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!

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!

How It All Began…

Up until recently, I never really took my health seriously. One of my weaknesses was that I wasn’t any good at coping with stress. I would be fine and dandy until something stressful would happen, and then my life would lose momentum and all hell would break lose; I would eat junk food, go out drinking all the time, not get enough sleep and then get too much sleep; my relationships would suffer and I was always too busy trying to get through a day rather than living it. I always knew, that one day, my excessive drinking and partying would catch up to me, and you know what? It did.

I went to India in December 2010. This proved to not only be the worst experience but the best thing that has ever happened to me. From that trip, I realized my life was going in the wrong direction, but more importantly, I realized that I wanted to change it.

What brought it on? Sharp. Stabbing. Severe pains in my lower left abdomen that steadily got worse and worse. It started towards the end of  my trip, but when I got back, it began to get progressively worse.  I went to the doctor who tested me for parasites and liver function. Both came out fine. Still, pain, pain and more pain. Whyyyyy? I went back to the doctor who admitted to me that he had no idea why I was in pain, which is exactly what you want to hear from a trained professional when you are frightened and vulnerable.

He ordered me an ultra-sound of my entire torso. The results came back showing that I was fine. Huh.

Still stumped, my doctor ordered me a CT Scan but the only availability was 3 months later. He sent me on my way and told me that if they pain was unbearable, then I should go the ER. Well guess what, the pain started becoming unbearable. It got to a point where I couldn’t sleep a whole night without the pain waking me up. It got to a point where I couldn’t get through a work day without having to leave early because the pain was unbearable. Eventually, I stopped being able to work full time hours. I would either have to call in sick, or leave early. Thankfully, my boss was very supportive and was behind me 100% to find out what was causing me so much grief.

One day, I was at work and I really wasn’t feeling well; I freezing cold, but I was sweating. I was very lightheaded and I just felt yucky. By 11am, I decided that I had enough and that I should go to the ER. I walked into my boss’ office and before I could ask if I could go home, she told me that I didn’t look good and that she would drive me to the ER. She later told me that my face was a light shade of grey. Not good.  It was then that I realized how sick I was but I didn’t know why. When I finally got to see a doctor in the ER he thought that I might have diverticulosis since I had pain all the time – even when I drank water. He loaded me up on antibiotics and sent me on my way. Out of desperation, I filled the prescription and began taking it. Nothing was working. Little did I know that these antibiotics were actually making me worse!

A few days later, I had an appointment with another family doctor for a second opinion. She wasn’t convinced that I had diverticulosis and asked me to stop taking the antibiotics, agreeing that it could be making me worse. Instead, she asked me to puchase a probiotic and begin taking that. She also asked me to stop consuming caffeine, alcohol, wheat, dairy and sugar for the next few weeks. I was heavily addicted to all of these substances and wasn’t sure if I could do it. She also sent me to get a colonoscopy and a gastroscopy. Both showed that I was “perfectly fine”. I remember the technician telling me that I probably just needed to eat more fibre. Oh….kay…..If only it were that simple!

I really tried to cut it out all out, but it was tough, and honestly, I wasn’t taking it that seriously mainly because I didn’t understand why I was doing this. I cheated every so often, and a few weeks later, during Easter, I completely fell off the band wagon and had some chocolate. I began to feel depressed because my efforts were not helping and I still felt the same – in pain and yucky. I went out drinking a few nights later with my friends and the next morning when I woke up, I felt like death.

That day at work, I could barely focus on what I was doing. I decided to at least make myself useful so I did some research. I had been reading a book called “The Body Knows” by Caroline Sutherland. In it, she describes a condition called Candiasis or Candida Albicans Overgrowth. The symptoms she described in her book sounded like what I was going through, so I decided to research it. What I found, changed my life. I took a quiz to determine whether or not I did indeed have Candidas.

The quiz said that if you scored over 180, then you definitely had it and to get help. My score? It was 285! I couldn’t believe it. I freaked out. Luckily,  my friend was able to refer me to her Naturopath. I was able to get an appointment to see the doctor within a few days.

In the meantime, I was still freaking out. A few days felt like like a lifetime, to me. I consulted a few websites to see what I needed to do to remedy this awful sickness. One the best websites I found was this one. The general advice was to avoid wheat, dairy, sugar, caffeine, alcohol and anything processed. Very similar advice to what the other doctor had given me. Hugh. The good news? I could eat as many veggies as I wanted and as much protein as I wanted. Everything I was told to avoid, I was highly addicted to. But this time,  I was determined to give it all up if it meant that I would feel better.

It was also advised to take some natural antifungals to kill the yeast.

Some of the main suggestions were:

  • Pau d’Arco tea
  • ginger
  • garlic
  • onions
  • coconut oil
  • olive oil
  • cayenne pepper
  • cinnamon
  • cloves…

More are listed here.

Basically, you name it, I took it.

Within a few hours of cutting out the no-no foods and taking the anti-fungals, I began to feel some effects. And then, without warning, I began to feel like a crackhead coming down from a meth addiction. I had the shakes, I was sweating, running to the bathroom every 10 minutes, dizzy, foggy, bloated and achey. I felt like I had the flu! 

Because of the strong side-effects, I knew that I definitely had Candida. When I went to the ND and told her what I had been up to, she laughed but in a horrified kind of way. You know, with the gaping mouth and wide eyes but trying to smile at the same time? Yeah.

After spending more than hour with her, she assessed me and put me on a brand new plan, something a little less hard core and a little more simple and manageable to relieve me of feeling like a washed up celebrity passing out on Hollywood Blvd after yet another failed audition. She gave me these tablets called Candida SAP  and they were used to kill the yeast. I had to take 2 of those 3 times a day. Then, an hour after taking that, I had to take a strong probiotic to rebuild the good bacteria in my gut. I had to take 3 of those a day. Then she put me on  a more manageable eating plan. She gave me recommendations of what to eat so that I wouldn’t be eating stews and carrot sticks for the rest of my life.

This meant that I had to start cooking. No more pizza, or McDonald’s or sushi or subs. Cooking. This meant that I had to plan my meals, buy groceries and re-arrange my schedule so that I would have time to shop, cook, eat and clean. Honestly, it was a huge adjustment for me! I felt very stressed by that whole thing. For a while, I felt like I was constantly shopping and cooking and doing dishes. I was always researching recipes and it would take me forever to make anything because I had never made it before and I didn’t have a clue what to do!

It also meant that I needed to stock up on basics, like spices and dishes and appliances. The best decsion I ever made was buying my blender. It’s kind of like a Magic Bullet but it has lots of different sized cups and is BPA free. Because of this purchase, I discovered my love for soups and dips and smoothies. Oh my!  

I also invested in a spice rack, but that came much later after months of living out of spice bags which was SO ghetto!

The other thing that I invested in, and that totally saved my life was a steamer. I could steam veggies to go with my dinner or steam veggies to make a soup. These things just made life so much simpler for me.

After a while, a funny thing happened – I began to enjoy cooking. After trying something new that I cooked I would say to myself, “Holy, that’s delicious! Who knew that such simple ingredients could be so satisfying??

I began to look forward to trying new recipes.

I also began to get more organized and strategic. When I would cook, I would make triple the amount: one serving for lunch the next day and then the other two, I would freeze. If I had time on the weekend, I would cook a couple of dishes and freeze them. Not only did this save me time, but it saved my sanity!

Whenever I run low on lunches, I pick a night in the week to cook something. At any given moment, I have tomorrow’s lunch ready to be thawed. It’s genius!

After 3 months of careful eating and lifestyle changes, I can say that I feel better than I ever have in my whole entire life. Maybe even better than when I was a kid. I have more energy, my moods are better, my pain is gone, my complexion is better, I’m no longer losing my hair, I’m sleeping better, my allergies are nearly gone and  I lost about 15lbs! I will never, ever go back to that lifestyle.

Remembering how sick I was and how unhappy I was is motivation enough to keep me on the right track and that is why I started this blog. Not only will this blog serve to motivate and inspire me to keep learning about health and nutrition so that I stay on the right track for the rest of my life, but I hope that whatever informaiton I learn, I will be able to share with you, to help you, so that you don’t have to go through the same suffering that I went through.

I look forward to sharing my journey with you as I live and learn!

Bon appetit!