Welcome to Coach Marisol’s Blog!

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Thank you so much for visiting!  I am so excited to share healthy lifestyle tips with my family, friends and clients.  You can look forward to reaping the rewards of my research, experiments with products and recipes as well my life experiences.

I am often asked why I’ve decided to redirect my life’s work to health and wellness – specifically weight loss and maintenance.

No stranger to the yo-yo cycles of weight loss & gain, confidence & insecurity, I was constantly searching for the newest information and training to help me live the best life.  The type of life that included pleasurable healthy food, a fit body I could be proud of and a sense of comfort in my own skin.  It’s a tall order but it’s a work in progress of course!

After many years of “dieting”, I gradually moved towards a Holistic approach to wellness through online research. I experimented with many forms of eating and exercise in search of a healthy lifestyle. During this time, I have run many high end restaurants that featured local, sustainable ingredients. A few years ago, I moved towards fast casual concept restaurants that featured more affordable menu options that did not match the wholesomeness of the foods I was used to serving. One day, I decided I could not sell another order of cheese fries – I felt like a fraud preaching healthy eating while selling commercial fried foods. That was my turning point. There were too many regular customers that really had no idea how they were hurting themselves. I want to help people get educated and develop healthy habits to make better choices that will keep them happy.

After researching different options for health coaching and nutrition programs, I enrolled in the Institute of Integrated Nutrition in 2015.  I was certified as a Health Coach in 2016.  I have since worked with a handful of clients of varying backgrounds and needs.  My experiences throughout this time have confirmed that the decision to dedicate my life to this field was the right choice for me.  Participating in the transformation of others, although challenging, is exciting, healing and inspiring.  It feels good to wake up and be excited to go to work.  To know that you are making a difference and to be content by living life on your own terms.

Check out more about myself here, my kick ass programs, and my clients’ testimonials

Find me on:

Twitter: @CoachMarisol
Facebook: @YouEmpowered.Life

Email: SolCoach@MarisolBallaro.com

I look forward to hearing from you!

-Coach M.

Healthy Fats and Dangerous Fats

All fat is NOT created equal!

Fat is one of the three critical macronutrients; along with protein and carbohydrates. Some fats are super-health-boosting; and, others are super-health-busting.  Health-building fats support your brain, hormones, immune system, heart health, and moods. Health-busting fats pretty much bust all of these (brain, hormones, immune system, heart health, and moods). So, this is why the information I’m sharing today is so important.  As a general rule, the fats from whole foods that are the least processed will be the healthiest for you. But, you already knew that, right?  So let me give you a definitive list of the fats to use, and the fats to ditch.

Health-boosting fats

Health-boosting fats are from:

  • Nuts and seeds (hemp, flax, and chia)
  • Fish
  • Seaweed
  • Pasture-raised/grass-fed animals/eggs
  • Olives
  • Avocados

I love “virgin” oils, and here’s why. Getting the oil out of a whole food involves some processing. Sometimes it’s by squeezing, or heating. Other times it’s by using chemical solvents. The word “virgin” is used to show minimal processing (and no solvents!).  According to the World Health Organization’s Codex Alimentarius: “Virgin fats and oils are edible vegetable fats, and oils obtained, without altering the nature of the oil, by mechanical procedures, e.g., expelling or pressing, and the application of heat only. They may be purified by washing with water, settling, filtering and centrifuging only.”

For example, Extra virgin olive oil must:

  • Be cold pressed
  • Not contain any refined olive oil
  • Possess superior quality based on chemical composition and sensory characteristics.

Don’t you think these standards ensure higher quality? I sure do!  Plus, the minimal processing helps to maintain some of the quality of delicate fat molecules, as well as their antioxidants. Win-win!

Health-busting fats

Health-busting fats are from:

  • Seed and vegetable oils like safflower, soybean, and corn oils
  • Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated

Hydrogenated oils are particularly bad; this is because they contain small amounts of “trans” fats. Studies show that trans fats lead to insulin resistance, inflammation, belly fat. They also drastically raise the risk of heart disease. Lose-lose!  Don’t forget, we’re not just talking about buying bottles of these fats for home cooking. We’re also looking at the processed foods that contain them.

How to get more health-building fats

First, you have my permission to ditch any foods in your cupboards that contain safflower oil, soybean oil, corn oil, or any hydrogenated oil. Soybean oil alone accounts for over 75% of oils consumed by Americans, so it’s pretty popular in the “non-health food” department.

Second, try substituting one of the health-building oils whenever you have a recipe that calls for the other stuff. Try flax oil in your salad dressing, avocado and/or olive oil in your cooking, and coconut oil in your baking.

Third, make healthier versions of your go-to processed foods. I’ll help you out now with my super-simple mayonnaise recipe below. It’s way better for you than the unrefrigerated stuff you find at your grocery store.

Now tell me: What’s your favorite fat and why? Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe (healthy fat): Mayonnaise

Makes about 1 ½ cups

1 large or extra large egg

2 tsp lemon juice

½ tsp salt

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic

1 cup olive or avocado oil

Instructions: Add all ingredients except oil to your food processor. Process until creamy (about 10 seconds).  With the food processor running, add a few drops of oil into the egg mixture. Every few seconds add a few more drops. Continue until the mixture starts to thicken.  Now you can do a slow drizzle. Stop pouring, every once in a while checking that the oil gets fully incorporated.  Store leftovers in a covered container in the fridge for up to 1-2 weeks.  Serve & enjoy!  Tip: spice it up with chipotle chilies, sriracha or fresh herbs!

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-healthy-fats

https://authoritynutrition.com/extra-virgin-olive-oil/

https://authoritynutrition.com/saturated-fat-good-or-bad/

http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/labelling/food-labelling-for-industry/fats-and-oils/eng/1392751693435/1392751782638?chap=5

https://eatingrules.com/cooking-oil-comparison-chart/

4 Easy Ways to Stay Healthy in Your Busy Life

If you’re like most you want to be healthy.  The problem though is that you might be wondering how in the world you’ll fit one more thing into your already busy life. Plus, you might perceive getting healthy as booooring or even too costly.  But that doesn’t have to be the case!  As a Health Coach, I help my clients make healthy lifestyle changes that fit into their schedules and are fun! Here are some fun ways that you can get healthy habits into your busy life.

Have fun with your food prep

Buying healthy foods is only the first step.  The key? Having them chopped and ready to go when hunger strikes!  Make you prep time fun and less painless by throwing regular prep parties and build in some fun!  Maybe you’ll choose to do this every Saturday morning.  Throw on some great music, grab your tools, and have fun with it! Listen to music or your favorite podcast while you wash, chop and package your fruits and veggies.  Hard boil eggs, prep grains in a rice cooker and roast root veggies.  Divvie up the prep with your honey or best friend.  You’ll have healthy, pre-packaged snack packs, salad fixings and ready to assemble meals for the whole week in no time. If you’re starting your weight loss journey, get a friend or family member to join you – even if they have different goals.  You can each prepare healthy meals and split them up so you have double the food for your effort.

Sneak exercise into your daily routine

My clients often tell me it’s a challenge to fit exercise into an already busy schedule.  So, what’s the solution? Don’t add exercise as another thing; include it into what you’re already doing!  For instance, you could easily take the stairs instead of elevator, park farther away instead of closer, or use your break time for a 10 minute workout instead of sitting in the break room.  Need to make phone calls?  Use your ear phones and get some walking in.  There are many ways to fit in exercise without feeling like you have to steal time from another area of life.

Unbox that crock pot and put it to use

Do you own a crock pot? Is it still in the box? If so, you’ve been missing out on some time-saving slow cooker goodness.  Slow cooker meals are so easy to prepare; just prep, set, and in a few hours your meal has essentially cooked itself! Want to save time? Start using a slow cooker.  Check out a super simple (mouth watering) slow cooker recipe below!

Set goals and put them in writing

When you have a target you’re working towards, you probably feel more motivated to stay on track and see the payoff!  Set goals for your health and fitness on a regular basis.  Keep them visible to hold yourself accountable. Seeing your goals on paper, and tracking your progress, will help you stick to your healthy lifestyle plan and achieve your goals with more ease.  Not into writing things down?  Set your goal as your screen saver on your phone or computer.  Add some motivational quotes to your calendar and set timers on them.  Tell a someone you trust so they follow up with you and keep you accountable.

Are you having trouble balancing your busy life with your desire for a healthier lifestyle? Contact me at: SolCoach@MarisolBallaro.com to set up a time to chat and explore if health coaching is right for you.

Now here’s your recipe – It’s only 5 ingredients for the sauce:

⅓ cup natural peanut butter, at room temperature or melted*

1 garlic clove, finely grated or minced

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

4 tablespoons low-sodium, gluten-free tamari or soy sauce

4 tablespoon rice vinegar or fresh lime juice

⅓ cup warm water

Hot sauce to taste

Check out how to make this easy crock pot recipe by clicking here.  I ended up saving this recipe as a word document on my computer so I could print it out any time (it’s an easy one for the hubby to make).

 

Multivitamins: Are They Really a Waste of Money?

Multivitamins are exactly what they sound like: multiple vitamins. They’re supplements that contain several different vitamins in each one. They can also contain several minerals and other ingredients like amino acids or fatty acids. And because there are multiple ingredients, there are low doses of each ingredient.  In fact, they are the most commonly used supplements in the world!

There are 13 vitamins and at least 16 minerals that are essential to health. You need certain amounts of all of these nutrients for optimal health. In fact, nutrient deficiencies can impact reproduction, growth, and regulation of bodily processes.

Lots of people say that if you follow a “balanced diet,” you’ll get enough vitamins and minerals. I personally would love to believe it … but it’s just not true. Many people are eating way too much processed food that is devoid of nutrition. There’s a lot of research that shows many people don’t get enough vitamins and minerals. Period.

How do you know which vitamins and minerals are in your multivitamin? Read the label, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! If there are at least three different vitamins and minerals listed, it’s a multivitamin.

 

Do multivitamins work?

Multivitamins have been studied a lot.  However, the quality of the multivitamins studied has not been consistent. Some studies consider any supplements with at least three vitamins to be a “multivitamin.” Most of the time, the multivitamins studied are ones that are very popular and are available everywhere.  So, what exactly do we know about the health benefits of multivitamins?  Here’s a quick summary of the science:

  • Multivitamin use is linked with improved moods. Interestingly, if someone has nutrient deficiencies, they may have mood imbalances. So, if the multivitamin addresses an underlying deficiency, this makes sense.
  • In terms of memory and cognitive performance (ability to think), there seems to be an improvement in people who regularly take multivitamins.
  • In terms of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, there seems to be a slight improvement.
  • In terms of heart disease, the results are mixed. There may be an increase, or a decrease, or no effect on risk of heart attacks.
  • In terms of cancer, there is a slightly reduced risk of certain cancers in men.
  • In terms of mortality (death), there doesn’t seem to be a clear increase or decrease in mortality rates for people who take multivitamins.

All in all, multivitamins aren’t magical “health pills.” They’re not guaranteed to improve your mental or physical health, or help you live longer; but, they do have some health benefits.

 

Are multivitamins safe?

Dietary supplements are regulated and subject to detailed and comprehensive regulations to uphold safety and quality. It’s just not necessary to hold them to the same standard the government demands of pharmaceutical products designed specifically to treat diseases.

Once a dietary supplement is on the market, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has safety monitoring responsibilities. And, sure, there are limitations to the FDA’s regulations, but there are still companies who go above and beyond to make their consumers feel safe by obtaining third-party verification. ConsumerLab.com® is just one company some businesses turn to when they need to test their products.

There are even some companies who have their manufacturing facility registered by NSF International—an independent, nonprofit organization that helps protect public health by writing standards for food, water, air, and consumer goods; testing and certifying products based on those standards, inspecting for GMP, and providing ongoing monitoring.

On top of ConsumerLab.com verification and manufacturing in a registered NSF facility, there are nutritional supplement companies that use trusted United States Pharmacopeial testing methods to help ensure they adhere to higher standards than even the FDA requires.  Do your research when choosing your vitamins & supplements.  That saying “you get what you pay for” rings true.  There are many times when supplements (not just multivitamins) have been tested and found to contain different ingredients than what’s on the label; this may be different quantities of vitamins or minerals. Sometimes they contain ingredients that are not supposed to be in them at all (like toxins or prescription medicines).  This is why choosing supplements that are licensed and from reputable companies is so important.

Just about every study that looked to see if multivitamins were health-promoting, also looked at side effects. They have consistently shown that multivitamins are very safe.  Now, I’m not talking about high-dose supplements. High doses of many nutrients can be harmful. But specifically for multivitamins where there are several nutrients included, all of which are in low doses. Those are safe.  Unless you have a knowledgeable practitioner advise otherwise, you want to stick to the dose on the label. That dose should be safe for most people.

 

Conclusion

Multivitamins are not a way to optimal health but there is evidence that they improve health for most people.  The  benefits listed above are just a few ways that Multis can make an impact.  Since they contain low doses of many different nutrients, they’re also safe (as long as you have a quality product).  Looking for the cleanest & safest multivitamin on the market?  Here’s the brand  my family uses exclusively (it meets all the safety standards stated above).  I’m very picky not only because we want the best, but my husband suffers from an illness that affects his immune system.  In order to keep him healthy, we take the best we can find and he’s been going strong for two years since his last treatments!  Here you go: USANA CellSentials.

Of course, taking a multivitamin is not a way to improve a poor diet. I always recommend eating a balanced diet of whole foods. There is plenty of evidence that eating a diet of whole, unprocessed food prevents many diseases.  But – just because you’re “eating well” doesn’t mean you are getting the recommended servings of nutrients established by the USDA.  And lets not forget that changes in farming methods, food processing and preparation has led to a nutritional decline in fruits, vegetables, grains and animal foods.  So make sure to buy as clean as you can: local, organic, non GMO products are a start.  You can also google “The Clean 15” & “The Dirty Dozen” for tips on which produce is best to buy organic and which is ok to buy commercial.    I do this to save as much money as possible.  If you eat meat, organic, grass fed & pastured will provide better nutrition and reduce the toxic load on your body.  You can also start implementing some meatless meal days.  Below is my superfood salad (you can have it with or without animal protein) – It’s like a multivitamin with benefits!

Recipe (Nutrient Dense): Superfood Salad 

Serves 2

  • 2 handfuls of greens (e.g. kale, spinach, arugula, etc.)
  • ½ cucumber chopped
  • 1 avocado chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 2 handfuls grape tomatoes
  • 2 handfuls fresh berries
  • 2 broiled salmon fillets (optional)
  • ¼ cup hemp seeds

Salad Dressing:

  • 3 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1 dash salt
  • 2 dashes black pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

Grab two large bowls and put one handful of greens each.

Split all the rest of the fruits and vegetables, placing half in each bowl.

Make the dressing by whisking together the vinegar, mustard, honey/maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking to emulsify. Pour over salad before serving.

Top with salmon and hemp seeds.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can use hard boiled eggs, grilled chicken or shrimp instead of the salmon.  To keep it vegan, substitute beans (canellini, garbanzo or lentils) for the animal protein.

 

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/do-multivitamins-work/

http://thewellnessbusinesshub.com/yes-nutrient-deficiencies-heres-proof-can/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0022955/

https://whatsupusana.com/2016/04/nutritional-supplements-myths/

 

Mindfulness and Meditation…Do They Really Work?

Well…yes, they do really work. The fact is, science shows definite health benefits for people who use mindfulness and meditation.  Before we dive in, let’s just make sure we’re on the same page when we say “mindfulness” and “meditation.”

“Meditation” is the ancient practice of connecting the body and mind to become more self-aware and present. It’s often used to calm the mind, ease stress, and relax the body.

Practicing “mindfulness” is one of the most popular ways to meditate. It’s defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”

Mindfulness meditation is well studied in terms of its health benefits. I’m going to talk about a few of them below, and refer to it as “mindfulness” for the rest of the post.

 

The link between mindfulness and health = stress reduction

Have you heard the staggering statistics on how many doctors’ visits are due to stress? Seventy-five to ninety percent!  So, if you ask me, it makes a ton of sense that anything that can reduce stress can reduce health issues too.  Mindfulness reduces inflammation, reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and improves sleep. All of these can have massive effects on your physical and mental health.  I’ll briefly go over the research in three main areas: mood, weight, and gut health. But know that the research on the health benefits of mindfulness is branching into many other exciting new areas too.

Mindfulness for mood

The most immediate health benefit of mindfulness is improved mood.  In one study, people who took an 8-week mindfulness program had greater improvement in symptoms according to the “Hamilton Anxiety Scale.” They were compared with people who took a stress management program that did not include mindfulness. It seems that the mindfulness training was key to lowering symptoms.  Other studies show that mindfulness has similar effects as antidepressant medications for some people with mild to moderate symptoms of depression.  While mindfulness isn’t a full-fledged cure, it can certainly help to improve moods.

Mindfulness for weight

Studies show that people who use mind-body practices, including mindfulness, have lower BMIs (Body Mass Indices).  How can this be?  One way mindfulness is linked with lower weight is due to stress-reduction. Mindfulness can reduce stress-related and emotional overeating. It can also help reduce cravings and binge eating.

Another way it can work for weight is due to “mindful eating.” Mindful eating is a “non-judgmental awareness of physical and emotional sensations associated with eating.” It’s the practice of being more aware of food and the eating process. It’s listening more deeply to how hungry and full you actually are. It’s not allowing yourself to be distracted with other things while you’re eating, like what’s on TV or your smartphone.

People with higher mindfulness scores also reported smaller serving sizes of energy-dense foods. So it seems that more mindful eating = less junk.

**Mindfulness about food and eating can have some great benefits for your weight.**

Mindfulness for gut health

Recent studies show a link between stress, stress hormones, and changes in gut microbes (your friendly bacteria and other critters that help your digestion).  In theory, mindfulness-based stress reduction could be a way to help prevent negative changes in the gut’s microbes.

Also, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) seems to be linked with both stress and problems with gut microbes. In one study, people with IBS who received mindfulness training showed greater reductions in IBS symptoms than the group who received standard medical care.

The research here is just starting to show us the important link between stress, gut health, and how mindfulness can help.

Conclusion

Science is confirming some amazing health benefits of the ancient practice of mindfulness meditation. For moods, weight, gut health, and more.  Do you regularly include it in your life? If so, have you seen benefits? If not, would you consider trying it?  Let me know in the comments below.

Tip: Relaxing Herbal Teas

There are many relaxing herbal teas that would be great after meditation.  Try any of these by steeping in boiling water:

  • Green tea (has a bit of caffeine, or you can choose decaffeinated green tea)
  • White tea (also has a bit of caffeine, or you can choose decaffeinated white tea)
  • Rooibos tea
  • Peppermint tea (or steep fresh peppermint leaves)
  • Ginger tea (or steep slices of real ginger)

Serve & enjoy!

BONUS Guided Meditation “Recipes” (videos, apps & podcasts)

How to Meditate video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0y1Lu0L8nU&index=5&list=PLerdqrUWzOkd7m9HQj1yfJiI09pwVhPcD

How to Meditate in One Minute or Less Every Day video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtG8No-MMOM&list=PLerdqrUWzOkd7m9HQj1yfJiI09pwVhPcD&index=10

Calm App

https://www.calm.com/

Headspace App (free 10-day trial)

https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app

Daily Meditation Podcast

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/daily-meditation-podcast/id892107837?mt=2

Hay House Meditations Podcast

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hay-house-meditations/id955266444?mt=2

 

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditation

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/benefits-mindfulness-meditation/

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm

https://authoritynutrition.com/mindful-eating-guide/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341916/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4454654/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26186434

Foods that Help with Cravings

When you think about food cravings, typically the first thing that comes to mind would be some type of junk food.  Something that is high in calories, low in nutrients, processed and quite unhealthy.  Is that what you tend to crave when a craving kicks in?  What is your go-to craving — chocolate chip cookies?  A big bowl of ice cream? I tend to crave salty crunchy snacks these days – especially at the end of the day when I’m tired.

I’ll be honest with you — I believe in a balanced life.  I’m not saying to never enjoy a sweet treat again.  The issue with ingesting processed foods and the chemicals that come along with them on an ongoing basis is the danger of addiction.  We absolutely don’t want that, as it can disrupt the way our bodies function and wreak havoc in more ways than you can imagine.

So, if you feel like you may be addicted to sugar and/or processed foods, there is something you can do to help.  There are many foods you can add into your diet to balance your microbiome and get your good bacteria back to a healthy place.  These foods are generally fermented foods that are filled with the good bacteria that your body needs to balance itself again and rid you of those cravings.

These fermented foods can include kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut and kefir to name a few.  I’d love for you to choose at least one of these to add into your diet this week and get that good bacteria back into your body (I’m a fan of kombucha – feels like a treat since I tend to stick to water throughout the day).  Taking a probiotic on a daily basis will help balance your bacteria as well — my favorite brand is USANA.  You can check out a cute, short  informational video here.

 

Food Swaps for Popular Cravings…

Another of my favorite ways to combat cravings is to trade out unhealthy foods with beneficial ones.

If you’re craving potato chips… Try some raw veggie sticks & healthy dip (hummus, Greek yogurt, black bean etc) instead for that crunch.  You can also try some nuts or clean, gluten free crackers like Mary’s Gone Crackers or Simple Mills.

If you’re craving soda… Try some sparkling water such as La Croix.   There are so many flavors to choose from; you’re bound to find one you love — and you can finally ditch that soda!  As mentioned above, I love kombucha so I also recommend that as a soda replacement. Synergy has some amazing flavors.

If you’re craving a milkshake… Try a green smoothie instead to quench your desire for something cold and sweet.  If greens aren’t your thing yet, blend frozen banana with dairy free milk and cocoa powder for a chocolatey treat.  Frozen banana blended with your favorite berries is also a nice replacement for ice cream.

Another helpful tip that I implement is to indulge mindfully.  When you do decide to have a treat, enjoy a smaller portion than you’d even like to have.  Teaching yourself restraint and how to indulge mindfully is an incredibly useful tool that you will carry with you always.

Remember – the more nutritious your food is (whole foods that are minimally processed), the less your body craves junk.

As always, I leave you with a recipe.  Today you get a crucnhy, savory snack:

Crunchy Roasted Chickpeas

Adrenal Fatigue: What Is It?

Stressed? Tired? Craving sugar? Can’t sleep?

All of these can be related to the constant stress we feel in our lives. We know that stress can have a huge impact on our health and wellness.  Since your adrenal glands produce stress hormones, adrenal fatigue (or “HPA Axis Dysregulation,”) is a popular theme lately.

Your adrenal glands look like walnuts that live on top of both of your kidneys. These important glands produce many hormones, including stress hormones.  What happens when they become “overworked?”  You’ve heard of “adrenaline junkies,” right?

Adrenaline and cortisol are the stress hormones that give you the commonly known adrenaline rush; when you’re totally alert and living in the moment. This feeling is known as your body’s “fight or flight” response.  Some people (perhaps you?) just love that intense feeling.

The release of hormones in the fight or flight response is your body’s normal reaction to stress.  Stress can sometimes be positive, like when it helps you swerve and prevent a crash.  After a short time, the flight or flight response dissipates, your body goes back to normal, and all is good.  But what would happen if you felt constant stress? Like all day, every day? Like “chronic” stress?

It wouldn’t feel like an awesome (once-in-a-while) “rush,” anymore would it?  What do you think happens to your poor adrenal glands when they’re constantly working?  They’d get fatigued, right?

 

Do I have adrenal fatigue?

When your adrenal glands start getting tired of secreting stress hormones day in and out, you can start getting other symptoms.  Symptoms like fatigue, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, weight loss or gain, joint pain, sugar cravings, even frequent infections like colds and the flu are signs that your adrenals are overworked.

First off, I have to tell you that there aren’t medically accepted blood tests for adrenal fatigue. In fact, it’s not recognized by most medical professionals until the point when your adrenals are so fatigued they almost stop working. At that point, the official diagnoses of “Adrenal Insufficiency” or “Addison’s Disease” may apply.

However, if you do have symptoms, you should see your doctor to rule out other conditions. He or she may even be open to discussing adrenal fatigue, or at the very least, wellness strategies that can help to reduce your stress (and symptoms).

What to do if I have these symptoms?

There are many actions you can take to reduce your stress and improve your health and energy levels.  Ideally, if you think stress is starting to burn you out, stress reduction is key. There are tons of ideas how you can reduce your stress. My favorites are meditation (lots of great free apps to download), taking a hike and cleaning – I know, I’m weird.

Of course, I also recommend reducing sugar and processed food intake and eating more fruits and vegetables. Better nutrition can only help your body. So go ahead and do it.

Conclusion

Your adrenal glands produce hormones in response to stress. After long-term daily stress, they may get tired. Adrenal fatigue is a controversial disease that doesn’t have a true diagnostic test, nor specific telltale symptoms.  The most important thing you can do is to get tested to rule out other potential conditions. You can also try stress reduction techniques like meditation, walks in nature, light exercise, more sleep, or even a lovely bath.

Taking some time to for self care is key.  It can be hard to do on your own.  If you are interested in a 5 day detox that will help you to plan out your days to reduce stress, eat better and learn self care techniques with the support of a group of people doing it alongside you, check out my upcoming Gentle Fall 5 Day Detox.  Go on, treat yourself!  Below is a suggested bath for those following my detox:

Recipe (Stress-reducing bath salt): Lavender Bath Salts

Per bath

2 cups epsom salts

10 drops lavender essential oil

As you’re running your warm bath water, add ingredients to the tub. Mix until dissolved

Enjoy your stress-reducing bath!  Tip: You can add a tablespoon of dried lavender flowers.

 

References:

https://www.thepaleomom.com/adrenal-fatigue-pt-1/

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/adrenal-fatigue-real/

Coffee – Who can drink it and who should avoid it?

Coffee is one of those things – you either love it or hate it. You know if you like the taste or not (or if it’s just a reason to drink sugar and cream). You know how it makes you feel (i.e. your gut, your mind, etc.).  Not to mention the crazy headlines that say coffee is great, and the next day you should avoid it!

There is actual science behind why different people react differently to it. It’s a matter of your genetics and how much coffee you’re used to drinking.

NOTE: Coffee does not equal caffeine. Coffee contains between 50-400 mg of caffeine/cup, averaging around 100 mg/cup. Coffee is one of the most popular ways to consume this stimulant. But… a cup of coffee contains a lot of things over and above the caffeine. Not just water, but antioxidants, and hundreds of other compounds. These are the reasons drinking a cup of coffee is not the same as taking a caffeine pill. And decaffeinated coffee has a lot less caffeine; but, it still contains some.

Let’s look at caffeine metabolism, its effects on the mind and body, and whether coffee drinkers have higher or lower risks of disease. Then I’ll give you some things to consider when deciding if coffee is for you or not.

Caffeine metabolism

Not all people metabolize caffeine at the same speed. How fast you metabolize caffeine will impact how you’re affected by the caffeine. In fact, caffeine metabolism can be up to 40x faster in some people than others.

About half of us are “slow” metabolizers of caffeine. We can get jitters, heart palpitations, and feel “wired” for up to 9 hours after having a coffee. The other half is “fast” metabolizers of caffeine. They get energy and increased alertness and are back to normal a few hours later.  This is part of the reason those headlines contradict each other so much – because we’re all different!

The effects of coffee (and caffeine) on the mind and body

NOTE: Most studies look at caffeinated coffee, not decaf.

The effects of coffee (and caffeine) on the mind and body also differ between people; this is partly from the metabolism I mentioned. But it also has to do with your body’s amazing ability to adapt (read: become more tolerant) to long-term caffeine use. Many people who start drinking coffee feel the effects a lot more than people who have coffee every day.

Here’s a list of these effects (that usually decrease with long-term use):

  • Stimulates the brain
  • Boosts metabolism
  • Boosts energy and exercise performance
  • Increases your stress hormone cortisol
  • Dehydrates

So, while some of these effects are good and some aren’t, you need to see how they affect you and decide if it’s worth it or not.

Coffee and health risks

There are a ton of studies on the health effects of coffee, and whether coffee drinkers are more or less likely to get certain conditions.

Here’s a quick summary of what coffee can lead to:

  • Caffeine addiction and withdrawal symptoms (e.g. a headache, fatigue, irritability)
  • Increased sleep disruption
  • Adrenal Fatigue
  • Lower risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
  • Lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Lower risk of certain liver diseases
  • Lower risk of death (“all cause mortality”)
  • Mixed reviews on whether it lowers risks of cancer and heart disease

Many of the health benefits exist even for decaf coffee (except the caffeine addiction and sleep issues).

NOTE: What’s super-important to note here is that coffee intake is just one of many, many factors that can affect your risks for these diseases. Please never think regular coffee intake is the one thing that can help you overcome these risks. You are health-conscious and know that eating a nutrient-rich whole foods diet, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep and exercise are all critical things to consider for your disease risk. It’s not just about the coffee.

Should you drink coffee or not?

There are a few things to consider when deciding whether you should drink coffee. No one food or drink will make or break your long-term health.

Caffeinated coffee is not recommended for:

  • People with arrhythmias (e.g. irregular heartbeat)
  • People who often feel anxious
  • People who have trouble sleeping
  • People who are pregnant
  • Children

If none of these apply, then monitor how your body reacts when you have coffee. Does it:

  • Give you the jitters?
  • Increase anxious feelings?
  • Affect your sleep?
  • Give you heart palpitations?
  • Affect your digestion (e.g. heartburn, etc.)?
  • Give you a reason to drink a lot of sugar and cream?

Depending on how your body reacts, decide whether these reactions are worth it to you. If you’re not sure, I recommend eliminating it for a while and see the difference.

Recipe (Latte): Pumpkin Spice Latte

 

Serves 1

3 tbsp coconut milk
1 ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon)
¼ tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp pumpkin puree

½ tsp maple syrup (optional)
1 cup coffee (decaf if preferred)

Instructions: Add all ingredients to blender and blend until creamy.  Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can use tea instead of coffee if you prefer.

References:

https://www.healthambition.com/negative-effects-of-coffee/

https://authoritynutrition.com/coffee-good-or-bad/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-coffee

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/a-wake-up-call-on-coffee

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-your-coffee-habit-help-you-live-longer-201601068938

http://suppversity.blogspot.ca/2014/05/caffeine-resistance-genetic.html

https://authoritynutrition.com/how-much-coffee-should-you-drink/

 

The Truth Behind Artificial Sweeteners

You probably know the negative health effects of eating too much sugar, especially “added sugars” like in soda pop, candy, baked goods, and many commercially-available cereals, just to name a few.  Added sugar is hiding just about everywhere in the grocery store.

Yes, ingesting refined sugar spikes your blood sugar and insulin, and increases your risk for a whole host of issues.  A while ago, one of the food industry’s responses to the demand for lower-calorie foods that still taste great, was artificial sweeteners.  The idea behind them is that you can still get the sweetness, without the calories; like when you have a “diet pop” versus a regular one. Theoretically, this was going to help people maintain a healthy body weight, and hopefully not increase anyone’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, or obesity.

But, it doesn’t always work out the way we think it will…

 

Types of Artificial Sweeteners

Sugar substitutes fall into several categories, but what they all have in common is that they have a sweet taste and fewer calories than plain sugar.  Today we’ll specifically discuss “artificial sweeteners,” which are synthetic chemicals where a tiny bit tastes very sweet.

They’re also known as “non-nutritive sweeteners,” and include things like:

  • Saccharin (Sweet & Low),
  • Acesulfame potassium,
  • Aspartame (Equal & NutraSweet), and
  • Sucralose (Splenda).

 

Health Effects of Artificial Sweeteners

Negative health effects from artificial sweeteners are cited all over the place, and while many studies show effects, others don’t. Cancer? Maybe yes, maybe no. Heart disease? Maybe yes, maybe no. Not to mention that much of the research has been on animals, which may or may not translate to people.

I do want to point out one ironic thing, to do with artificial sweeteners and weight.

One study found that people who tend to drink diet sodas have double the risk of gaining weight than those who don’t.  Another study has shown an increased risk for metabolic syndrome and diabetes for those who consume diet drinks every day.

While these results don’t apply equally to everyone, they do somehow seem ironic, don’t they?

 

How do artificial sweeteners affect our bodies?

Now that’s a million-dollar question!  There are so many ideas out there to try to explain it, but the reality is we don’t know for sure; plus, it might play out differently in different people.

  • Is it because people feel that they can eat cake because they’ve switched to diet soda?
  • Perhaps it’s because the sweeteners change the taste preferences so that fruit starts to taste worse, and veggies taste terrible?
  • Maybe artificial sweeteners increase our cravings for more (real) sweets?
  • It can be that the sweet taste of these sweeteners signals to our body to release insulin to lower our blood sugar; but, because we didn’t actually ingest sugar, our blood sugar levels get too low, to the point where we get sugar cravings.
  • Some even say (and at least one animal study suggests) that saccharin may inspire addictive tendencies toward it.
  • Maybe there is even a more complex response that involves our gut microbes and how they help to regulate our blood sugar levels.

 

Conclusion:

Understand that added sugar is not good for you, but the solution may not be to replace them all with artificial sweeteners.

I highly recommend reducing your sugar intake, so you naturally re-train your palate and start enjoying the taste of real food that isn’t overly sweet.  This way you’re reducing your intake of added sugar, as well as not needing to replace it with artificial sweeteners.

Try having ½ teaspoon less of sugar in your hot morning drink. Try reducing a ¼ cup of the sugar called for in some recipes. Try diluting juice with water.

Your body will thank you!

 

Recipe (naturally sweetened): Sweet Enough Matcha Latte

Serves 1

  • 1 teaspoon matcha powder
  • 1.5 cup almond milk, unsweetened (or any non-dairy milk of choice – Hemp is a good one here too)
  • 1-2 teaspoons maple syrup or honey (optional)
  1. Heat almond milk and maple syrup/honey (if using) in a small pot.
  2. Add matcha powder to cup.
  3. When almond milk is hot, add about a ¼ cup to matcha and stir to combine.
  4. Add rest of the milk to cup.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can steep a chai tea bag in the milk if you prefer chai tea over matcha.

 

References:

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/artificial-sweeteners-sugar-free-but-at-what-cost-201207165030

https://authoritynutrition.com/artificial-sweeteners-blood-sugar-insulin/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/research-review-splenda-is-it-safe

https://chriskresser.com/the-unbiased-truth-about-artificial-sweeteners/

How Do I Keep My Blood Sugar Stable?

Oh, the words “blood sugar.”  Does it conjure up visions of restrictive eating, diabetes medications, or insulin injections?

Blood sugar is the measure of the amount of sugar in your blood. You need the right balance of sugar in your blood to fuel your brain and muscles.  The thing is, it can fluctuate. A lot.

This fluctuation is the natural balance between things that increase it; and things that decrease it. When you eat food with sugars or starches (“carbs”), then your digestive system absorbs sugar into your blood. When carbs are ingested and broken down into simple sugars, your body keeps blood sugar levels stable by secreting insulin. Insulin allows excess sugar to get it out of your bloodstream and into your muscle cells and other tissues for energy.

 

Why keep my blood sugar stable?

Your body wants your blood sugar to be at an optimal level. It should be high enough, so you’re not light-headed, fatigued, and irritable. It should be low enough that your body isn’t scrambling to remove excess from the blood.  When blood sugar is too low, this is referred to as “hypoglycemia.”

When blood sugar is too high, it is referred to as hyperglycemia.  Prolonged periods of elevated blood sugar levels (chronic hyperglycemia) can lead to “insulin resistance.”

Insulin resistance is when your cells are just so bored of the excess insulin that they start ignoring (resisting) it, and that keeps your blood sugar levels too high.  Insulin resistance and chronic hyperglycemia can eventually lead to diabetes.  So let’s look at how you can optimize your food and lifestyle to keep your blood sugar stable.

 

Food for stable blood sugar

The simplest thing to do to balance your blood sugar is to reduce the number of refined sugars and starches you eat.  To do this, you can start by dumping sweet drinks and having smaller portions of dessert.

Eating more fiber is helpful too. Fiber helps to slow down the amount of sugar absorbed from your meal; it reduces the “spike” in your blood sugar level.  Fiber is found in plant-based foods (as long as they are eaten in their natural state, processing foods removed fiber).  Eating nuts, seeds, and whole fruits and veggies (not juiced) is a great way to increase your fiber intake.

FUN FACT: Cinnamon has been shown to help cells increase insulin sensitivity. Not to mention it’s a delicious spice that can be used in place of sugar. (HINT: It’s in the recipe below)

 

Lifestyle for stable blood sugar

Exercise also helps to improve your insulin sensitivity; this means that your cells don’t ignore insulin’s call to get excess sugar out of the blood.  Not to mention, when you exercise, your muscles are using up that sugar they absorbed from your blood. But you already knew that exercise is healthy, didn’t you?

Would you believe that stress affects your blood sugar levels? Yup! Stress hormones increase your blood sugar levels. If you think about the “fight or flight” stress response, what fuel do your brain and muscles need to “fight” or “flee”? Sugar! When you are stressed signals are sent to release stored forms of sugar back into the bloodstream, increasing blood sugar levels.  So, try to reduce the stress you’re under and manage it more effectively. Simple tips are meditation, deep breathing, or gentle movement.

Sleep goes hand-in-hand with stress. When you don’t get enough quality sleep, you tend to release stress hormones, have a higher appetite, and even get sugar cravings. Sleep is crucial, often overlooked, factor when it comes to keeping your blood sugar stable. Make sleep more of a priority – it will do your blood sugar (and the rest of your physical and mental health) good.

 

Conclusion

Your body is on a constant 24-hour quest to keep your blood sugar stable. The body has mechanisms in place to do this, but those mechanisms can get tired (resistant).  Long-term blood sugar issues can spell trouble.

There are many nutrition and lifestyle approaches you can take to help keep your blood sugar stable. Minimizing excessive carbs, and eating more fiber, exercising, reducing stress, and improving sleep are all key to having stable blood sugar (and overall good health).

 

Recipe (blood sugar balancing): Cinnamon Apples

Serves 4

2 apples, chopped                                                                                                                             1 tbsp coconut oil
½ tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp vanilla extract

Place chopped apples into a small saucepan with 2 tbsp water. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. After about 5 minutes the apples will become slightly soft, and water will be absorbed.  Add 1 tbsp coconut oil. Stir apples and oil together.  Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring every minute or so.  Add cinnamon, salt, and vanilla. Stir well.  Cook for another few minutes, stirring until the apples reach your desired softness.
Serve and enjoy!
Tip: Keeping the peel on increases the fiber, which is even better for stabilizing your blood sugar.

 

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/15-ways-to-lower-blood-sugar/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/research-review-blood-sugar

Ch Ch Ch Chia!

 

Chia Seeds

You love them, hate them or don’t know what the heck to do with them.  Am I right?  I am constantly being asked how to incorporate them into a healthy diet (in an easy way).  Chia Seeds are one of my favorite super foods.  They are an edible seed that comes from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family that grows abundantly in southern Mexico.  Yes! They are the same seeds you saw growing on Chia Pets.

 

Superfood Status

Nutritionists generally agree that foods with  higher than usual antioxidant, fiber or essential fatty acid content can be called superfoods.  Let’s break this bad boy down:

  • Chia is very rich in omega-3 fatty acids, even more so than flax seeds.  The Omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants in Chia are fantastic for maintaining healthy, supple skin – a quick search for skin loving smoothies will direct you blend berries, water/juice with Chia.
  • The high volume of healthy fats in Chia also protect your heart by lowering blood pressure, cholesterol & inflammation
  • Chia is so rich in antioxidants that the seeds don’t deteriorate and thus can be stored for long periods without becoming rancid. Unlike flax, they do not have to be ground to make their nutrients available.
  • Chia seeds also provide fiber, as well as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, molybdenum, niacin, and zinc.  They’re high fiber content make it great for people managing diabetes or working to lose weight as they are also low in digestible carbs.  Fiber is a must in a healthy diet – and especially important for weight loss as it adds bulk without adding extra calories becasue it passes through the body undigested.
  • They’re a Mood Booster!  Chia Seeds can actually make you happier because of the amino acids and tryptophan found in them.
  • They are an Energy Booster!  Chia seeds fight dehydration, provide a considerable amount of energy, reduce joint inflammation and accelerate post-run recovery.

I know it’s  a long list of goodness but there’s more.  Chia is an excellent staple for Vegans.  When added to water and allowed to sit for 10 minutes, chia forms a gel, which works well as an egg replacer in many baked goods.

If you’re ever feeling constipated or just need a little help, take one to two heaping tablespoons daily (it’s a gentle form of fiber).  Add to your green smoothie or your water bottle along with some slice citrus or other fruit.

Chia seeds are incredibly easy to use and can be added to smoothies, salads, and even breakfast cereals.  I gave one of my clients a bag of Chia Seeds which she took to work.  She told me she added it to salads and most recently she sent me this picture.  She added it to her Tuna Salad on crackers.  Genius!

You can buy chia seeds in many health food stores. They are usually located in the raw foods or bulk sections. If you don’t have a health food store near you, you can get chia seeds online.

 

OK, today’s recipe is provided by cocooncooks.com:

 

Ingredients

4 cups filtered water
1 cup | 135 gr. blackberries
2 limes
3 tbsp chia seeds
3 tbsp maple syrup

 

 

STEP BY STEP

Start by gathering, preparing and measuring all of the ingredients. This will improve your dynamic in the kitchen.

  1. In a high speed blender, combine 3/4 cup | 100 gr. blackberries with the juice of 1 1/2 limes, the maple syrup and 2 cups of water.
  2. Blend until completely smooth.
  3. Strain this mixture with the help of a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth.
  4. In a large jar or bottle, combine the chia seeds with 2 cups of water and stir thoroughly, making sure the seeds do not form clumps.
  5. Pour in the blackberry and lime mixture and stir again.
  6. Drop in the remaining blackberries and the lime half, cut in thin slices.
  7. Place the jar in the fridge and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes.
  8. Serve on ice and enjoy!

 

Resources:

http://www.cocooncooks.com/blog-en/blackberry-lime-chia-fresca

The Benefits Of Chia Seeds And How To Add Them To Your Diet – Infographic

 

Why You Should Eat Chia Seeds?

16 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Chia Seeds

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