Benefits of Coconut Water

Is it just me, or is this summer (at least in Toronto) shaping up to be a scorching hot summer? I can barely remember the last time it rained for more than an hour and the low for the week is 33c with humidity. I’ve been having a hard time squeezing in my running mainly because the heat is sucking the life right out of me. Sounds like an excuse but believe me, I’d love to be out there running. I should be going in the mornings but believe it or not, it’s still too humid for me. Something’s got to give, right?

Since I haven’t been able to do much in the way of exercise, I’ve had some more time in my schedule to devote to writing, when I’m not watching back to back episodes of season 5 of Mad Men. I’m happy to report that my first article about coconut water has been published on STACK (a fitness and health website)! You can find it here. My article gives you some great information about just how awesome coconut water is – especially if you are brave enough to work out in the hot temperatures.

I hope you enjoy it and more articles to come!

Advertisements

Benefits of Turmeric: Why It’s Finally Okay To Be Yellow-Bellied

The third spice that I’d like to talk about in my spice series (and no, I don’t mean THIS spice series) is turmeric (ter-mer-ick). Did you know that back in the day, this spice was referred to as “Indian Saffron”? Yes. It was. Not only is it CHALK-FULL of benefits, but it also happens to be that spice that gives curry its yellow colour!

Curcumin is the element of turmeric that gives this spice its orange-yellow colour is said to be the main pharmacological ingredient in turmeric (what provides us with amazing health benefits). It’s even more powerful than an over the counter anti-inflammatory like Motrin and the best part is that because it is natural, it is completely safe (i.e. prolonged use won’t cause ulcers, decreased white blood cell count, and intestinal bleeding). Scary stuff! They don’t put that on the labels, do they?

Did you know, too, that inflammation isn’t just caused by pulling a muscle or spraining your arm but it’s mainly caused by the foods we eat – especially too many processed foods. These heavily tax our liver and our digestive system creating a toxic environment and basically wreaking havoc on your entire body. Inflammation has been linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. That’s why it’s SO important to cut out the out junk, detoxify the liver and eat as “cleanly” as possible.

Incorporating turmeric into your diet is a great way to reduce this inflammation, but like I said, the whole diet needs to be re-adjusted. To put it into perspective it’s like having a gruelling workout to cancel out a bag of chips that you mowed down in your car on your way home from work. The workout doesn’t “cancel out” the chips. In fact, the chips (or whatever junk food – chocolates, candies, fast food etc) would decrease the energy you have for your workouts and your ability to recover since most junk foods are laden with sodium and sugar. Both those are topics for another day 🙂

Here are some of the main health benefits:

  • Powerful anti-inflammatory
  • Effective treatment against inflammatory bowel disease
  • Relief from rheumatoid arthritis
  • Help for cystic fibrosis suffers
  • Cancer prevention
  • Improved liver function
  • Cardiovascular protection
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Protection against Alzheimer’s

Wow…Is there anything it can’t do? Seriously.

I bet you’re thinking to yourself, “Where can I buy this wonder spice?”

Well…pretty much at any grocery store but I recommend you buy organic to get a better flavour and a fresher product. It’s best to buy turmeric straight up to get maximum benefits and not the curry powder since the amount of turmeric in the composition tends to be diluted, so to speak.

I come from an Irish Catholic background so of course, I did not grow up with this spice. In my home, salt and pepper were the staples and paprika was the most exotic spice I’d ever heard of until I moved out on my own and explored other cultural dishes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But now that I’m living on my own and cook my own meals, I make sure that I use it in my cooking at least 3 to 4 times a week. You don’t necessarily have to make curries all the time, just add about a 1/4 tsp in with your other spices if you make a stir fry or add it home made salad dressing. I recently discovered turmeric tea which isn’t half bad (with a bit of agave/honey). More on that later. To get the maximum benefits they recommend 1.2 to 1.8 grams a day (1g = 1 tsp in case you were wondering).

This week, I’ll share with you my experiences with said tea and I’ll share with you a different twist on making chicken curry!

Enjoy!

Benefits of Ginger

The second spice that I’d like to talk to you about in my spice series is ginger. And, no, I don’t mean this Ginger Spice. I’m referring to the super spice that adds a bit of zing to sauces and teas and is infamous in Asian cooking.

(Side note: Now I have that song, “Spice Up Your Life” stuck in my head. God, I miss the ’90s!).

Let’s jump in, shall we?

Ginger is a root that was originally cultivated in South Asia and has spread to East Africa and the Carribean. It’s available year round at your local market or grocery store.

Benefits:

  • Gastrointestinal relief. Prevents symptoms of motion sickness and seasickness. It also reduces other symptoms including nausea, dizziness, vomiting and cold sweats. It’s even safe to consume while you’re pregnant to aid with morning sickness.
  • Anti-inflammatory. It contains very potent anit-inflammatory compounds called gingerols. Studies have shown that it reduces pain for those suffering from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. If you are suffering from Candida, like I was, ginger has a soothing effect on any inflammation that the candida growth may have on your intestinal tract.
  • Protection against colorectal cancer.
  • Induces cell death in ovarian cancer cells. The extracts in the ginger have been shown to have anti-tumour effects on cancer cells
  • Immune booster. This spice promotes healthy sweating which is very useful when you’re trying to fight off a nasty cold or flu. Usually, it’s used in ginger teas or hot drinks.

Fresh or dried?

Personally, I choose fresh whenever possible. Not only does it pack in more flavour but it contains higher levels of gingerol (that amazing element of ginger that gives us so many of those great benefits that I was telling you about). With that said, dried is useful if you’re making sauces or baking as it easily dissolves in the liquid.

I’ll admit it, ginger isn’t the most attractive thing you’ll see in the grocery store, but don’t  be put off by its nubbiness (if that’s even a word). Before you throw
one in your basket, make sure that it’s firm, smooth and free of mold.

Uses:

Ginger is often used in teas or hot drinks, especially if you aren’t feeling well. If I’m suffering from the flu or I’ve eaten something that isn’t quite agreeing with me, I’ll cut off a quarter inch of ginger, peel it, chop it into smaller pieces and either throw it my green tea or make a hot honey, lemon and ginger drink. It usually does the trick!

Tell us, what’s your favourite way to cook with ginger?

*** Stay tuned for my Asian inspired recipe using this zesty spice!

Enjoy!

Benefits of Garlic – Look out, Edward Cullen!

The first spice I’d like talk about, and this can be fresh or powdered, is garlic.

Garlic isn’t just for vampires, it boasts quite a  few health benefits:

  • Cardiovascular benefits
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antibacterial and antiviral (fights bacterial infections like candida and viruses like the common cold)
  • Aids in increasing your iron metabolism
  • Immune system booster
  • Blood thinner
  • Contains Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Selenium.

All the more reason to load up! Garlic is versatile and can be added to many recipes including sauces, stir fries, meat dishes, etc.

According to Science Daily:

“Researchers have widely believed that the organic compound, allicin – which gives garlic its aroma and flavour – acts as the world’s most powerful antioxidant.”

Is fresh better than dry? Honestly, I’m not sure. There are pros and cons to both. According to Live Strong’s website, powder is just as powerful as fresh. Plus, powder is easy to store and never really goes bad. The only real difference that I can surmise is that garlic powder tends to be sweeter than fresh garlic and can be used more easily as a seasoning. It all depends on what your preference is.

Personally, I prefer fresh over powder because I tend to believe that the fresher the ingredients, the better.

Tell us, what’s your favourite garlic dish?

Stay tuned for my Thai inspired recipe using this wonder spice!

Variety is the Spice of Life!

How many times have you read a recipe and thought, “I have NO IDEA what that spice is (or how to pronounce it) let alone how it will taste?” or “When will I ever use this spice again?” I have.

Before last year when I started my health make-over, I didn’t even own a spice rack! I was so intimidated by spices that if I didn’t recognize one or already have it I would deliberately omit it from the recipe. It’s like saying, “I don’t know what interest vs principle means, so I won’t bother trying to figure that out and I’ll just keep paying the minimum payment.” Imagine? Wait, don’t.

This month, I’m going to try to help take the mystery out of some spices that are not only common but should be added to your dishes frequently. Why? Mainly because not only do they add a punch of flavour but they happen to be very good for you!

Spices are great (and important) because they can turn any basic meal from ordinary to extraordinary!

The spices discussed will be: garlic, ginger, coriander, and turmeric. I consider these to be some of the essential spices.

My plan for the month of May is to demystify them by sharing with you some of their benefits and giving you some recipes to incorporate them in.

There are many others that I wanted to discuss but I wanted to start with these since they are on my top 10 list (yes, I actually have a top 10 list and anyone who knew me in my 20s would be shocked that am this in love with cooking and no longer in a passive-agressive realationship with Dominoes pizza!).

Don’t worry, I promise to do another Spice Month soon to discuss the other six spices that I deem essential and/or amazing.

Stay tuned!

First up: Garlic.

PS: Tell us, what is your  favourite spice?

PPS: What spice would you bring with you on a desert island?

Benefits of Whole Grains

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably overwhelmed with information and choices about what to put into your body. There is a lot to consider from nutritional benefits, to taste, to cost and to the effects it will have on your body.

Then there are those fad diets and extreme diets urging you to eliminate foods from your diet, not just harmful foods but nutritious foods. How does that make any sense? I’ve successfully lost more than 20 pounds and have kept it off for a year by simply eliminating foods that are harmful to me  (refined sugars, processed foods, coffee, wheat and dairy).  But that’s me 🙂 You have to find what works for you. I’m hoping that some of this information will help take some of the guesswork out of choosing healthy grains and alternatives to wheat.

So let’s jump in!

What is a whole grain?

According to WebMD, “A whole grain contains all edible parts of the grain, including the bran, germ, and endosperm. The whole grain may be used intact or recombined, as long as all components are present in natural proportions.”

A grain is considered whole when it is comprised of 3 parts: Bran, Germ and Endosperm.

According to HealthCastle.com, “…whole grains are a good source of B vitamins, Vitamin E, magnesium, iron and fiber, as well as other valuable antioxidants not found in some fruits and vegetables. Most of the antioxidants and vitaminsare found in the germ and the bran of a grain.”

Wheatfreefood.com illustrates this best:

“To visualize a whole grain’s structure, think of an egg. The bran in a whole grain is akin to the shell of an egg, it is the protective outer coat. The germ is within the bran similar to the white of an egg. And the endosperm is the innermost part of a whole grain much like a yolk sits in an egg.”

So, what’s the difference between WHOLE grains and REFINED grains?

“Refined grains have their bran, germ, and most of the vitamins and nutrients removed during processing. The only part that remains is the starchy endosperm. This is why refined grains have more of an impact on raising blood sugar levels and thus have a higher glycemic index. Whole grains as mentioned earlier, contain the endosperm but also contain the germ and the bran. The bran provides abundant fiber which helps with satiety and slows down absorption keeping blood sugar levels happy, making whole grains a very good source of nutrition.”

Other reasons they are FANTASMIC?

Because whole grains are high in fiber, they aid in the following:

  • Lowering risk of heart disease by decreasing cholesterol levels, blood sugar and blood coagulation.
  • Helping to regulate blood glucose (especially those with diabetes)
  • Contributing to weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight.  Some studies have also shown that people who consume more whole grains consistently weigh less than those who consumed less whole grain products.

It is recommended that women get at least 25g of fiber a day and men should get at least 35g of fiber a day. This shouldn’t be too hard to achieve since each serving of whole grains yield from 1 to 4 g of fiber per serving, comparable to fruit and vegetables. If you have balanced meals and snacks throughout the day, it should be manageable.

What are the options?

  •     Whole oats/oatmeal
  •     Popcorn
  •     Brown rice
  •     Whole rye
  •     Whole-grain barley
  •     Wild rice
  •     Buckwheat
  •     Triticale
  •     Bulgur (cracked wheat)
  •     Millet
  •     Quinoa
  •     Sorghum
  •     100% whole wheat flour

How do we incorporate into our diet?

Choose whole-grain breads (like Ezekiel), cereals, bagels and crackers.  Be sure to read the ingredients on the package to ensure that there is very little sugar, in fact, there shouldn’t be any sugar in the mix if it’s whole grain. And make sure that all the ingredients are from REAL food – nothing you don’t understand or cannot pronounce. The simpler, the better!

Here are some quick suggestions:

  • Sandwiches with whole grain breads (like Ezekiel).
  • Whole oats in the morning
  • Snacks including whole grain crackers or make your own trail mix with whole oats
  • Use rice and quinoa when making your meals, rather than white rice or white pasta

So readers, I’d love to hear from you: How will you incorporate whole grains into your diet?

Stay tuned for a few recipes involving whole grain rice and quinoa!

Alternatives To Wheat

Be honest…does looking at this painting make you nervous?

VAN GOGH - WHEAT FIELD WITH CYPRESSES

If you’re anything like me and eating wheat is taxing on your body, please know that you may not have to give up foods that you enjoy! Nowadays, with food allergies becoming more prevalent in our Western society, there are more and more alternatives to wheat: brown rice pasta, spelt, quinoa, many varieties of rice, buckwheat and many more.  But even if you’re fine with wheat you need to be aware of the difference between whole wheat and whole grains.

Whole Wheat tends to be a clever marketing gimmick to entice consumers to purchase their bread products. The wheat is still highly processed and stripped of the germ, the bran, and majority of fibers, vitamins, and minerals. Whole Grains still have maintained their nutrients (you should see the seeds and grains in the actual bread). One brand that I love, and they make sprouted grains (a more natural occuring form of seeds and much easier to digest) is Ezekiel. This can be found in your frozen food section in your grocery store.

How do you know if you have developed a sensitivity to wheat?

Symptoms of food intolerance include:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Gas, cramps, or bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Heartburn
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Irritability or nervousness

What’s the big deal?

By continuing to consume foods that you are sensitive to, not only do you suffer some of these symptoms (how fun is that?) but your body will become inflamed and you will have trouble losing weight and over a long period of time, you could develop some serious health complications.

This is a great article that explains why inflamtion is your worst enemy.

The Solution.

You can avoid inflamation by eating foods that are clean and non-toxic (no preservatives, no sugar) and avoid foods that are harmful to your immune system – that means pinpointing foods that trigger reactions and eliminating them and avoiding other foods that contribute to the breakdown of your boday.

Please note that I’m not saying that wheat is terrible – what I am saying is that if you notice your body reacting negatively when you consume wheat, please do not ignore it! If you don’t notice any reaction, then nevermind 🙂

For those that cannot consume wheat, stay tuned for some recipes to help inspire your cooking!

Detox Complete….Hello Vacation!

I finished my detox on St. Paddy’s day and I have to say that though I partied a little too hardy celebrating my Irish heritage, I didn’t let all of the hard work over the past 28 days go down the tubes – at least, not completely.

What did I learn from this?

That I can attend social events and not feel the need to drink or eat naughty foods. I went to a few concerts over the past months and some parties and I avoided adult beverages and opted for sparkling water or virgin caesers (which are amazing!) and really do the trick. People around you who like to peer pressure you into drinking assume that there’s vodka in it. Nope. I’d also make my way to the veggie tray and load up on that rather than the breaded goodies that kept calling my name…But the feeling I had the next day when I woke up, the energy I had, made it all worth it.

That routines and discipline are my friends. I’m not normally one who follows a routine or exercises much discipline, but I found that if I set a daily and weekly routine, it made life much easier. For instance, I would make double the amount of food for dinner so that I had lunch the next day at work. I would buy groceries on the weekend and then again on Wednesdays after work. I set a workout routine so that I always knew what were my “yoga days’ and what mornings I’d get up a bit earlier for my run. I’m still sticking with it! I don’t think I’ll go back to the chaos that was my life before (though the state of my bedroom is a WHOLE other story).

I learned new recipes and about new supplements (the Vega shake was ground breaking for me). I recently discovered the value in shakes, especially green smoothies (adding kale and/or avocado for extra vitamins). I like to add coconut water for the magnesium and potassium (I don’t really do that well with bananas, so it’s a nice alternative). I created almost every combination of salad and stir fry and for some reason, did not get sick of it. I discovered new blogs that inspired me to cook and eat healthily, like this one. It’s all very exciting…at least to me 🙂

So, have I reached my goal? I would say yes. Originally, I wanted to feel more energetic and lose a few inches since I will be sporting a bikinin whilst in Florida and I have to say that these objectives have been achieved. I don’t struggle to get through a workday, though I am more mentally tired at the end of the day, I have way more stamina. I’m looking forward to keeping this up. This has definitely been worth it!

I managed to inspire two of my close friends to consider their eating habits and as a result, they have made some changes and better yet, love them and are sticking to them because they notice how much better they feel! Amazing!

I hope that I have been able to inspire some or all of you to do the same.  Even making small changes here and there (subbing in green tea for coffee or honey for sugar) can make an impact on your health.

This week, I’ll be in Florida. I’m hoping to try out some of the yummy food while I’m soaking in some sun.  Until then, I’ll be hanging out in the beautiful lounge at Pearson Airport dodging hyper children and the many men glued to their smart phones.

I’ll try to give you updates while I’m there and let you know what I think about the food, of course!

See you on the other side!

Carob: A great sugar alternative! (when life isn’t sweet enough)

One of the many challenges of staving off Candida is finding healthy alternatives to sugar, including, chocolate. Sugar in general is bad for your health. It contributes to:

According to Rheumatic.org , here are the top 10 reasons why you should be avoiding sugar, mainly, refined sugar:

  1. Sugar can suppress the immune system.
  2. Sugar upsets the mineral relationships in the body.
  3. Sugar can cause hyperactivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and crankiness in children.
  4. Sugar can produce a significant rise in triglycerides.
  5. Sugar contributes to the reduction in defense against bacterial infection (infectious diseases).
  6. Sugar causes a loss of tissue elasticity and function, the more sugar you eat the more elasticity and function you lose.
  7. Sugar reduces high density lipoproteins.
  8. Sugar leads to chromium deficiency.
  9. Sugar leads to cancer of the ovaries.
  10. Sugar can increase fasting levels of glucose.

 

Pretty scary stuff.

 

Regarding Candida, sugar causes yeast in your intestine and gut to grow and multiply. So I avoid that sucker at all costs.

I’ve discover healthy alternatives to sugar and to add a little treat to my diet such as organic honey, agave, unsweetened shredded coconut, dates, raisins, and recently, carob and carob powder.

I found some really good info on the Bulk Barn website:

  • Unlike chocolate, it’s not full of fat, butter and sugar.
  • Naturally caffeine free
  • A natural source of sugar: can serve as a replacement for baking (such as bread, waffles, cakes, pies, muffins, etc)
  • Can be enjoyed by those who are allergic to or have chocolate sensitivities
  • Naturally sweet, high in carbs and very low in fat content

One easy way to incorporate carob into your diet is by adding a teaspoon or two into your smoothies.

Here’s an easy smoothie recipe that I like to make, nearly every day:

  • Frozen or fresh strawberries
  • Frozen mangoes
  • Coconut water
  • No sugar added soy milk
  • 2 teaspoons of carob powder
  • 1 tablespoon of protein powder* (optional)

*Because of wheat and sugar sensitivities, I opt for a whey protein isolate, called Inbalance (http://www.inbalancenutrition.ca/ ).

Question:

  • Do you face any dietary challenges?
  • How do you overcome them?

Challenge:

  • Is there an ingredient in your diet that you could substitute for a more healthy alternative?
  • If so, what is it?
  • Try it for a week and see if you notice a difference!

Enjoy!

What Happens in Vega, Stays in Vega….

Ben Franklin said it best, “Lost time is never found again.”.

Have you ever woke up in the morning and thought, “If I could just sleep 10 more minutes, I’d feel so more refreshed?” But then, 10 minutes turns into 20 and before you know it, you’re scrambling to get out the door and get to work and you haven’t even had a bite to eat at breakfast (and no, a latte does NOT count).

This leads me to today’s post. I’d like to share with you a product that was recently recommended to me by a friend of mine. At first, I was sceptical, well, cynical, that this was worth the money.  But, after using it every day for 2 weeks, I have to say – this is a winner! If my name was Oprah Winfrey, I would definitely have this as one of my favourite things. But I’m not. So, I will just have to blog about it instead.

The product that I am gushing about is called Vega Whole Food Health Optimizer. I think the name says it all. But I’d like to go over what it is, the benefits and where to buy it.

Vega - Whole Food Health Optimizer (15 servings of goodness!)

Vega Whole Food Health Optimizer contains 100% of your recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals, fibre, Omega 3 and 6, EFAs, antioxidants, probiotics, enzymes , ChlorEssence and MacaSure.

It comes in four flavours: Vanilla Chai (my favourite), Chocolate, Berry and Natural Flavour.

It’s free of any allergens and toxic additives such as: animal products, dairy, gluten, soy, sugar, wheat, yeast, artificial sweeteners, GMOs and pesticides.

Additionally, it’s a clean product and alkaline forming. In short, a tall glass of heaven.

It was created by Brendan Brazier, a vegan and a professional iron man athlete. He wanted to create a formula and a line of nutritional products that would aid him to train and recover in the most efficient way.

Here is his story .

He recently developed a new and improved version of the Whole Food Health Optimizer called One.

I just purchased a bunch of the old stuff since it was on sale, so eventually when I run out, I’ll be looking forward to trying this out!

Why do I like this product so much that I would want to share it with you? Here is a quick list of why I think this product is great:

    1. Convenient. This is SUPER easy to make. All you really need is a cup, a measuring cup and some water. But if you want to be fancy like me, get your trusty blender out and add a couple of ice cubes and 300ml of water and blend. It makes a bit of a slushy and is delicious! It’s also super easy for when you travel. Just pre-measure the amount you will need depending on the number of days you’re gone and pack it along with the scoop that is provided in the tub. I have a plastic cup with a lid that I bring with me, so all I need to do is put 2 scoops of the powder in the cup along with enough water, put that lid on TIGHT and shake until the mix is dissolved. Then I chug that baby down and I’m done. Believe it or not, it keeps you full for about 3 or 4 hours. Starting to see why I’m loving this so much?

    2. Save time in the mornings cooking breakfast. No more waking up and wondering what to make. No more wasting so much money on overpriced breakfast cereals (that are generally laden with sugars). Simply wake up, shake, drink and go. Even if you don’t have time at home, you can always bring and keep some at work to prepare at the office. If you LOOOOVE breakfast, this also makes a great meal replacement for lunch, especially if you have all day meetings or no time to grab lunch. Or you could have half of a serving as a snack!

    3. Save money vitamins. Since this product contains 100% of your recommended daily intake of vitamins, you won’t need to shell out money on supplements and multivitamins.  Yes, please!

    4. More energy and knowing that you’re doing something great for your health. I’ve definitely noticed that I have more energy and just feel good since taking this product. Digestion is better and I have more clarity and focus.

    5. Gluten, dairy, wheat, soy, sugar, chemical free product‘nough said!

    6. Good for the environment. I thought this was clever:

      I thought this was interesting.

So, where does one purchase this fine product? It can be found at any health food store such as Noah’s or in the health food store section of your grocery store.

This site also sells it http://shopca.sequelnaturals.com/ and will also indicate where Vega products are sold http://myvega.com/find-a-store .

It costs anywhere from $60 to $80 depending on the store.

Like I said, I’ve been seeing it on sale since there will be a new version launched soon. But it’s totally worth the cost considering the money you spend each month on vitamins and breakfast. Plus, aren’t you worth it?

If you’ve read this and thought that this sounds amazing and would really benefit you then I suggest that you buy some (you can buy a smaller tub for about $45) and try it out for a week and see how you like it. Why not?

I hope at the very least, I’ve given you some good information and something different to think about.

Enjoy!