Clean Foods vs Real Foods

One quick search online or one quick visit to Instagram and you’ll see #cleaneating but what does that actually mean? Through marketing and social media certain foods have been labelled as “clean” which is supposed to be synonymous with “healthy” but that it not the case. These “clean” foods are marketed to us as healthy because they typically contain 0g of sugar, low fat, high protein and moderately low carbohydrate. And at some point, these were decidedly “healthy” categories. The problem with these foods is that Diet Coke (to use an example) would fall into “clean” as a 0 calorie, 0g sugar product. How many times have you seen an “influencer” in the health industry drinking 0 calorie drinks and diet pop? ALL THE TIME. These drinks are made with artificial sweeteners that have animal research to support carcinogenic effects. The biggest problem with “clean eating” is that it can lead to Orthorexia which is a term that means an individual does not get adequate nutrition because of food rules they set out for themselves.

Another issue I have with the term “clean eating” is that the words “cheat meal” are also used. Cheat is an ethical term and should not be associated with foods. It indicates you’re doing something wrong, something bad. This creates a negative mindset around that food. For example, having a cupcake if your are “clean eating” would be considered a “cheat meal”. This sets you up for thinking you are being bad when you eat a cupcake. Yes, cupcakes are not typically nutrient-dense but no one should be chastised for eating one cupcake. 

Low fat is also promoted to us through “clean eating” especially through fitness influencers and the HUGE problem here is, our bodies NEED fat. Our brains are made of fat, our hormones are made of fat, our cell membranes are made of fat. Our bodies can literally not function properly without fat in our diets. 

The foundation of any diet should be whole (real) foods and mostly plant-based. Eating fad diets or following specific plans like keto, low FODMAP, intermittent fasting, paleo etc will not work for everyone but what does work for everyone is eating real foods.

Real foods are nutrient-dense foods that fuel and support the functions of our body. Fats like avocado, coconut, ghee, nuts and seeds are nutrient-dense foods that provide our bodies with additional micronutrients and trace minerals. Fish and eggs are also great sources of fat (and protein) that again, provide our bodies with more than just macronutrients. There are trace minerals and vitamins present in these foods that our bodies need.

My take home message is don’t fall prey to marketing and influencers as their messages are typically driven by money and not coming from a place of education. Make decisions for yourself based on what makes your body feel the best. When you choose real, nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, organic meats and fish, eggs, nuts, legumes and seeds you have more energy, a clear mind, clear skin, inflammation is reduced, mood improves, joint pain goes away, your gut heals and so so much more!

Winter Skin Fixes

So the warmer weather has arrived! We’ve just spent months wrapped up in layers as the harsh cold and winter winds hit our faces. You might be noticing your skin is a little dry, maybe dull. If you’ve been moisturizing your skin and it still hasn’t recovered from winter, there’s a little more you could be doing.

While it’s important to be applying moisturizer to your skin, don’t forget about moisturizing from the inside. That might sound a little weird to you but by consuming healthy fats, we’re helping our skin from the inside out. Fats like avocado, nuts and seeds, omega 3s from fish, evening primrose oil and GLA oil are excellent oils for skin. They will help keep your skin hydrated, glowing, plump and clear.

Water is also essential for beautiful skin. Keeping hydrated will keep your skin hydrated. If water is boring to you, try adding fruits and herbs like watermelon, lemon, strawberries, cucumber or mint to add a fresh twist.

orange fruits on brown wooden surface
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

What you’re applying to your skin will also determine if it’s dry or not. Choose a moisturizer with clean ingredients. Read my post here about how to select clean beauty products.

I moisturize my skin in both the morning and evening. In addition, after a shower, I take the opportunity to moisturize the rest of my body. Not just my face. At night I love using an oil. Oils are great at night because they leave your skin fresh and soft in the morning. Using them during the day might affect your makeup application or make you look a little too “glowy”. My choices includes the antioxidant-rich and anti-aging Argan oil which I’ll add 1-2 drops of Lavender essential oil to once it’s in the palm of my hand or Blue Tansy Oil from Acure.

Supplements can also help make a difference. Collagen and antioxidants will keep your skin youthful and glowing. In addition, probiotics can help support your skin health especially if acne is of a concern. Check out this post on probiotics to learn more. 

A final note I will make is on sunscreen. Sunscreen is necessary to protect our skin from the damaging effects of the sun. Look for physical sunscreens with Zinc Oxide rather than chemical sunscreens. The Environmental Working group has an exceptional list each year of the best natural and clean sunscreens. Here’s the link to see how clean your sunscreen really is. It also offers alternative choices for your family so only the safest products are going on your skin.

Supplement Choices

If you’ve been into a health food store lately and chances are you have, the shelves are overwhelmingly filled with hundreds of different supplements.

This can cause a great deal of frustration and anxiety if the store doesn’t have a well educated staff to direct you towards what your are looking for. What’s worse, is when you don’t know what you should be taking because then, you’ll receive all kinds of opinions and information from many different sources.

I’m going to simplify things with you and say, if you’re not working with a Naturopath, Registered Nutritionist/Nutritionist or other health care provider who has recommended you specific supplements, the below list will work for just about everyone. These are the supplements that I believe, everyone should be on. I have made this decision based on research and the typical Canadian (North American) diet. 

Magnesium: is an incredible mineral. It’s the 8th most abundant element in the universe but many of us our deficient. Magnesium is required for over 300 biochemical reactions in our bodies. It helps build bones, relax and calm the mind, provide stress relief to your body, relax muscles, activate B vitamins and so much more! Look for a magnesium bisglycinate supplement. Glycine is an amino acid that is bonded with magnesium. This helps the magnesium get through the stomach acid and absorbed in the intestines. It’s also easy in the GI tract and won’t cause any quick trips to the bathroom.

Omega 3: Omega 3 is a type of beneficial fat that reduces inflammation. Omega 3s can help support our digestive system, our eyes, our brain, our skin, our mood, our joints and our hormones. This nutrient needs to come from animal sources or an algae source. The reason for this is, Omega 3s from flax and other plant sources are not actually in an Omega 3 form. Our bodies have to convert it and do so very, very poorly. It’s best to consume a fish oil source of Omega 3 such as anchovies, sardines and mackerel. Most supplements will be from these types of fish. The reason is, these fish are small and so, will have much, much less heavy metals and toxins in them. Look for a company that is using sustainable harvesting, multiple levels of testing and has a certified product. This brand is fantastic!

Probiotics: are beneficial bacteria that help us digest our food, produce neurotransmitters and vitamins and protect our immune system. They help reduce gas and bloating, keep yeast counts in our gut in check and reduce inflammation. Did you know our bodies have more bacteria in our digestive tract than we do cells in our bodies? This is why probiotics have such a huge impact on our health. When looking for a probiotic look for the number of different strains used, how many bacteria are in each dose, the type of formula, the guaranteed potency and the delivery system (enteric coated). Check out this company here.

Vitamin D: is so much more than just a vitamin. First of all, most Canadians are deficient in Vitamin D. We live in a climate with cold, dark winters where we are covered up head to toe. When the sunlight hits our skin, our bodies (through a series of reactions) turn cholesterol into Vitamin D. When our skin is covered up either with winter clothes or sunscreen, we do not make any vitamin D. There are also not many foods naturally rich in Vitamin D, another reason why supplementation is important. The current recommended intake for Vitamin D is quite low in my opinion. There is lots of research out there that indicates supplementation with 2000, 3000 even 4000 IU of Vitamin D daily is safe. Vitamin D also acts as a hormone in our body in different signalling pathways. There’s research supporting immune health, cancer risk, bone health and osteoporosis as well as depression. When looking for a Vitamin D supplement, remember Vitamin D is fat soluble. This means it needs fat to be absorbed. The best supplements will have the Vitamin D in olive or coconut oil. A liquid is best as it’s highly absorbed. It’s available in flavours like orange or lemon or unflavoured.

It’s What We Are Not Eating That Matters

Would you be surprised if I told you it’s not the unhealthy food we’re eating but the nutritious food we are NOT eating that’s damaging our health? I recently read an article summarizing research published in the Lancet Medical Journal. It was part of the Global Burden of Disease study by the Institute of Heath Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle. In the article they stated:

Unhealthy diets are responsible for 11 million preventable deaths globally per year, even more than smoking tobacco.

This article found biggest problem is not the junk we eat but the nutritious food we don’t eat calling for a global shift in policy to promote vegetables, fruit, nuts and legumes.

The study found that if we just improved our eating and drinking habits, 1 in 5 deaths could be prevented. Read that again, 1 in 5 people would get to live out a longer life simply because of the foods choices they made. That shows you the huge impact our food choices have on us.

If we just improved our eating and drinking habits, 1 in 5 deaths could be prevented

When we consciously make decisions to eat food high in processed (and inflammatory) fats and sugars such as fast foods or prepackaged foods, we are therefore choosing not to eat whole foods such as fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts and seeds and organic meats. You might not think much of it at the time but when there’s proof to let you know those decisions, overtime, can shorten your life span, wouldn’t you think twice about your food choices?

This article timing is perfect because I’ve also been watching Dr. Hyman’s Broken Brain 2 docu-series. Episode 6 I totally nerded out over as it was about how the food eat impacts our brain health and our genes. It discussed choosing the right diet for you based on your particular body and your genetics. Without too much detail the take home message is ultimately to choose a whole food, mostly plant based diet as the standard American diet clearly isn’t working for anyone.

Its important to keep in mind this was a global study, so Canadians can use the take home message and apply it to our lives. The original link can be found here. 

I’m not going to leave you with my thoughts alone, I will leave you with some actionable tasks to help you transition your diet. The easiest thing to do is to start SMALL. Pick one fruit and one vegetable you know you enjoy and you know how to prepare and incorporate that into your diet for a week. Whether you just wash some grapes and pack them in your lunch and cut up some carrots and enjoy them with hummus, just do it. Having these items on hand, ready-to-eat, will stop you from grabbing a muffin with your coffee or a chocolate bar at the checkout.

Another easy step is to drink more water and REPLACE some fluids you’re currently drinking with water. “BUT WATER IS BORING” Yes, I hear it all the time. In that case, add some lemon, or mint, or stevia or cucumber, or watermelon. The list goes on. Drink sparkling if you’re craving the bubbles. Just drink more water.

Taking actionable, baby-steps, towards eating better will make a huge difference in your life so you can #livevibrantly.

Your Health is an Investment not an Expense

Do you ever find yourself saying “I can’t afford that” or “I don’t have time for that” when it comes to a topic related to your health? Maybe you don’t think you have the time to see a massage therapist or a chiropractor. Maybe you don’t think you have enough money to take probiotics or purchase a clean skin care routine. When you say you don’t have time or money for these things, you’re telling yourself your health is an expense when it should be in investment.

It’s not selfish to spend money on your health. Your health should always remain a priority as your body is the only place you have to live and you only get one of them. Invest in your body and your health and it will not let you down.

I’m not saying go out and spend money on the latest health fad or trend (like what’s popular on Dr. Oz these days) because those will come and go. When you spend money on your health, it should be part of your lifestyle. For example, buying fresh produce or cleaning up your body care routine with natural versions of products you’re going to use everyday. Taking a probiotic regularly because you noticed your bloat and indigestion is gone is part of a lifestyle. Buying a gym or yoga membership to keep your body healthy for your later years is an investment.

You can make your health an investment even if you don’t think you have the financial means. I guarantee you, if you take a hard look, you will find some extra money. Try saving every single receipt and tracking every single expense for an entire month and see where the money goes. When you discover you don’t need to spend as much as you do on coffee, or eating take out or new clothes, you will have the money you need to see an nutritionist or buy that supplement and invest in yourself.

#livevibrantly

The Amazing Benefits of Propolis

You know about honey and beeswax and bee pollen but what about propolis? Propolis is a resin bees collect from plants (think trees) to help seal their hives with. Because bees collect this resin from varying trees, hundreds of compounds make up propolis.

The majority of compounds in propolis are antioxidants which protect our cells. It also contains vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins and magnesium. It is an antibacterial and antiviral substance that can be used as a supplement for colds and flu. If you’re sick, it works well for sore throats and can be found as a throat spray. It can also be used for cold cores, gut issues such as inflammation and H. Pylori and oral health.

When using any bee products, ensure they are fresh. They should always be in tightly sealed containers and from suppliers who specialize in bee products. If you’re using bee products (such as pollen) for allergies, be sure to use a locally sourced product so it’s most effective.

For some further information on propolis click here.

Balch et al. 2010 Prescriptions for Nutritional Healing

My Favourite Essential Oils

There are so many brands of essential oils out there that it can be overwhelming for someone who hasn’t used them before. How do you know which brand to buy? What scents do you buy? How do you use them? Here’s a few of my personal tips as well as my top 5 favourite essential oils and how I used them.

When selecting a brand to buy, do your research! Essential oils can be adulterated which means the oils are cut with other substances to cheapen the product. A reputable company will have trusted suppliers with lab tested ingredients. If the oils are also very inexpensive, second guess it. Yes, some oils such as citrus are fairly inexpensive across all brands but just be wary as you price compare. This is one of my favourite brands. 

When you are picking a scent, pick whatever is most appealing to you! That’s it! If you enjoy the smell, that’s the one. Essential oils can also elicit a specific effect on the body. For example, lavender will help clam and relax you while peppermint can stimulate and energize you. When researching companies, all this information should be available to you. If it’s not, again, think about choosing another brand.

Essential oils can be used in many ways. You can use them in DIY body products like this lavender body scrub. You can also use them in DIY perfumes and body lotions so long as you use a carrier oil. A carrier oil is an oil that helps dilute the essential oil so it’s safe to use directly on skin. Almond oil and jojoba are a few of my favourites. You can also add essential oils to your laundry. A couple drops of lavender into the wash or if you use wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets, you can drop a couple drops of essential oil onto those before you pop them into the dryer.

My top 5 essential oils (in no particular order)

LAVENDER This oil has a special place in my heart. Before I began working in the natural health industry I thought I hated lavender. Everything lavender whether it was candles, air fresheners, detergent etc all stunk to me. Turns out, it was never true lavender essential oil. It was artificial fragrances and “parfum” as mentioned in my post here. When I smelled real lavender, the difference was incredible and it was now an essential oil I love. I use lavender in diffusers throughout my home. I add a drop or two to my night time skin oil as it has antibacterial properties and is so relaxing. I have added a few drops to body lotions as well as making my own body scrub with it. Lavender is also a great oil to use for DIY home cleaning products.

EUCALYPTUS is a wonderful oil to use in a diffuser if your nose is stuffy. It’s great for opening up the airways. Eucalyptus is also fantastic at getting label glue of glass jars! I love saving glass jars to re-use them but soap and water only seems to go so far. There is always glue residue left. A few drops of this oil onto a cloth or right onto the glass, wipe, and the glue residue will disappear. It has a very fresh scent so it’s great for use as an air freshener too.

PEPPERMINT is another great one to use if your nose is stuffy. I also love a few drops of peppermint in the shower first thing in the morning. This oils energizes and breathing in the peppermint in the steam of the shower is a great wake up.

LEMONGRASS just smells good! I like mixing it with lavender and using it in a diffuser. This one is also great when used in DIY home cleaning products and on those wool dryer balls I mentioned.

SWEET ORANGE is a lovely soft citrus scent that will brighten up any room. I typically add this to a diffuser with other citrus oils. I also enjoy it with lavender.

Here’s a few resources for finding essential oils:

https://www.auracacia.com/

https://divineessence.com/en/

Spring Cleaning: Detox Your Skincare and Home

Do you ever think twice about what’s actually in your moisturizer as you apply it to your skin? What about what’s in the bottle of product you use to clean your kitchen counter tops? Depending on the brands you are using, our skin care products as well as home cleaning products can be filled with endocrine disrupting, allergenic chemicals.

The endocrine system is the hormone system of your body. It’s a series of glands that secret hormones. These hormones range from our sex hormones (testosterone, estrogen and androgens) to insulin, thyroid hormones, adrenaline and more. As you might gather from this list, the endocrine system is a very important system yet we assault it daily with our use of toxic products.

Disruption of the endocrine system means the messages the hormones are trying to send are interfered with. Hormones are natural “messengers”. They are produced by a gland and travel in our blood to the receptor on the target organ where the message is going. When this signal gets interrupted by an endocrine disrupting compound, the level of hormones produced can increase or decrease. This can cause challenges such as low reproductive health, disruption of thyroid health as well as obesity according to the CCOHS.

I encourage you to do some spring cleaning and check your beauty and household products to see if they contain any of the ingredients I’m about to list below. Keep in mind, if you do not see an ingredient list at all or cannot get access to it online, get rid of it! The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety indicates the below as endocrine disruptors.

Parabens are endocrine disruptors found in almost all conventional beauty products as they are the most widely used. They typically have the word “paraben” in the chemical name in the ingredient list. The European Commission on Endocrine Disruption lists parabens as a Category 1 priority substance based on evidence that they interfere with hormone function.

Fragrance/Parfum is a sad thing to see because the ingredients do not need to be disclosed. This means a cocktail of chemicals is put together to make up the “fragrance” added to the product. It’s best to steer clear of this as the compounds in “fragrance” can also be allergenic in addition to hormone disrupting.

Propylene Glycol is a biproduct from fossil fuel such as oil refining and natural gas processing. Basically, it comes from petroleum products. For anyone unfamiliar, petroleum is what is refined to produce fuels such as gasoline! I definitely don’t want this on my skin seeing as your skin is actually your largest organ and what goes on your skin, goes in your skin! This would include petroleum jelly/Vaseline.

Phthalates are used to help soften plastics and added to our beauty products to do the same. You will typically see the word “phthalate” in the name. Where you won’t see it is when it’s used in “fragance” so again, avoid the word “fragrance”.

SO, you’ve check the labels and are concerned your products might not be as clean as you thought. What do you do now? I would suggest doing some online research and chatting with your local health food store about better options. The EWG and David Suzuki Foundation are also great resources. There are some fantastic companies out there doing so much good. My favourite household brands are Attitude Living and The Unscented Company. I use these products to wash my hair and body, moisturize my skin as well as clean my home. You also can’t go wrong checking out any of the other brands below.

I have no affiliation with the brands above. I just really trust the companies and what they put into their products. I also use them on a daily basis and can attest to their effectiveness.

Quinoa Kale Salad

It’s still the heart of winter here so I made this to lighten up our meals with some vibrant colours. I’m just going to get right to the recipe on this one!

Quinoa Kale Salad by Vibrancy Health Solutions

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked* quinoa, cooled
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups chopped kale, washed and dried, stems removed
  • 1/3 cup sliced radish
  • 2/3 cup sliced cucumber
  • 1/3 cup shredded carrot

Dressing:

  • 2 tbsp chopped red onion
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (can use less if you don’t want as much acidity)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

*to cook quinoa: Measure out 1 cup of dry quinoa. Measure out 2 cups of vegetable broth. Add broth and quinoa to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and let it simmer for 11-12 minutes. Once cooked and all the water is absorbed, turn off heat and fluff quinoa with a fork. I like to empty the quinoa onto a parchment lined baking sheet which allows it to cool rapidly before making the salad.

While quinoa is cooking, prepare the veggies. Once the quinoa has cooled mix all the salad ingredients and toss with dressing. Add some more crunch by topping with toasted almonds, hemp seeds or pumpkin seeds. This salad can also be topped with goat or cow milk feta if you’re not dairy free.

©Vibrancy Health Solutions, 2019

Could you benefit from a probiotic?

Did you know, our bodies have more bacteria in our digestive tract than we do cells in our body

Do you need a probiotic? Well, do you drink caffeine? What about alcohol? Do you have any skin irritations such as rashes or eczema? Have you ever taken an antibiotic? And yes, the one you took 5 years ago still counts.

If you answered yes to any of the above (and I’m sure you did) then yes, you could benefit from taking a probiotic.

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help us digest our food, produce neurotransmitters and vitamins and protect our immune system. They help reduce gas and bloating, keep yeast counts in our gut in check and reduce inflammation.

Did you know, our bodies have more bacteria in our digestive tract than we do cells in our body! Literally. There is about 2 lbs of bacteria in your gut. This is why probiotics have such a huge impact for our health.

Our immune system lies within the gut. About 75-80% (depends where you’re reading) of our immune system is in the gut. If your gut health is poor, your immune system is not working optimally and not only do we end up sick but we end up with inflammation or food allergies or gastritis. Supplemental probiotics are available in capsule or powders.

You might be wondering if children can take probiotics and the answer is yes, absolutely. When a baby is born, their first exposure to good bacteria comes from passing through the birth canal. When a baby is born via C-section, they miss this opportunity and so it’s even more important to supplement them with probiotics. Despite the way a baby is brought into this world, probiotics will support their developing immune system. Children, adults and seniors benefit the most from probiotics that support their specific life stage or condition. As we age, our gut bacteria change. A baby does not have the same bacteria as someone who is 35 and someone who is 35 does not have the same bacteria as someone who is 70. Keep reading to find out how to select the right probiotic. 

There are also many fermented foods you can consume to support your gut health. These foods include Kefir, Kimchi, Sauerkraut and brine fermented pickles (not ones soaked in vinegar and sugar). You might be most familiar with yogurt as a probiotic. While it’s true yogurt is fermented with good bacteria, ultimately there’s just not enough bacteria in the final product to support our gut. In fact, “you would need to consume dozens of canisters of yogurt daily to obtain the amount of beneficial probiotics in a single high-potency probiotic supplement”. In addition, many yogurts contain unnecessary added sugars.

“you would need to consume dozens of canisters of yogurt daily to obtain the amount of beneficial probiotics in a single high-potency probiotic supplement”

Caroline Farquhar, RHN http://www.renewlife.ca/blog/probiotics-yogurt/

When taking a supplemental probiotic, there are a few key things to look for:

  • Types of bacteria strains
  • How many bacteria are in each dose
  • Type of formula
  • Guaranteed potency
  • Delivery system (is the probiotic protected from your stomach acid)

To read more about how to select the right probitoic for you and your family check out this blog post by Caroline Farquhar, RHN on Renew Life Canada’s website.