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A Bounty of Supplements

Which ones are right for you—really?

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Shopping for supplements is a lot like shopping for a new bathing suit: there are tons of options, and one size never fits all. Do you really need to bother? (Spoiler alert: yes!) These top 10 supplements won’t give you a killer beach body, but they might be the perfect fit for you.

1. Multivitamin

Millions of Canadians pop a multi every day. Although it won’t necessarily stave off chronic diseases, a daily multivitamin provides essential nutrients you may be missing. This is true even if your diet is full of kale salads and green smoothies, as we need 40-plus nutrients each day.

What to look for:

Find a multi that targets your specific demographic—for example, a prenatal multivitamin if you’re an expecting mom.

Who might benefit:

  • pregnant or breastfeeding women
  • people over age 50
  • vegans and vegetarians
  • kids, especially picky eaters

2. Calcium

Yes, calcium strengthens your bones and teeth. But it’s not a one-trick pony. The most abundant mineral in your body, calcium may also lower blood pressure and protect against some cancers.

What to look for:

Check the amount of “elemental” calcium in each tablet. Calcium is best absorbed when taken in small doses—500 mg or less—with food.

Who might benefit:

  • vegans and those who avoid dairy
  • people with celiac or inflammatory bowel disease
  • people with high-protein or high-sodium diets
  • kids, especially young girls
  • people over age 50

3. Magnesium

Magnesium might seem like a mundane mineral, but it’s pretty miraculous. Some studies suggest that it can lift energy levels in those with depression. Magnesium is also tied to sleep, and even a marginal lack of this mineral can make you less likely to sleep soundly. Ladies, take note: magnesium has also been shown to ease PMS symptoms, including bloating and insomnia.

What to look for:

Check the amount of “elemental” magnesium listed on the product’s label. Take a B-complex vitamin with magnesium to increase the latter’s absorption.

Who might benefit:

  • PMS sufferers
  • people with digestive disorders
  • people over age 50

4. Iron

Iron deficiency is a surprisingly serious problem in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, 8 percent of women show signs of lacking this essential mineral. If you appear paler than usual and feel exhausted for no reason (even if you’re physically fit), low iron might be to blame. Be sure to check with your health care practitioner to check your iron status.

What to look for:

Ferrous iron is better absorbed by the body. Take your iron supplement with a source of vitamin C, such as strawberries, cantaloupe, broccoli, or bell peppers, to help improve absorption.

Who might benefit:

  • women of childbearing age
  • people who work out at a high intensity
  • people with gastrointestinal disorders
  • vegans and vegetarians

5. Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3s are fab fats, helping to lower your risk of heart disease, stave off joint stiffness, and curb inflammation. Plus, upping your intake of omega-3s might even make you feel happier.

What to look for:

Don’t favour fish? Not to worry—many omega-3 supplements are plant based. In addition to good old gel capsules, you can now find liquid omega-3 supplements in flavours such as chocolate and strawberry.

Who might benefit:

  • people with heart disease
  • most adults

6. Vitamin D

Reality check: one-third of Canadians have vitamin D levels below what’s considered necessary for healthy bones. Because vitamin D is found in so few foods, our main source is sunshine. In winter—and even in summer, if you can’t get 20 minutes of daily sunshine—supplements are a must. (Bonus: getting enough vitamin D may even improve your athletic performance.)

What to look for:

Vitamin D supplements come in two types: D2 and D3. Go with vitamin D3, which is slightly easier to absorb.

Who might benefit:

  • men and women over age 50
  • people living in northern latitudes
  • people with dark skin tones

Did you know?

Your body’s ability to make vitamin D from sunshine plummets as you age. When you hit 70, you’ll make just 25 percent of the vitamin D you produced at age 20.

7. B-complex vitamin

The B-complex family includes eight vitamins, all of which work together to convert the food you eat into fuel for your body. A lack of B vitamins, such as B12 and B6, has been linked specifically with poor mood. Because B12 is found mainly in animal products, vegans and vegetarians might need an extra boost.

What to look for:

Make sure your B-complex contains at least 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for each of the eight B vitamins.

Who might benefit:

  • vegans and vegetarians
  • men and women over age 50

8. Probiotics

The darling of the supplement world, probiotics are used to prevent gas, cramping, and other unsavoury side effects of antibiotics. Probiotics replenish healthy bacteria in your body and help restore digestive balance.

What to look for:

Choose a probiotic strain that’s suited to your health needs. Plus, make sure the label includes

  • the recommended dose
  • the amount of live organisms at the use-by date
  • the genus, species, and strain (e.g., Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG)

Who might benefit:

  • those with digestive disorders
  • people taking antibiotics

9. CoQ10

An antioxidant, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is best known for helping to treat heart-related conditions such as chronic heart failure and high blood pressure. Its other benefits include boosting energy and helping you recover more quickly from exercise. CoQ10 might even help smooth your skin and minimize fine wrinkles.

What to look for:

The ubiquinol form of CoQ10 seems to be better absorbed. Take it in the evening, with a meal that contains fat, to help your body absorb its antioxidant goodness.

Who might benefit:

  • people over age 50
  • people with heart conditions (after checking with a health care practitioner)
  • frequent exercisers

10. Glucosamine and chondroitin

This dynamic duo is often combined in one supplement to relieve joint pain in those with osteoarthritis. Some runners and other athletes have found that this combo also relieves exercise-induced knee pain.

What (not) to look for:

Glucosamine supplements are often made from shellfish, so avoid them if you have a shellfish allergy.

Who might benefit:

  • people with osteoarthritis
  • runners and other athletes

Always check with your health care practitioner for proper dosing and safety instructions before taking any new supplements.

When it comes to supplements, you have an abundance of healthy options. But which ones to choose? Start here with our quick supplement guide.

Posted in Blog |

Fermentation – The Art of Making Your Food Work For You

Boost immune and digestive health

Before the age of refrigerators, fermentation was traditionally used as a method of food preservation. Going back to the basics by making our own ferments at home allows us to reconnect to the origin of our food, and profit from diverse colonies of live bacteria within it.

The benefits of bacteria

Fermentation occurs when micro-organisms, including bacteria and yeast, convert the sugars from raw foods into a longer-lasting form of energy, such as lactic acid. Consuming these live micro-organisms, as we do through many fermented foods, helps keep our digestive and immune systems strong.

“We are all ingesting antibacterial products on a daily basis, even at a low level, which can have repercussions for the health of our micro-ecology,” says Sandor Ellix Katz, fermentation expert and author of The Art of Fermentation (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012). “Consuming fermented foods containing live bacterial cultures can help replenish the populations already living in our gut.”

Probiotics, a term referring to the beneficial live bacteria that can reach our intestinal tracts through fermented food, have been shown to act as anticarcinogens, restore crucial intestinal flora, and help us ward off illness.

A natural evolution

Although our ancestors may not have been aware of the microscopic superheroes present in many of their traditional foods, the preservation process enacted by probiotic bacteria was both visible and invaluable.

“The historical context of fermentation was to preserve the harvest,” says Katz.

Without refrigerators, milk was transformed into longer-lasting kefir, yogurt, and cheese. Vegetables such as cabbage and cucumbers were turned into rot-resisting kimchi and pickles. In this way, the “good” bacteria, which instigate the process of fermentation, can inhibit the growth of pathogenic “bad” bacteria, acting as a safe and natural preservative.

“Even now, looking at the earth as a whole, most people do not own a refrigerator,” says Katz. “These are practical preservation strategies; fermentation, throughout history, has always been used for effective food safety.”

Much attention has been paid in recent years to the benefits of probiotics. However, mass-produced commercial ferments are usually treated with heat—killing the live bacteria—or contain only limited bacterial strains. Home fermentation allows multiple types of beneficial bacteria to transform and remain in our food, providing a wealth of health benefits.

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Fabulous ferments

From Eastern European sauerkraut to Japanese miso soup, traditional ferments provide a simple way to benefit from natural bacterial processes. The following ferments are all rich in live bacteria and can be made at home using very little equipment.

Kimchi
Usually made of fermented cabbage and radish, this tangy Korean staple is rich in both bone-protective vitamin K and brain-boosting vitamin B12. Studies have suggested that fermented kimchi can increase metabolism, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and reduce inflammation in overweight subjects. The beneficial effects were noted to be much greater in those who consumed fermented kimchi, rather than fresh.

Kefir
This probiotic-filled fermented milk packs a healthy punch. Grown from bacterial grains, kefir’s protective lactic acid bacteria boosts immunity, helping us to ward off infections. It can also decrease the severity of allergic responses such as lactose intolerance.

Regular consumption of kefir can ease tummy troubles and may promote anticarcinogenic activity. One study even referred to the tart treat as “a new dawn of food for mankind”—so go ahead and drink up!

Sourdough
This hearty ferment brings good news for those with a gluten allergy. Research suggests the bacteria in sourdough can calm intestinal inflammation, and further studies found that fermenting gluten-free sourdough bread with lactic acid bacteria can remove the risk of gluten contamination. Though more detailed studies are needed, sourdough bread made with gluten-free flours may be a tasty option for celiacs.

Cheese
Unprocessed cheese, including Gouda, havarti, mozzarella, ricotta, and feta, is another fermented milk product that allows us to benefit from lactic acid-producing bacteria. These probiotics have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and offer protection from heart disease, while helping to regulate digestive function and soothe inflammation, which is particularly beneficial for sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Fermented foods are regaining popularity as an important source of probiotics. This “good” bacteria restores crucial intestinal flora and improves immunity. If you’re looking for a little extra boost for your digestive health, show your gut some love with these delicious traditional foods.

Posted in Blog |

Enzymes, Probiotics & Prebiotics…What’s the Difference?

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More and more research is suggesting that the state of your digestive health has broader impacts on both your physical and emotional well-being. Everything from weight loss, to heart health, mood and concentration appears to have ties to how well your body is able to absorb vital nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Along with these discoveries, the prevalence of supplements aimed at optimizing digestion are on the rise. Even food manufacturers and distributors have started to expound the natural digestion aiding qualities of their food. But what are all of these gut-optimizing products doing and how are they doing it?

Let’s take a look at three of the most popular gut aids: Enzymes, Probiotics and Prebiotics. What are they, what do they do, and what types of issues do they help resolve?

Enzymes

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Most of us understand that food gets broken down into nutrients (amino acids, proteins, fatty acids, cholesterol and carbohydrates, vitamins minerals etc.) through the process of digestion. Digestive enzymes are small proteins that are responsible for breaking down specific food molecules into nutrients.

The enzymes your body produces naturally are primarily created by the pancreas and then released into the small intestines. From there, they go to work breaking down food molecules so that they can be absorbed by the body.

Enzyme supplements work in much the same way, targeting particular food molecules, breaking them down and allowing them to be absorbed by the body. Supplements can be specific, like lactase which targets lactose (the ingredient in milk that creates lactose intolerance) or general, targeting a variety of different food molecules.

A variety of issues ranging from aging and chronic stress to diseases such as pancreatitis, Crohn’s or Celiac diseases can create enzyme deficiencies. Enzyme supplements, when taken with food, can help to target specific issues. For example, the enzyme lactase can help to relieve symptoms created by lactose intolerance.  A multi-enzyme can also help to reduce broader issues such as chronic inflammation, bloating or infections such as Candida.

Probiotics

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Probiotics are beneficial live microorganisms (bacteria and yeast) that exist in the digestive tract along with some foods and supplements.

Although there is still much research to be done on the precise benefits of specific strains of bacteria, overall probiotics help move food through your gut, helping you absorb nutrients and fight infection. Other research has suggested that probiotics help to improve particular skin conditions, urinary and vaginal health, immunity, and oral health.

A number of factors contribute to probiotic deficiencies including antibiotics, stress, particular sugars, grains and food storage and refrigeration practices. Symptoms of probiotic deficiency range from digestive issues, skin irritations, candida, autoimmune diseases and frequent colds and flus. Essentially, a lack of good bacteria creates an imbalance allowing your gut to become a breeding ground for bad bacteria, yeasts, viruses, fungi and parasites.

Sometimes simply avoiding things that negatively impact your gut flora isn’t possible, as is the case with many prescription medications. However, replenishing these beneficial microorganisms through supplementation and food selection can vastly improve this imbalance and alleviate many of the above symptoms entirely with effective maintenance.

Prebiotics

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Prebiotics are nondigestible, specialized plant fibres that feeds the beneficial bacteria and yeast in your intestines.

In essence, prebiotics act as a fertilizer for probiotics by helping them grow. Along with probiotic supplementation that adds good bacteria to the gut, prebiotics help to improve the ratio of good-to-bad bacteria in the gut.

Probiotics are fairly delicate. Both heat and stomach acid can kill them before they ever make it to the intestines. While supplements take measures to protect against these challenges, it can also be beneficial to nurture and grow the good bacteria already in the gut. Prebiotics on the other hand are heartier, surviving the digestive processes of the upper GI tract.

Prebiotic fibre is easily obtained through the consumption of whole fruits and vegetables. However, obtaining enough of these fibres (approximately 25 grams a day) can be a challenge for a variety of reasons. Prebiotic supplements help to round out food derived fibres usually in the form of powders that can be mixed with liquids or sprinkled on foods.

It is no secret that a healthy gut contributes to one’s overall wellbeing. However with new research showing just how important a healthy microbiome can be to other systems in the body, we are all learning how important it is to love your gut!
Posted in Blog |

Fats, Flora, and Fitness

Positive ways to enhance your heart health

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Get some insight into current perspectives on dietary factors in cardiovascular disease, and read the facts on flora. Treat your heart to some exercise, and find out if wearable technology is a fit for you.

The last decade has seen a revolution in our understanding of cardiac health. Perspectives on dietary saturated fats are shifting, awareness of the role of gut flora is deepening, and the omnipresent activity tracker is evolving into an attractive accessory. What are the best ways to give our ever-faithful hearts a little tender loving care?

Heart what you eat

While high levels of blood cholesterol are seen as contributors to cardiovascular disease, perspectives on dietary fats are shifting. Saturated fats have long been demonized as a major cause of atherosclerosis, but recent studies of foods rich in saturated fats, such as avocado, coconut oil, and even yogurt and cheese, demonstrate little cause for concern.

Why are decades of public messaging being turned on their collective head? Saturated fats are commonly found in processed foods, which are an abundant source of calories and inflammatory trans fats. It may be a case of guilt by association—the processed food rather than the fat may have been the culprit all along.

In addition, a jarring revelation in the revered Journal of the American Medical Association discloses that the role of sugar in cardiovascular disease may have been intentionally downplayed through industry-funded research. Perhaps we were simply misguided in branding saturated fats as the archenemy of the heart.

Dietary patterns

The Mediterranean diet is the most studied dietary approach for cardiac prevention and encourages consideration of dietary patterns rather than the condemnation of individual nutrients. This plan endorses unprocessed plant-based foods and fats, fortifies the move away from low-fat diets, and trumpets nuts and olive oil as champions of cardiovascular health.

Heart-helping microbes

Fascinating new research highlights a route to heart health through the gut. Unhealthy flora may alter our body’s handling of red meats in particular and may help to illuminate the harmful effects of some foods. As whole grains and fermented foods influence our internal ecosystem, choosing them may provide additional benefit to our heart and circulation.

Moving toward a healthy heart

Regular activity has meaningful effects on risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Exercise can decrease blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity, increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, elevate our mood, and decrease our risk of dying from heart disease. No drug can claim all of these remarkable effects.

Canadian guidelines recommend 150 minutes weekly of moderate to vigorous exercise and two days of bone and muscle strengthening activities. Moderate intensity activity increases respiration and heart rate and could include brisk walking, swimming, or biking. Vigorous activities should leave you sweaty and breathing rapidly and include running, aerobics, and many team sports.

While the guidelines may be clear, the execution is the stumbling block for most of us.

Wearables—fad or function?

A wide range of gear, gadgets, and smartphones can track and record every aspect of your daily activity, food intake, and body measurement. But are these watches, clips, and pendants doing you any favours or just giving you less money to buy chocolate?

As far as cardiovascular risk factors are concerned, people wearing activity trackers take more steps and feel more motivated to exercise. Other studies link wearables and online food journalling with improved weight loss.

Unfortunately, the novelty wears off after a while, along with benefits of activity levels. Engagement with an app can help keep interest going, but the long-term effects of wearable technology on cardiovascular health still remain to be seen.

To drink or not to drink …

Aside from diet and exercise, other lifestyle practices can nourish our cardiovascular system.

The relationship of alcohol to heart health epitomizes the adage of everything in moderation. Low to moderate intake (one drink daily for women, two for men) is associated with improved blood cholesterol and reduced risk of cardiac mortality. Less is more for stroke incidence where risk is lowest with less than a drink per day. While red wine may be packed with blood-boosting antioxidants, overindulgence can increase cardiac risk by contributing to obesity and increased blood pressure.

Sleep more, stress less

Sleep is an underappreciated supporter of heart function. For people who eat well, exercise, and don’t smoke, ensuring seven hours of sleep per night further decreases cardiovascular risk. Effective stress management techniques can convey additional benefit.

Show your heart a little love with the right foods, healthy flora, and a good night’s sleep. You’ll be taking even more than 10,000 steps in the right direction.

Risk factors you can change

You may not be able to change your age, gender at birth, or family history, but you could influence

  • elevated blood pressure
  • low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
  • weight
  • insulin resistance and diabetes
  • lack of activity
  • smoking

A few heart-health supplement helpers

In addition to eating a healthy diet, exercising, and managing your weight, these supplements may provide some benefit.

SUPPLEMENT USE
berberine can increase HDL (good) cholesterol while decreasing LDL (bad) cholesterol; may have an impact on waist circumference, blood pressure, triglycerides, and insulin resistance
omega-3 fatty acids a marine or vegan source of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of a second heart attack
coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) antioxidant nutrient long used as part of protocols for those with heart failure; promotes reductions in blood pressure
magnesium deficiency is associated with higher blood pressure, coronary artery calcification, and risk of death from cardiovascular disease

Get moving—here’s how!

Envision it

What type of movement or activity do you really enjoy?

Analyze it

Feeling blocked? Write or talk about it. Gently explore your reasons for not exercising.

Plan it

When will you exercise? What food/clothing is needed? How will the seasons affect your activity?

Share it

Buddy up for company while harnessing some positive peer pressure.

Integrate it

Walk or bike to work, have walking meetings, plan active times with friends rather than coffee dates.

Posted in Blog |

What does a “Heart Healthy Diet” Look Like?

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Did you know that February is Heart Health Month? Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada, and the first leading cause of death worldwide. This has led many countries and organizations around the world to take a closer look at ways we can improve our heart health. While there are healthy lifestyle changes we can make to most parts of our life, we’re taking a closer look at food choices.

A nutritious balanced diet is, not surprisingly, among the most influential lifestyle choices we can make to help curb our risk and even improve or eliminate existing symptoms of heart disease. Specifically, a balanced diet can help combat coronary artery disease, one of the most common types of heart disease. While this is not necessarily new information, especially for those of us who already experience symptoms, putting information into action can be daunting.

To make things feel a little less daunting, we’ve compiled a recipe list using 5 key guidelines of a heart healthy diet.

Fruit and vegetables

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According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Manitoba, studies have shown that increasing the number of fruits and vegetables consumed contributes to lowered blood pressure.  They recommend 4-5 servings of fruit, and 4-5 servings of vegetables a day – the fresher the better. While dried and canned fruits and vegetables have some of the same benefits, added salt and sugar can create problems.

Whole Grains

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Skip processed and refined grains like white bread, pasta and white rice. All of these food items are low in fibre, a key component to heart healthy eating.  Instead go for whole grain breads, brown or wild rice, quinoa, steal cut oats, hulled barley and buckwheat. Whole grain options are not only higher in fibre, they also contain more protein and B vitamins. They can also help you stay full longer.

Diverse Protein Sources

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Saturated fats in red meats, poultry skins and dairy can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood. However meat and dairy products are the primary source of protein for many Canadians. As the Heart and Stroke Foundation points out, protein helps to build and maintain bones, skin and muscles, making it an important part of a healthy diet. To strike a balance, diversify your protein sources by incorporating fish, beans, lentils, tofu and non-dairy or low-fat dairy options.

Avoid Highly Processed Foods

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During the preservation of highly processed foods valuable vitamins, minerals and fibre are removed while sugars, salts and manufactured chemicals are added. Although fresh is generally best, minimally processed foods (bagged salad, frozen fruits & veggies, brown rices, dried herbs or flours) keep almost all of their essential nutrients. Reading labels and downloading an app like Sage to help you navigate the grocery isles can really help to make this adjustment easier.

What you drink counts too

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When it comes to alcohol, stick to the recommended guidelines and remember, everything in moderation. But don’t forget about the other beverages you’re consuming. Pops and juices contain high levels of sugar and calories, while flavoured coffees are typically high in fat and sugar. This doesn’t mean you can only drink water. Unsweetened coffee with low-fat dairy or dairy alternatives, teas, fresh pressed juices, and kombucha are all excellent alternatives.

Whether you’re taking precautionary measures to ensure your heart’s health long into old age, or you’re trying to get your heart health back on track, making changes to your diet can always be a bit of a challenge. Focusing on the delicious meals that you’re introducing into your life, rather than the specific ingredients you’re taking out will go a long way to making that transition easier. In the end, it’s worth it to put your heart first!

Posted in Blog |

Stress Less …

For a healthier brain and body

Stress Less …

You’re already busy, but throw in the desire to lose weight, and you can easily send your stress levels—and your weight—sky-high. Try these simple strategies to curb your stress for a healthier brain and body.

Most of us are under stress from one source or another. Whether it’s our career, relationships, or health goals, we’re busier than ever trying to meet the demands of our modern lives.

Our bodies are paying the mental, emotional, and physical price for this busy habit. Regardless of whether the stressor is a spouse, our finances, or a deadline, our adrenal glands release a hormone called cortisol to keep us alert and ready for action.

Cortisol increases blood sugar levels, resulting in crashes and cravings later in the day, and it causes the release of insulin, the hormone responsible for fat storage. When we experience stress, blood and nutrients are directed to the muscles, brain, and vital organs and away from the digestive system, which can lead to gas, bloating, and constipation.

As you can imagine, this becomes problematic when stress is chronic, persisting over a long time. High cortisol levels are linked to weight gain, so getting a handle on your stress is essential for your weight-loss efforts.

Implement one—or all—of these strategies to maintain weight loss and constructively cope with your stress.

Maximize magnesium

Magnesium is often referred to as the “antistress mineral.” It’s responsible for relaxing muscles and aiding in sleep. Supplementing with magnesium may help relieve headaches, and it also plays a role in healthy glucose and insulin management. Magnesium is thought to be crucial for proper adrenal gland function and may be depleted in times of stress. Eating more dark green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grain brown rice may help, or check with your health care practitioner about supplements.

Don’t let your sleep slip

A poor night’s sleep results in higher levels of ghrelin, an appetite-stimulating hormone. Ever notice that when you’ve had a poor night’s sleep, you crave sweets and carbohydrate-rich foods? This is because these foods are high in glucose, which gives you an energy boost.

Aim to get eight or nine hours of sleep each night. If you’re feeling wired at bedtime, turn off computers and TVs and put your phone away at least one hour before bed. The screen’s blue light suppresses the release of melatonin, the hormone that makes you drowsy at night. If you need to use these devices, dim the light or download an app that does it for you.

Cut back on caffeine

Caffeine increases cortisol at rest, so during times of stress, you can expect your coffee habit to have a greater effect. If you’re a coffee lover, cut back on your consumption during times of increased stress. Switch to herbal tea to further counter cortisol and its fat-storing effects. There are many blends designed to calm and relax.

Posted in Blog |

“Health-i-fy” Your Superbowl Spread

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This Sunday, the Super Bowl will be taking over televisions in homes around the city. And where there is football, there is junk food…lots and lots of junk food. Some people happily take the hit to their health for the day so that they can enjoy pop, nachos and wings. And while a day of binging on saturated fats, refined sugars, and salt may not change your health long term, it will almost definitely leave you with an upset stomach.  But what if you could skip the tummy ache and regrets by making small changes to the food you serve on game day? Of course at Vita Health we’re all about empowering people to lead healthy lives, so we’ve compiled some health-i-fied alternatives to some staple Super Bowl snacks.

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  1. WINGS! While chicken on its own isn’t necessarily unhealthy, deep fried batter, breading and dips add a lot of saturated fats while sauces often contain a lot of extra sugar and salt. Instead:

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  1. CHIPS! There’s nothing more satisfying than the crunch of a good chip. But, with extremely high levels of salt and fat, your standard chip is probably best avoided. Here’s what you can do instead:

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  1. DIPS! Dairy-based dips – whether they’re made with cream cheese or sour cream or Velveeta – contain a lot of extra saturated fats. But there are plenty of alternatives that don’t leave you sacrificing flavour:

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  1. NACHOS! If the salt from the chips doesn’t get you, the cheese, sour cream and ground beef might. Believe it or not, there are a few things you can do to make nachos a little less taxing on your health:

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  1. POP! We all know it’s terrible for us. Between the processed sugar and artificial flavours, there is very little benefit to drinking most pops. In fact, colas and other caffeinated pops dehydrate the body. Instead:

Whether your game plan is to tackle one healthier option or you kick off your Super Bowl with a healthy spread more nutritious, we’ve got you covered! aaaaaaaand…BREAK!

Posted in Blog |

Why Not Roast?

Kick up the heat; turn up the flavour

 Roasted Garlic, Lemon, Chicken, and Kale Skillet Caesar

One of the easiest cooking methods in the kitchen also happens to be the tastiest and healthiest. We’re talking about roasting. Whether meat, fish, vegetables, or tofu, a main course with minimal clean-up can be ready in under an hour.

Roasting locks in flavour, moisture, and nutrition. Its dry, quick heat means your nutrients stay in the food, not washed down the drain with methods like boiling. High output with relatively low input, this warming way to do dinner kicks things up a notch in the taste department, without the need for extra ingredients.

Squash tastes sweeter, chicken is juicier, and broccoli becomes a brand new vegetable. Roasting works its magic other ways, too, transforming bitter and sour lemons into an entirely edible treat (yes, the whole thing!) and garlic cloves into savoury candy. Arm yourself with a cast iron skillet, sheet pan, or glass dish, and reintroduce this high-temperature cooking technique into your New Year’s kitchen.

Recipes

Roasted Brown Butter and Bean Stuffed Acorn Squash with Crispy Sage

Roasted Garlic, Lemon, Chicken, and Kale Skillet Caesar


Roasted Garlic, Lemon, Chicken, and Kale Skillet Caesar

Roasted Garlic, Lemon, Chicken, and Kale Skillet Caesar


Roasted Smoky Tomatoes with Swiss Chard and Eggs

Roasted Smoky Tomatoes with Swiss Chard and Eggs


Roasted Eggplant and Broccoli Noodles with Five-Spice Ground Tofu

Roasted Eggplant and Broccoli Noodles with Five-Spice Ground Tofu


Roasted Maple-Mustard Pork over Brussels Sprout Pilaf

Roasted Maple-Mustard Pork Over Brussels Sprout Pilaf


Roasting versus baking

Roasting
  • generally over 400 F (200 C)
  • dry heat
  • uncovered
  • food is solid when it goes in (e.g., a whole chicken)—you’re always roasting no matter the temperature when food is solid
  • food is often coated in fat to crisp exterior (e.g., squash brushed with oil)
Baking
  • up to 375 F (190 C)
  • dry heat
  • covered or uncovered
  • food is liquid when it goes in (e.g., cake batter)
  • food has fat in it, not brushed onto it (e.g., butter in cookies)

Gas/conventional versus convection ovens

  • As not everyone has a convection feature on their oven, recipes are generally written with conventional (non-convection) ovens in mind.
  • Convection ovens have a fan at the back to push air around, cooking food more quickly and at a lower temperature.
  • If using a convection oven in a recipe, lower the heat by 25 F (4 C) degrees, and begin checking for doneness earlier, as it cooks faster.
  • Delicate baked goods such as cakes, muffins, and baked custards need a gentle heat; keep the convection feature off when making these.
  • Convection ovens are ideal for roasting vegetables and meats, lending a crispy exterior to the foods while keeping the interior moist (but this same feature can make food dry, so check for doneness early).

The fuss about trussing

Why truss?

Keeps the food intact, so it cooks evenly, retains its shape, and no extremities become dry during roasting.

What to truss

Whole poultry, stuffed meats such as pork loin roasts, and whole stuffed fish.

How to truss

WHOLE POULTRY (THE EASY WAY)  Using ovenproof twine, secure the legs of the bird by tying them with a bow. Tuck wings under so they don’t flap out and get dry. Snip twine using kitchen scissors to untie before serving.

STUFFED MEAT AND WHOLE STUFFED FISH  Tie loose but secure vertical pieces of ovenproof twine 2 to 4 in (5 to 10 cm) apart. Make as many ties as you need to hold your meat or fish together. Snip twine using kitchen scissors to untie before serving.

Roasting is a naturally nutritious cooking method that turns everyday ingredients into golden brown dinners.

Posted in Blog |

Finding Fun in Winterpeg

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5 activities that will keep you thriving during the deep freeze.

Whether you’ve lived here your whole life or this is your first deep freeze in the ‘Peg, figuring out what to do with yourself in the colder months can be a challenge. With the help of our trusty Facebook audience, we’ve compiled a list of ideas to inspire you into action this winter!

By now, we all know that getting outside is critical to our wellbeing. Staying indoors for long stretches of time can have repercussions on our mental and physical health and many of these repercussions don’t disappear with the snow.

The good news is that we can skip all of that by gearing up and facing the freeze. A quick walk outside can offset the symptoms of conditions like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), improve your mood, brain function and mental focus as well as stave off cabin fever. Spending time in nature can further amplify these positive outcomes. In fact, exercising outside year-round can give you better results than indoor workouts. The effects of outdoor workouts are improved even more when paired with the crisp temperatures of January as your body works harder to regulate temperature.

Make this winter work for you with these five outdoor activities:

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Tobogganing and Tubing – While Manitoba isn’t known for its mountainous terrain, there are no shortage of hills perfect for sledding. Make a day out of it and visit Adrenaline Adventures, or check out one of the many local hills and ramps around the city. Shooting down even the smallest hills is a thrill. Running to the top will keep you warm and work off any excess energy. Find the hill nearest you!

 

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Skating – If you’ve never checked out the river trail at the Forks, you’re missing out! Get a different view of the city from both the Red and Assiniboine rivers and check out the unique warming huts. Or you can switch it up and visit the duck ponds at Assiniboine or Kildonan Park. If skating on bodies of water isn’t your thing, there are dozens of local rinks to check out. 

 

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Snowshoeing – Find a fresh patch of snow and get busy making tracks. Explore places where the snow is too deep to walk or follow a trail and take advantage of the extra workout you get from moving in a different way. If you don’t want to buy your own show shoes, rent them from one of the multiple locations around the city.

 

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Skiing – If you’ve ever been cross country skiing, you know how fun it can be to glide through the snow. You also know what a great workout it provides. Like snowshoeing, strapping on skis gives you the chance to explore places you can’t go on foot in the winter. There are several groomed trails throughout the city where you can rent skis for the day. 

 

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Hiking: If walking around the block is all you’ve got time for, then do it, twice. But if you’re looking for a bit more of a challenge, get off the streets and hit the trails. There is something magical about walking under trees sparkling with frost and icicles. Take some time to bird watch or check out the animal tracks in the snow. If you aren’t sure where to go, start here!

Whichever activity you pick, take a few extra minutes to plan something new and different. There is nothing better than discovering a new favourite activity or a new part of the city you never knew existed. Happy trails!

Posted in Blog |

Unpacking Diet Trends

Which one’s right for you?

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With the help of an expert panel, we break down some benefits and drawbacks of the latest diet trends, so you can put together your ideal eating plan.


When it comes to our well-being, there’s almost no other subject swirling with more information—much of it conflicting—than nutrition.

“We live in a world in which we’re overwhelmed by the latest diet trends—but they don’t all work for everybody, because we’re all so incredibly different,” says registered holistic nutritionist and certified health coach Alyssa Bauman.

“By our very nature, our brains are a little black and white, so it can be easier psychologically to have hard rules than go with the standard dietitian line, which is ‘everything in moderation,’” says registered dietitian Desiree Nielsen, author of Un-Junk Your Diet (Skyhorse Publishing, 2014).

“You don’t have to choose one; you can take things that resonate from a number of diets,” says holistic nutritionist and Canadian School of Natural Nutrition instructor Keyrsten McEwan. “You can put a plan together that’s right for you.”

Think of the different trends that follow as toolboxes to draw from. Your toolbox may contain all of the tools from one box, or it can be a mashup of tools from different boxes.

Whole food diet versus clean eating

The terms “whole food” and “clean eating” are used widely and sometimes interchangeably, but what exactly do they mean?

Whole foods are “single ingredient foods,” says Nielsen. “It’s quite descriptive; [it means] did it grow up like this? An apple is a whole food; apple juice isn’t. The whole food diet is the least faddish, because that’s ideally what we should all be eating. The majority of people have problems because they’ve gone toward a hyperprocessed diet.”

Examples of whole foods include vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts), whole grains and superseeds (brown rice, oats, barley, millet, buckwheat, quinoa), nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, pumpkin, sesame), eggs, whole dairy products, fish, seafood, and meat.

Clean eating generally includes the foods listed above; however, it doesn’t demand their wholeness and suggests less sugar and reduced fat. Egg whites, juicing, and low-fat dairy are often acceptable.

But, “separating foods means you’re missing half the nutrients,” says Bauman. “I think an organic egg is one of the best protein sources; we need that yolk.” She also suggests fibre-rich smoothies over juicing.

Paleo versus Whole30

The Paleo diet is thought to mimic the diet of our Paleolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors and consists of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils (including coconut, olive, and walnut), eggs, fish, and meat, plus the occasional drop of honey. It excludes dairy, grains, and legumes.

The Whole30 diet is a stricter variation of the Paleo diet, excluding honey and minimizing fruit. The Whole30 program rules dictate: “Eat meat, seafood, eggs, tons of vegetables, some fruit, and plenty of good fats from fruits, oils, nuts, and seeds.” It’s intended as a “short-term nutritional reset” that lasts 30 days.

“The Paleo diet has a good foundation because it focuses on fruits, vegetables, lean meat, nuts, and healthy fats,” says Cristina Sutter, a registered dietitian specializing in athletic nutrition, “and research shows it’s effective for weight loss.

“But it excludes superfoods like beans, lentils, and chickpeas; complex carbohydrates like quinoa, brown rice, and oats—a predominant source of fuel for high-performance athletes—as well as dairy, which can be important for those who digest it well.”

Digestion is a question for every diet. “The Paleo diet seems to be great for people with digestive issues, autoimmune disorders, and food sensitivities like gluten and dairy,” says McEwan.

Vegan versus flexitarian

A flexitarian diet is primarily vegan or vegetarian but very flexible—which means there are no rules, just an emphasis on eating plenty of plants and minimal animal products. It’s for those who generally adhere to a vegan diet but eat the odd egg for brunch, or crave a steak and a few slices of bacon every once in a while.

A vegan diet excludes all animal products, including meat, fish, eggs, dairy, and even honey.

“I’m 100 percent for a vegan diet—unless you’re a junk food vegan,” says Nielsen. “Don’t be a vegan at all costs. Some diets are only made possible by modern times, because we have the nutritional knowledge to get around things, like vitamin B12. I believe it’s about finding an individual plan that brings health for that person. Vegan may be the answer for someone, while Paleo may be the answer for someone else.”

“Veganism is on the upswing, especially among teenagers,” says Sutter. “There are many valid reasons for people to move away from meat—health, environment, animal welfare—however, it does have important nutrients, so if you’re not replacing those nutrients, it won’t be a healthy diet.”

Microbiome versus mood

Two of the most exciting areas of research in nutrition right now are our relationship to the trillions of beneficial bacteria that inhabit our gut (collectively called our microbiome and weighing about 1 kg in the average adult), and the relationship between what we eat and our brains—and therefore our moods.

Beneficial bacteria facilitate the digestion of food and absorption of nutrients, modulate the manufacturing of neurotransmitters, act as protective gatekeepers at our intestinal lining, and play a role in the communication between our gut (also called the enteric nervous system or “second brain”) and our brain.

“Up to 95 percent of serotonin is synthesized in the gut,” says McEwan, of the neurotransmitter that mediates mood and regulates appetite and sleep.

Nutrient-dense whole foods supply building blocks for neurotransmitters, like carbohydrates for serotonin. Studies show that some neurotransmitters—such as GABA, which plays an important role in mood—are even secreted by our gut microbes.

Prebiotic and fermented foods, as well as probiotic supplements, are important factors to support our microbiome and boost our mood.

“Many foods, like fruits and vegetables, act as prebiotics,” says Sutter, of the fibre-rich foods that fuel the beneficial bacteria in our colon.

Fermented foods—including sauerkraut, chickpea miso, kimchi, and kombucha—are natural probiotics that add to our microbiome’s diversity, an important factor for any ecosystem to flourish.

“Diet has a huge influence on mood,” says Bauman, who suggests consuming whole foods and taking supplements with brain-boosters such as omega-3, vitamin D, and probiotics.

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