in the next definition of ultra-processed.
Here’s where things get interesting and scary!
Ultra-processed foods are:
“Industrial formulations typically with five or more and usually many ingredients. Such ingredients often include those also used in processed foods, such as sugar, oils, fats, salt, anti-oxidants, stabilizers, and preservatives. Ingredients only found in ultra-processed products include substances not commonly used in culinary preparations, and additives whose purpose is to imitate sensory qualities of [unprocessed] foods … or to disguise undesirable sensory qualities of the final product. [Unprocessed] foods are a small proportion of or are even absent from ultra-processed products.”
So, pre-packaged apple strudel with a long shelf life is very much an ultra-processed food. If you took a look at the ingredient list of pre-packaged apple strudel (one with a long shelf life), you would see added sugars, oils, preservatives, and flavour enhancers. And we can argue that the healthy apple is a small (very small) proportion of the strudel.
There is a clear delineation between unprocessed (the apple) and ultra-processed (the pre-packaged strudel with a long shelf life) foods. An apple is nowhere near what a mass produced apple strudel is. But, there are a couple of different categories in between these – namely minimally processed and processed.
It’s clear that unprocessed (apple) and minimally processed (plain applesauce) foods are almost always quite healthy and nutritious. It’s also clear that ultra-processed food is not so healthy.
Now that you know the definitions of these foods, I think you’ll agree with me that the commonly used term processed is often referring to the industrial ultra-processing of foods.
I’d love to hear your thought on these definitions. Let me know in the comments below.
Recipe (minimally processed): Slow-Cooker Applesauce
4 lbs apples, washed and chopped
¾ cup water
Place apples and water in a large pot.
Bring to a boil and simmer until apples are soft about 20 minutes.
Blend or mash the apples into desired consistency.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Add some cinnamon for extra flavour, and use the applesauce to make overnight oats.
Thickeners are one of many ingredients added to processed foods. And they do just that: thicken. They absorb water and form a gel-like consistency. They’re often used to make foods thick and creamy, without having to add a lot of fat.
Thickeners also tend to emulsify and stabilize foods they’re added to. Emulsification allows fats and water to mix better and prevents them from separating (i.e., oil/vinegar salad dressing versus a thicker or creamier emulsified dressing). And “stabilizing” helps the product have a longer shelf-life before the “best before” date.
Thickeners are often found in canned dairy-free milk and any milk that comes in a carton, baked goods, soups/sauces/gravies, puddings/ice cream, etc. Some are even added to dietary supplements!
These thickeners are polysaccharides, which means they’re long chains of many (poly) saccharides (sugars). They’re typically difficult to digest, which makes them similar to dietary fibre. And this also means they can help you feel fuller longer without providing many calories or any nutrients.
They’re naturally-derived but are heavily processed to extract the compound. (Did I say “heavily?”)
FUN FACT: food additives are considered anti-nutrients because they reduce the absorption of dietary minerals like calcium.
Overall, for the general healthy population, in small doses, these thickeners don’t seem to create massive health concerns. But, even though they’re extracted from whole foods, they’re far from it. Plus, there are lots of reasons to avoid them altogether.
Let’s briefly dive into five of the common ones.
Xanthan gum is made by a bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris. This bacteria can cause diseases in plants (e.g., leaf spot). The xanthan gum is created when the bacteria ferment sugar. Xanthan gum is extracted from the liquid, dried, and ground.
Because it’s like dietary fibre, xanthan gum has been shown to help reduce blood sugar spikes. Its thickening properties can help slow the absorption of sugar, therefore slowing the speed sugar can get into the bloodstream.
In high doses, xanthan gum can act as a laxative and can cause bloating, gas, and diarrhea. It also may act as a prebiotic (food for our friendly gut microbes), but more research is needed.
Xanthan gum should be avoided by infants and people with severe wheat, corn, soy, or dairy allergies.
Guar gum is made from legumes called guar beans. These beans are split, and the endosperm is ground to get the guar gum.
Like xanthan gum, guar gum may reduce blood sugar spikes, act as a laxative, and possibly a prebiotic.
In rodents, guar gum has been shown to increase intestinal permeability (i.e., leaky gut).
Cellulose gum is made from wood pulp and cotton. To extract the cellulose gum, the pulp is processed with several chemicals, which are then removed.
Cellulose gum can cause bacterial overgrowth and inflammation in animals who eat large amounts of it. It’s been suspected to be linked with IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease).
Carrageenan is made from red seaweed that’s dried, ground, chemically treated, filtered, and dehydrated.
Carrageenan can increase intestinal permeability (i.e., leaky gut). It has been linked to gastrointestinal inflammation, ulcers, and colitis-like conditions in animals. It has also been used in high doses to cause tumors in animals for cancer research.
Unlike other thickeners, some rodent studies have shown that carrageenan can worsen blood sugar control issues.
Lecithin most often comes from soybeans, but can also come from eggs, canola, or sunflower seeds. It’s heavily processed with chemicals and then purified.
Lecithin also contains phospholipids, triglycerides, sterols, free fatty acids, and carotenoids.
One of lecithin’s metabolites (what your body metabolizes lecithin into once it’s absorbed) is linked to heart disease. On the other hand, it does lower serum cholesterol. Overall, the jury seems to be out on its heart health effects.
Thickeners are highly processed food additives derived from nature. They are found in many processed foods because they thicken, reducing the amount of fat needed.
In the body, they can act as a dietary fibre, and may have some of the health benefits of that. But, they can also contribute to gastrointestinal issues, especially in higher doses. They can also be allergenic in small doses.
Do you read your labels to see which thickeners are in your foods? Are you going to look out for these additives? Let me know in the comments below.
Recipe (Thickener-free): Creamy Salad Dressing
1 avocado, ripe½ cup coconut milk – use one without added thickeners or make your own (you may need more to thin)
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp dill, dried
1 tsp chives, dried
1 tsp parsley, dried
½ tsp basil, dried
4 dashes salt
4 dashes pepper
Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until creamy.
Add more coconut milk or herbs/spices to reach desired consistency and flavour.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Add cilantro for additional flavour.
Leaky gut is also known as increased intestinal permeability. It’s when the cells lining our intestines (gut) separate a bit from each other. They’re supposed to be nice and tightly joined to the cell beside it; this is to allow certain things into our bodies (like nutrients), and keep other things out.
When the tight junctions between intestinal cells weaken it can cause the gut to be more permeable – leakier – than normal. When this happens, it allows things into our bodies that should not get in; things like large pieces of protein, toxins, or even bacteria and waste.
When substances that shouldn’t be there get into our bloodstream through the “leaks” in our gut, our immune system kicks in. These leaked bits mimic a food allergy, and our body reacts accordingly. It mounts a response to try to attack the invaders, and this causes inflammation.
Leaky gut is associated with a number of issues including food allergies, celiac disease, autoimmune diseases (e.g., Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Hashimoto’s, asthma, type 1 diabetes, acne, eczema), joint pain, and neurological problems (e.g., multiple sclerosis). Some research shows that leaky gut might contribute to or worsen these conditions.
While some of our gut permeability may have a genetic factor, there are lifestyle habits that contribute as well. Too much sugar or alcohol, and not enough fibre can make things worse. Even certain compounds in foods (e.g., gluten, lectins, casein, fructose) and food additives (e.g., MSG) can weaken tight junctions.
So, what should we eat, and ditch, for optimal gut health?
Avoid or reduce these
There are certain foods that irritate the gut or can cause those loosened junctions to get even looser.
Some of these include:
- Foods that you’re allergic to
- Foods with added sugar
- Foods containing MSG
- Foods with sugar alcohols (e.g., sorbitol)
- Gluten-containing grains (e.g., wheat, rye)
- High-lectin foods (e.g., grains, legumes)
- Nightshades (e.g., eggplant, peppers, tomato)
- Dairy (which contains casein & lactose)
- Excessive alcohol
It’s a good idea to reduce these foods and if leaky gut is a confirmed issue for you, avoid them until the leaky gut has been addressed.
Eat more of these
There are also a bunch of foods that support gut health, including the intestinal cells themselves, as well as our friendly gut microbes. Many of these also reduce inflammation.
- Probiotic-rich fermented foods (e.g., sauerkraut, kimchi)
- Prebiotic fibre-rich foods which help our gut microbes produce butyrate (e.g., leafy greens, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds)
- Glutamine-rich foods (e.g., bone broth, meat)
- Zinc-rich foods (e.g., shellfish, organ meats, and pumpkin seeds)
- Quercetin-rich foods (e.g., citrus, apples, onions)
- Curcumin-rich turmeric
- Indole-rich foods (e.g., broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, mustard greens)
These are all nutritious foods that can help with gut health and overall health.
It’s not just what you eat that can affect your gut. Other lifestyle habits can help too.
- Eating slower and chewing better to help break down food better
- Eating when hungry, and stopping when satisfied
- Going to the bathroom when you need to (don’t hold it for longer than necessary)
- Getting more high-quality sleep
- Better stress management
All of these are great healthy habits to get into, gut problems or not.
To help keep our guts (and our bodies) in optimal condition, there are a lot of foods we should eat (and lots we should reduce).
Sticking with nutrient-dense unprocessed foods is always a good plan, whether you have gut issues, other concerns, or feel completely healthy.
And, don’t forget the importance of a healthy lifestyle like good eating habits, sleep, and stress management.
Which of these foods have you added or reduced? Let me know in the comments below.
Recipe (Gut supporting): Braised Greens with Turmeric
2 bunches leafy greens (kale, chard, collards), washed and chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp turmeric
2 dashes salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add the greens and a splash of water.
Sauté until the greens start to wilt.
Remove from heat and sprinkle with lemon juice, turmeric, salt and pepper.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Serve this as a side dish (hot or cold), or add to soup.
Low carb diets have been popular on and off since the dawn of the Atkins fame (and maybe even earlier?).
But, what exactly defines low carb? Does eating this way actually help with weight loss? Are there any other health benefits (or risks) to eating fewer carbs?
What is a carb?
A carb, or carbohydrate, is one of our three main macronutrients. Carbs, along with protein and fat that are needed for optimal health in quantities larger than vitamins and minerals which are micronutrients.
Carbohydrates come in three main types:
Sugars are the smallest (molecule) carb. There are many different kinds of sugars, beyond the well-known table sugar (sucrose) or fruit sugar (fructose).
Starches are longer chains of many sugars bound together. Starches are broken down by our digestive enzymes into sugars. These sugars are then absorbed and metabolized in much the same way as if we ate sugar itself.
Fibre, on the other hand, is also a long chain of sugars, but these are not broken down by our digestive enzymes. Fibre passes through our system, feeds our friendly gut bacteria, and then takes food waste out the other end.
Because fibre isn’t digested like sugars and starches, it’s often excluded from the carb calculation.
How we metabolize carbs
When we eat carbs, our body absorbs the broken down sugar into our blood, thus raising our blood sugar. Depending on how high and fast our blood sugar rises, our body may release insulin to tell our cells to absorb that sugar out of our blood and use it as energy now or store it for later.
This is part of the theory as to why eating low carb diets may help with weight loss – by preventing the release of insulin, thus preventing the storage of excess calories.
But, our bodies are a bit more complicated than that!
Low carb for weight loss?
A few studies recently put low carb diets head-to-head against low-fat diets for weight loss.
Guess what they found?
1 – There isn’t one universal definition of low carb (see the next section below).
2 – It’s more difficult for people to stick to low carb diets than low-fat diets.
3 – Both diets work for some people, and neither one is overwhelmingly better for weight loss than the other.
4 – The number of calories people eat is still considered a huge factor when it comes to weight loss success – more than whether the calories are from carbs or fat.
How many carbs is low carb?
There isn’t one single definition.
The average American eats about 300 g of carbs per day. Some people consider eating under 250 g of carbs per day to be the first threshold of a low carb diet. That’s really not that low in carbs, it’s lower carb, rather than low carb. Plus, if you’re new to cutting carbs, this level is easy to maintain and a good start (if you want to cut your carbs).
Taking that a step further, eating less than 150 g per day of carbs is considered a typical low carb diet.
On the extreme side, eating less than 50 g of carbs per day is considered to be very low carb – it falls under the ketogenic diet range. Eating so few carbs can actually change your metabolism into a ketogenic state. Eating this way can be difficult for many people to maintain.
Other health benefits of low carb diets
Low carb diets have the benefit of preserving muscle mass during weight loss. They can also improve heart health biomarkers like cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Not to mention that eating fewer carbs can improve how our bodies manage those carbs in terms of insulin and fasting blood sugar levels.
There can definitely be some non-weight-loss health benefits to eating fewer carbs!
Eating a low carb diet can be healthy, as long as it contains enough of all the essential nutrients. Some people may lose weight eating fewer carbs, and others won’t.
Low carb diets can help to improve how the body manages blood lipids and blood sugar, so it can be a healthy choice for some people.
As with most things in nutrition, there isn’t a one size fits all rule. Low carb diets can be a good choice for many people, but it’s not the magic bullet that some people claim.
What about you – have you tried (or do you currently) eat low carb? How many carbs do you eat per day? Have you had any great (or not so great) health effects from it? Let me know in the comments below.
Recipe (Low carb): Baked “Breaded” Chicken
2 pounds chicken drumsticks
½ cup almond flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp rosemary or thyme
½ tsp garlic powder
Preheat oven to 450F.
Cover a large baking dish with parchment paper.
In large food storage bag, combine all ingredients except chicken.
Place a couple of pieces of chicken in the bag and shake until coated.
Repeat with the rest of the chicken.
Place chicken on a lined dish and bake uncovered for 20 minutes.
Turn over and bake 15 minutes longer.
Ensure internal temperature of chicken reaches 165F.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can roast veggies in another pan at the same time. Just chop, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. They might not need to cook as long as the chicken, so check them periodically.