It seems everywhere we turn there’s yet another contradiction about what is healthy and what is unhealthy. We know that there’s no “one-size-fits-all” diet that will work for everyone but there are some general guidelines that can help most people to achieve better health. For instance: avoiding processed foods and including more whole foods in your diet is a great place to start! You might have swapped out some of the obvious unhealthy culprits like chips, burgers, and soda from your diet. But what you might not realize is that even some of the healthier alternatives you’re eating might not be so healthy after all.
Here are some “healthy” foods that may actually be bad for your health:
Are you trying to cut back on meat? For those trying to avoid or reduce meat in their diet, veggie burgers might seem like the obvious healthy choice. But beware! Those patties may not have so many vegetables after all. Many are packed with fillers and additives to give them that realistic burger-like texture, leaving little room for real vegetables. Before you buy your next veggie burger, check the ingredients to make sure that vegetables top the list. There are a few good ones out there but if you can’t pronounce the ingredients list, it’s best to leave it. Check you local health food store, Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.
Fish is another food that you may be adding in to your healthy diet. But there is a lot to be aware of when it comes to choosing fish. First, it’s a good idea to avoid farmed fish altogether. Yes, avoid all fish that is farmed. Not only are fish in these farming environments fed genetically modified (GM) corn, soy, fishmeal (and in some cases chicken) which is an abnormal diet for marine life, but they are also loaded with other chemicals, antibiotics, and anti-fungal compounds. To ensure you get the benefits of omega-3 fats from your fish – without all the pollutants – opt for wild caught and look for fish that has been granted the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification. I love Costco for this. I just got myself a bag of individually wrapped, wild Mahi Mahi filets. Perfect for quick and delicious pan seared fish tacos!
Before jumping on the soy bandwagon, there are a few things you should know. Many studies have linked soy to conditions such as digestive distress, immune system breakdown, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline, infertility, cancer and heart disease. Soy (even organic soy) contains anti-nutrients, compounds that hinder the absorption of nutrients. Although you can gain many health benefits from fermented soy products like tempeh, miso, and natto, much of the soy produced in the U.S. is unfermented and therefore laden with these health risks.
There are numerous options for ready made protein drinks (think Muscle Milk) and protein powders (a quick visit to GNC will blow your mind). Many people, especially busy professionals, replace a meal with a protein drink when time (and money) is tight. Ever wonder why a protein drink with 20+ grams of protein still leaves you feeling hungry an our later? In most cases, the protein is not bio-available. Your body may only use a small percentage of the listed nutrients in the bottle, but absorb all the sugars, preservatives and chemicals (doing more damage than good) and still leave you frustrated and hungry. Read your labels and try a whole foods based meal replacement shake instead. Real food = real nutrition. Quality shakes are absolutely available on the market today and my friends at Purium are offering my readers a $50 discount to try some of the healthiest food on the planet. Here’s one of my favorites.
Most of us dine out a few times per week. Many of us have to do work lunches and meetings in restaurants as well. Servers are trained in the preparation of dishes and are there to provide the best experience for YOU (I know, I’ve worked int his industry for 20+ years). Ask questions and request modifications if necessary. You can (and should) ask if the salmon is farmed or if the veggie burger is made in house. If the answer doesn’t suite you, the healthier choice may very well be an unexpected surprise.
Keeping your diet healthy and fresh not only helps you maintain a healthy weight, it helps you THRIVE by improving your focus, boosting your energy and nourishing your soul.
I hope these tips are helpful! Weeding through all the conflicting health and nutrition information can be a tough task for anyone. If you need help developing clarity about healthy foods that you can start to include in your diet, feel free to comment below!
We all recognize the challenges of being at a desk for the majority of the day. The following guidelines will help you to better manage these lifestyle challenges of office eating so that you can sustain your energy levels, work smarter and get more out of your day.
Vending Machines, Cafeterias and Convenience Stands
Most of the foods on offer are high in saturated and total fat, sodium and/or sugar, and virtually devoid of fiber and vitamins. Eating these foods on a regular basis may result in erratic blood sugar levels, leaving you with low energy, irritability, poor concentration, weight gain and an increased risk of diabetes, heart attacks and stroke, gout, high blood pressure, cancer, and other diseases.
What to do:
Although tea, coffee and cocoa contain beneficial flavonoids and other antioxidants, the caffeine content limits their benefit. Over-consumption of caffeine often goes hand in hand with over-consumption of sugar and refined unhealthy snacks such as muffins, cookies and snack bars. Excess caffeine intake may cause feelings of anxiety, increased blood pressure, insomnia and headaches. It can also be a digestive system irritant, causing heartburn, cramping or diarrhea in sensitive individuals.
What to do:
if I had a dollar for every time I heard about the muffins and donuts at meetings… The challenge with meetings is that either unhealthy foods are provided or none at all. Foods on offer during meetings typically are highly refined and high in fat. This can limit productivity and creativity – how sharp do you feel after a muffin with 4 tablespoons of sugar? How do these foods affect your energy.. and waist line?
What to do:
I’ve had clients send me pictures of their break rooms at work. So S.A.D. (Standard American Diet)! It’s especially hard when you are starting a new eating plan or trying to detox from processed foods since cravings are at an all time high. If you must use a space, then you must change the space.
What to do:
This is a tricky one. Time zone changes on top of the usual work stresses really make this a tough challenge for my corporate clients. Whether you spend a lot of time in a car or hotels, or fly across time zones, travelling disrupts your usual eating routine and can play havoc with healthier food choices.
What to do:
No matter if you’re travelling or desk-dining, the power is in your hands. Arm yourself with the information you need to make healthy choices. Talk to your coworkers and supervisors about adapting the environment to fit your health needs. Take responsibility and research some healthy recipes to make in bulk – always cook once, eat twice. Drink water throughout the day. If necessary, invest in healthy convenience foods to match your busy lifestyle – this is my favorite bundle (25% discount at check out). Get some fresh air.
Lastly, get an accountability partner! More often than not, you will have a coworker who is also in need of support to reset their diet and stay on track. Working towards your health goals with a buddy – especially one you see 5 days a week will significantly increase the likelihood that you will succeed in your endeavors. You’ll also form a strong bond and open up more possibilities to spread health and wellness office wide.
The past year has seen a surge of interest in cannabidiol (CBD), a non-intoxicating cannabis compound with significant therapeutic properties. It has been recognized as the next big thing. A miracle oil that may shrink tumors, quell seizures, and ease chronic pain—without making people feel “stoned.” But along with a growing awareness of cannabidiol as a potential health aid there has been a growing number of misconceptions about CBD.
Full Disclosure: The following post is a compilation of research I found online. There are direct links to the articles for more info as well as references noted below.
Cannabidiol—CBD—is a cannabis compound that has significant medical benefits, but does not make people feel “stoned” and can actually counteract the psychoactivity of THC. The fact that CBD-rich cannabis is non-psychoactive or less psychoactive than THC-dominant strains makes it an appealing option for patients looking for relief from inflammation, pain, anxiety, psychosis, seizures, spasms, and other conditions without feeling lethargic or agitated.
How CBD works
All cannabinoids, including CBD, attach themselves to certain receptors in the body to produce their effects. The human body produces certain cannabinoids on its own. It has two receptors for cannabinoids, called CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors.
CB1 receptors are found all around the body, but many of them are in the brain. The CB1 receptors in the brain deal with coordination and movement, pain, emotions and mood, thinking, appetite, and memories, among others. THC attaches to these receptors.
CB2 receptors are more common in the immune system. They affect inflammation and pain. It used to be thought that CBD acts on these CB2 receptors, but it appears now that CBD does not act on either receptor directly. Instead, it seems to influence the body to use more of its own cannabinoids.
Because of the way that CBD acts in the body, it has many potential benefits like natural pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties
People commonly use prescription or over-the-counter drugs to relieve pain and stiffness, including chronic pain. Some people feel that CBD offers a more natural way to lower pain. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine found that CBD significantly reduced chronic inflammation and pain in some mice and rats. The researchers suggest that the non-psychoactive compounds in marijuana, such as CBD, could be a new treatment for chronic pain.
Quitting smoking and drug withdrawals
There is some promising evidence that CBD use may help people to quit smoking. A pilot study posted to Addictive Behaviors found that smokers who used an inhaler containing the compound CBD smoked fewer cigarettes but did not have any additional craving for nicotine.
Another similar study posted to Neurotherapeutics found that CBD may be a promising substance for people who abuse opioids. Researchers noted that some symptoms experienced by patients with substance use disorders might be reduced by CBD. These include anxiety, mood symptoms, pain, and insomnia.
These are early findings, but they suggest that CBD may be used to avoid or reduce withdrawal symptoms.
Epilepsy and other mental health disorders
CBD is also being studied for its possible role in treating epilepsy and neuropsychiatric disorders. A review posted to Epilepsia noted that CBD has anti-seizure properties and a low risk of side effects for people with epilepsy.
Studies into CBD’s effect on neurological disorders suggest that it may help to treat many of the disorders that are linked to epilepsy, such as neurodegeneration, neuronal injury, and psychiatric diseases.
Another study published in Current Pharmaceutical Design found that CBD may have similar effects to certain antipsychotic drugs and that it may be safe and effective in treating patients with schizophrenia.
Anxiety and depression are usually treated with pharmaceutical drugs, which can cause a number of side effects including drowsiness, agitation, insomnia, sexual dysfunction and headache. What’s more, medications like benzodiazepines can be addictive and may lead to substance abuse.
a review from Neurotherapeutics suggests that CBD may help to reduce the anxiety felt by people with certain anxiety disorders.
The researchers point to studies showing that CBD may reduce anxiety behaviors in disorders such as:
The review notes that current medications for these disorders can lead to additional symptoms and side effects and that people may stop taking the drugs because of these unwanted effects. CBD has not shown any adverse effects in these cases to date, and the researchers call for CBD to be studied as a potential treatment method.
Since CBD oil has also shown promise as a treatment for depression and anxiety, leading many who live with these disorders to become interested in this natural approach.
CBD has been studied for its use as an anti-cancer agent. A review posted to the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology notes that CBD appears to block cancer cells from spreading around the body and invading an area entirely. The review indicates that this compound tends to suppress the growth of cancer cells and promote the death of these cells.
Researchers also note that CBD may help in cancer treatment because of its low toxicity levels. Though CBD has been shown to help reduce symptoms related to cancer and cancer treatment (nausea and vomiting), and may even have cancer-fighting properties, more research is needed to assess its effectiveness and safety.
Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is caused by inflammation when the immune system attacks cells in the pancreas. Recent research posted to Clinical Hemorheology and Microcirculation found that CBD may ease the inflammation in the pancreas in type 1 diabetes. This may be the first step in finding a CBD-based treatment for type 1 diabetes.
In may cases, acne can be improved by cleaning your diet of inflammatory foods. Although I would recommend removing allergens like dairy and gluten and adding in green superfoods first, Acne treatment is another promising use for CBD. The condition is caused, in part, by inflammation and overworked sebaceous glands in the body. A recent study posted to the Journal of Clinical Investigation found that CBD helps to lower the production of sebum that leads to acne, partly because of its anti-inflammatory effect on the body.
Initial research published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that CBD was able to prevent people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s from losing their ability to recognize the faces of people that they know. This is the first evidence that CBD has potential to prevent Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.
As you can see, CBD has the potential to alleviate pain and symptoms caused by disease, mental disorders and even substance addiction. Unfortunately, purchasing CBD oil can be a little tricky due to the fact that the Food and Drug Administration isn’t in the business of approving plants as medicine. For the facts on my favorite high quality, Organic, Non-GMO CBD Oil, Click Here. For the Lab Test Results, Click Here. Want to see how it compares (in price) to other well known brands? Here you go. Ready to make a purchase? Click Here and enter code: coachmarisol for your $50 (or 25% discount on orders over $200) and Free Shipping. You’re welcome.
Many people do not know what a health coach does or how working with one could benefit them. I’m going to explain what it’s like to be a health coach and what you can expect when you work with one (or with me specifically as everyone has their own M.O.)
There are as many coaches as there are reasons to work with one. You probably won’t find a coach that will work with you for general well being. If you are referred to a coach or are seeking one, chances are it’s for a specific purpose – whether you need coaching to help you with emotional eating, preparing for pregnancy, working through romantic relationships, healing your gut, weight loss… the list goes on. We generally specialize in areas that hit close to home (I do anyway).
The process of becoming a coach may start with the certification process, but it never actually ends. As a coach, I am constantly seeking, learning and applying. Yes, I’m educated in nutrition, coaching and wellness. And yes, I’m a flawed human being with food issues and love handles to prove it.
In comes personal growth. I’m a very driven person. I visualize myself at the end. It keeps me motivated to get there. I know I have a lot of work to do when it comes to loving and accepting myself. Also when it comes to nurturing certain relationships. And working on my mindset? It is challenging and nonnegotiable.
So here’s the deal. As I search and learn, I get coached. As I apply what I learn and experience in the process, I file it away. I then reabsorb it when I am in the moment of coaching others.
You know how funny it is when you suddenly realize that you KNOW something? It’s part of you but you never realized the moment it became you? I’m noting that although bettering myself and working through my issues is a work in progress, I am indeed progressing and taking these experiences, concepts and values to my own clients and helping them through their needs in an authentic way. Sometimes, I’m only a few steps ahead. Do you really need me to be more than that? My experience says no. Being a few steps ahead allows me to help you get there while maintaining an appreciation for the process and staying open to the lessons of this particular challenge and relationship.
We’re all different and we all need different things to thrive. This is one of the reasons finding the right coach is imperative to success. You need to have chemistry because the coaching relationship is intimate. There must be trust and accountability. You will be asked to be thoughtful and answer challenging questions. “I don’t know.” Is never an acceptable answer. You will be given recommendations and tasks. You will be held accountable for them. In the end, you will have to answer to yourself. If you don’t follow through with the goals you set for yourself, how can you expect to trust that anyone else will follow through for you?
When was the last time you bared your soul to someone you barely knew? Ever had an obese doctor tell you to lose weight and eat healthier? How about a fat trainer? Arrogant mindset coach? No thank you. I seek leaders that lead by example! I’m proud to be a work in progress progressing with my clients.
It’s who I am and who people need me to be.
Yep, juicing is a practice that makes me happy, healthy, vibrant, energized and grateful. Now, you know I’m a big proponent of Green Smoothies. Smoothies differ from juice because you blend whole fruits and vegetables keeping the fiber in your glass. It’s actually a fantastic way to curb a hunger pang or craving and are a fantastic aid for weight loss. Juice, however, is also very close to my heart, brain, gut… you get the idea. Drinking fresh pressed juice provides our bodies with concentrated nutrition – enzymes, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and even protein (did you know that about spirulina?) Juice is filled with vitamins A, C, and E, which act as antioxidants—a.k.a. substances that counteract pesky molecules in our bodies known as free radicals that can do cell damage. We accumulate free radicals in the body as part of normal bodily processes, but they can build up in excess thanks to pollution, sun damage, and smoking. An overabundance of free radicals has been linked to heart disease and cancer.
But… there’s a problem. I don’t like the time it takes to shop, prep and do the juicing (anyone else here always in a rush?). I don’t like how expensive it is to spend time and money buying the best ingredients only for them to go to waste if I can’t get to them in time and I HATE cleaning the juicer (I don’t have a dish washer). Oh, and spending $14 on juice at a cafe? Yeah right.
Look, we all need pure sources of leafy greens, but there is only so much time in the day to eat pounds of kale and wheatgrass. I’m sure you’ve seen powdered greens. You can buy an assortment of them on Amazon alone. Powdered greens are great because dehydrating the juice greatly amps up the nutrient density, saving you time and energy, because it becomes a very concentrated source.
So don’t let your busy lifestyle keep you from getting proper nutrition! Very few of us are getting the bare minimum of 5 servings per day of our greens, and much less the optimal 10 servings per day of fruits and vegetables. Concentrated food powders can help make it much easier to get the nutrition we need.
I would love to see everyone grow their own “rainbow” garden so that you can eat and juice a wide variety of different color nutrient-rich veggies and fruits. But the reality is that not many of us have the space and time to live solely out of our own garden. In today’s world, where our fruits and veggies are not as nutrient dense as our great-grandparents due to steady soil erosion among other factors, powdered veggie and fruit blends are healthy fast food that can make a big difference in our health.
Well, I’ve found the answer!!! I’m thrilled to present my readers with a fabulous personal on-the-go Juice Bar filled with 100% Raw, Organic, Non GMO, Fruits, Veggies and Herbs! Oh, and if you have little ones at home that are having a hard time eating their fruits and veggies, this bag is a life saver – it may be the fastest and easiest way to get in nutrients from the vegetables you’d rather skip at dinner. It’s amazingly convenient and super easy to use. I ordered mine and have been making different blends in seconds with only one shaker bottle to wash when I’m done – and you must wash it because raw, live foods decay. My husband left his green juice in the car one day and was surprised at how foul it smelled after hours in the sun. Hello??!! It’s live and raw. The best form of nutrition our bodies can take and utilize.
Want to know what’s in it? I thought so. This collection of over 50 organic ingredients has 6 different products that create over 50 different drink flavors!
Now I wouldn’t be telling you about this if I didn’t have a deal for you. If you know me, you know about my love of discount shopping🤓🤑. I’m kind of a nerd about it. Since Mother’s Day is just around the corner, take advantage and get one for mom too! This special deal includes FREE Aloe Digest (it is not normally included in this bag). Additionally, if you use this link, you get 25% off! Don’t worry, it’s applied at check out. But this deal ends on May 9th so go on and get your juice on! Your body will thank you for it😉
Glycemic this and glycemic that. Does it matter? You’ll notice that they both begin with “glycemic.” That’s one tip that they have to do with sugars and carbs. Not only how much sugar is in foods, but more importantly, how it affects your blood sugar levels.
In general, diets that are high on the glycemic index (GI) and high in glycemic load (GL), tend to increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
FUN FACT: Starches like those in potatoes and grains are digested into sugar; this is because starch is just a bunch of sugars linked together. Digestive enzymes break those bonds so that the sugars become free. Then those sugars affect your body the same way that eating sugary foods do.
Glycemic Index (“how fast”)
The most common of the two terms is “glycemic index” (GI). As the name suggests, it “indexes” (or compares) the effect that different foods have on your blood sugar level. Then each food is given a score from 0 (no effect on blood sugar) to 100 (big effect on blood sugar). Foods that cause a fast increase in blood sugar have a high GI. That is because the sugar in them is quickly processed by your digestive system and absorbed into your blood. They cause a “spike” in your blood sugar.
So, you can probably guess that pure glucose is given a GI rating of 100. On the other hand, chickpeas are right down there at a GI of 10.
Regarding GI: low is anything under 55; moderate is 56-69, and 70+ is considered a high GI food.
Remember, this is a measure of how fast a carbohydrate containing food is digested and raises your blood sugar. It’s not a measure of the sugar content of the food.
How the carbohydrates in food affect your blood sugar level depend on other components of the food. Things like fiber and protein can slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream, and this can make even a high-sugar food, low on the GI scale. So, lower GI foods are better at keeping your blood sugar levels stable because they don’t increase your blood sugar level as fast.
FUN FACT: Can you guess which food has a GI of higher than 100? (Think of something super-starchy) White potatoes! They have a GI of 111.
Glycemic Load (“how much”)
The glycemic load is different. Glycemic load (GL) doesn’t take into account how quickly your blood sugar “spikes”, but it looks at how high that spike is. Basically, how much the food increases your blood sugar.
GL depends on two things. First, how much sugar is actually in the food. Second, how much of the food is typically eaten. Low GL would be 0-10, moderate GL would be 10-20, and high GL would 20+.
Example of GL and GI
So, let’s compare average (120 g) servings of bananas and oranges:
|Food||GI||Serving size (g)||GL per serving|
Excerpt from: Harvard Health Publications, Glycemic index and Glycemic load for 100+ foods
As you can see, the banana and orange have almost the same glycemic index.; this means they both raise your blood sugar in about the same amount of time. But, the average banana raises the blood sugar twice as high (11) as the orange does (5). So, it contains more overall sugar than the same amount (120 g) of orange.
Of course, this is all relative. A GL of 11 is not high at all. Please keep eating whole fruits. 🙂
What does this all mean for your health?
Certain people should be aware of the effects that foods have on their blood sugar. People who have diabetes or pre-diabetes conditions like insulin resistance need to be aware of the glycemic index and glycemic load of foods they are eating regularly.
The GI and GL are just two factors to consider when it comes to blood sugar. Some high GI foods are pretty good for you but if you want to reduce the impact on your blood sugar, have them with a high-fiber or high-protein food.
If you have blood sugar imbalances or diabetes, you should probably be aware of the GI and GL of your food. If you are at risk of diabetes or heart disease, you might try swapping out some higher GI/GL foods and replacing with lower GI/GL foods.
Oh, and try this low GI recipe I have for you.
Recipe (low GI): Mediterranean Salad
Place first five ingredients together in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients to a jar (to make the dressing) with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously. Add dressing to salad and gently toss. Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Add chopped avocado for even more fiber and healthy fat. Also, get creative! Throw in some sweet peppers (and a little Feta Cheese never hurt anyone)!
Have you ever worked in an environment that was extremely stressful? At some time or another we’ve all experienced stress on the job. Stress is a given for everyone, but what sets us apart is how we handle stress.
When you are able to deal with stress effectively, you can then be more efficient and effective at work while supporting overall good health in the process. Today I’m sharing with you some ways to manage work-related stress.
If you’ve been having stress related to your work, here are a few ways to handle it.
These are a few simple ways to cope with stress on the job, and hey’re quick and easy to incorporate into your work day while reducing your stress levels.
How do you manage stress at work? Which of these techniques do you think you’ll try?
When stress shows up in your life, what does it look like? Perhaps you feel mentally or physically drained. Your body may display signs like increased blood pressure, faster breathing, a rush of adrenaline, or you may feel confused, overwhelmed or even angry. Stress happens to all of us and can’t be avoided altogether; but it does become a problem when you are under stress on a regular basis, or when your body is in a state of chronic stress.
Studies have shown a relationship between stress and health conditions like inflammation, insomnia, obesity, headaches, and poor immune function to name a few. If you’re striving to be healthier, getting stress under control is a must.
Last week I learned that April is Stress Awareness Month so I thought I’d share a few tips to help reduce that pesky hindrance.
So, what can you do about stress? Here are a few ways to lower stress in your daily life.
Try Meditation – Don’t worry, simply sitting with your thoughts and deep breathing for a few minutes counts! Better yet, try a free app. Dedicate a few minutes to yourself, put in those earbuds and close your eyes. Let the guide do the talking and just follow along. Meditation can help us reduce stress by allowing us to approach life from a more relaxed standpoint. And it has been scientifically proven to change the activity of the brain. Mindfulness meditation, especially, has demonstrated a positive effect on reducing anxiety.
Practice Yoga & Tai Chi – Yoga and Tai Chi can not only help your body, they can also help to calm your mind and reduce stress in your everyday life. Don’t know where to start? Try following a YouTube video for beginners.
Modify Your Diet – You knew I’d go there… Did you realize that some foods can influence stress? For instance, healthy high-fiber foods like sweet potatoes and brown rice have a calming effect, while high-fat foods, caffeine, and sugar can make you feel jittery or drained, increasing your stress response. Ditch the junk! Add more plant based meals to your diet and eat something green (preferably at every meal) at least once a day. Need a little help? Try my free Green Smoothie Challenge to increase your nutrition and crowd out the nasties. Prefer to make a healthy, sizzling stir fry? This article has some yummy recipes for your Meatless Monday Dinners.
Get Better Sleep – Lack of sleep can lead to stress and vice versa. Take the steps above improve your sleep and help your body and mind deal with stress. Still tossing and turning? It happens to the best of us. Here’s my favorite organic, Non-GMO natural supplement for sweet dreams (really, if you haven’t had deep restorative sleep in a while, try this. It changed my life)
Get Moving – Regular exercise helps to boost serotonin levels; this helps you feel better and enhances your mood allowing you to handle stress more easily. Challenge yourself to reach 10,000 step per day (use a free step counter app), schedule a weekend hike or family bowling night. Zumba anyone (do people still do that?)? Include a friend and have fun with it! Getting support and bonding with your buddies works wonders for stress. Sometimes you’ve just gotta let it out. Plus it’s cheaper than therapy.
These are a few of the ways that you can alleviate stress in your life.
Need a little more support? My friends at Better Help have a ton of online resources as well as licensed therapists online and ready to listen.
Which of these strategies will you include in your healthy lifestyle this week?
Antioxidants are just that: they fight (anti) oxidation. The chemical process of oxidation is like rusting metal. A molecule loses electrons and creates the infamous free radicals. Oxidation is also the reason why apples, bananas, and avocados go brown when the skin is broken, and they’re exposed to air – they’re getting oxidized.
Free radicals in the body cause inflammation and can contribute to diseases like cancers, diabetes, and heart disease (to name a few). So, the antidote to oxidation is the antioxidant. Vitamins like vitamins A, C, and E are examples of antioxidants. So are other compounds in foods like carotenoids and phenols. These compounds sacrifice their electrons to stop the oxidation process; this is why squirting some lemon juice on your sliced apples, bananas and avocados slows down the browning process.
But don’t think that all oxidation in the body is bad. It’s not. Your body naturally oxidizes compounds all the time when it’s doing healthy things like metabolizing nutrients or exercising.
As with many things in life and health, the key is maintaining a good balance. In this case, as the balance between oxidation and antioxidation. We can throw off that balance with exposure to too much alcohol, smoking, or environmental pollutants. Even over-exercising or too much sun exposure can create too much oxidation.
The best sources of antioxidants to combat this effect are nutritious whole foods, like colourful fresh produce, e.g., blueberries, purple cabbage, etc. In fact, the more colourful and darker the plant is, the higher levels of antioxidants it usually has. Chemicals that give the plants their deep colours are often the antioxidants themselves.
Antioxidants in food
Let me list out a bunch of antioxidants and the foods they’re found in:
Blueberries are probably one of the most studied antioxidant foods. They contain a range of phytochemical (i.e., plant chemical) compounds and are very high in anthocyanins (the blue-coloured compound).
The antioxidant capacity can be measured in a laboratory; this is called the “oxygen radical absorption capacity,” or “ORAC.” And blueberries have one of the highest ORAC levels.
FUN FACT: Some studies estimate that the highest source of antioxidants in the average American is not from berries, it’s from coffee! Can you imagine how much healthier people can be if they added a few more servings of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables to their days?
Antioxidant Foods vs. Supplements
While antioxidant supplements have been tested, their results haven’t been as good as many hoped. Compared with eating a nutrient-dense antioxidant-rich colorful array of plants, antioxidants supplements have fallen short.
Many studies of antioxidant supplements haven’t shown any benefit against heart disease, cancer, or other diseases. And these are diseases that are known to be reduced in people who eat a lot of foods that are naturally full of antioxidants.
In fact, too much of any individual antioxidant, like when overdoing supplements, can be harmful. Too much vitamin A is linked to increased risk of hip fractures and prostate cancer. Too much beta-carotene increases the risk of lung cancer in smokers. Too much vitamin E increases the risk of prostate cancer, lung infections, heart failure, and even death.
One of the reasons why we think that antioxidant foods work oh-so-much better than antioxidant supplements is because of synergy. The concept of synergy means that by taking one component out of healthful food (i.e., the antioxidant), it loses the effect it has when combined with all the other healthy components it came with from nature. This is the difference between eating a whole orange and taking a vitamin C supplement. The orange is going to have more than just vitamin C, and many of those compounds will work together for overall health better than just isolating one and having higher-than-normal doses of it.
There are antioxidant vitamins (A, C & E) and other antioxidants like carotenoids and polyphenols. They’re highest in colorful fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some meats, tea, coffee, and cocoa.
You can’t replace a diet full of nutrient-dense antioxidant-rich whole foods with supplements. You can however, keep a superfood product like Purium’s Bio Fruit for when you don’t have the fresh stuff around. It’s made from gently dehydrated non-GMO organic fruits (nothing else added) to give the antioxidant boost you need when you’re pressed for time. Another one of my favorite drinks is a glass of Apothe-Cherry (made from 100% Dark Tart Cherries – super antioxidant rich) before bedtime as tart cherries contain melatonin. So stick with the fresh foods when you can, go for the convenient option when you need to. Tell me, which antioxidant-rich foods and drinks are your favorites? Let me know in the comments below!
Recipe (Antioxidant-rich): Blueberry Smoothie
Directions: Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Use any greens you have on hand in place of the spinach, if you wish.
“Pre”biotics? Yes! They’re the food that we feed our probiotics, the friendly gut microbes that are oh so important for good health. Our gut microbes are alive, and they need to eat too. Their favorite foods are called “prebiotics” and include dietary fiber and resistant starch. The same fiber that keeps us feeling full slows down digestion and provides roughage that keeps us regular. Resistant starch helps promote healthy blood lipids. Both of types of prebiotics (fiber and resistant starch) are linked with many health benefits.
Technically-speaking, a prebiotic has three qualities:
Now that we know what prebiotics are let’s dive into their health benefits.
Health benefits of prebiotics
Prebiotic fiber helps keep us regular by bulking up our poop. It gives it substance and form, so it’s not too runny or liquid. In fact, more fiber is often recommended to help with symptoms of diarrhea. Prebiotic fiber used to be thought of like a broom that sweeps food through our guts, but we’re learning more about its health benefits beyond this role.
For example, prebiotics can also help to maintain normal bowel structure and function, and even enhance blood flow to the cells of the colon. Those are some of the health benefits of prebiotics themselves. But we get even more health benefits when our friendly gut microbes eat and digest them.
For one thing, our gut microbes use prebiotics to make short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs (e.g., butyrate) can feed the cells of our colon to keep them healthy. SCFAs also inhibit the growth of bad gut microbes, and can even increase mineral (e.g., calcium and magnesium) absorption. These effects are all linked to the slight acidity caused by the acids in those SCFAs.
Dietary fiber also binds to healthful phytonutrients (phyto = plant). These phytonutrients are lost when the fiber is removed from the food. But, when we eat the prebiotic fiber, our gut microbes release these phytonutrients so we can absorb and use them.
Where to get prebiotics
Dietary fiber and resistant starch are the main sources of prebiotics. Prebiotic fiber is found mostly in plants; both fruits and vegetables.
Resistant starch is any starch (a type of carbohydrate) that goes through most of our digestive tract without being digested. It’s not broken down by our digestive enzymes because it’s “resistant”… until it gets to our gut microbes in the colon. Resistant starch is found in starchy foods like whole grains and root vegetables.
One of the big differences between fiber and resistant starch is that all of the fiber we eat is indigestible. All of it reaches our colons. Resistant starch, on the other hand, is just a small percent of the starch we eat. Most starch is digested and absorbed along our digestive tract, and that part is not considered to be prebiotic. Only the small amount of starch that is resistant to digestion and makes it down to the colon to feed our probiotics is prebiotic.
Prebiotic fiber is found in fibrous fruits and vegetables. It’s essentially what’s removed when we make juice – the pulp. It’s one of the reasons why eating whole fruits and vegetables is more healthful than replacing them with juice.
Here are some great sources of dietary fiber:
Resistant starch is found in:
Starches can be made resistant by cooking and cooling these foods before eating them. The cooling process allows the starches to re-shape themselves into a structure that is harder to digest (i.e., more resistant).
Prebiotics are fibre and resistant starches that feed our gut microbes. And when we feed our gut microbes, they help keep our gut healthy and have other health benefits too.
Do you ever juice your amazingly healthy fruits and vegetables and have a ton of leftover pulp? What do you do with it? I have a great recipe for using that oh so healthy prebiotic fibre in a delicious way.
Recipe (Juice pulp): Brownies
Instructions: Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8”x8” baking tray with parchment paper. Add cocoa powder, coconut flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to a large bowl. Stir to combine. Whisk eggs, pulp, oil and maple syrup. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine well. Use a spatula to scrape the batter into the baking dish. Bake for 30 mins until the top is firm and edges just start to pull away from the dish. Allow the brownies to cool. Serve & enjoy! Tip: I like to blend the wet ingredients in my blender to make cleanup easier.