The “F” word…Fruit!

Think for a minute if you’ve ever heard anyone tell you “you shouldn’t eat fruit, it has too much sugar”. This may not have been directly said to you but it’s apparent in the media and in some fad diets. In my years managing a health food store, I would regularly speak with customers concerned fruit was bad for them and the sugar would make them fat. Why did they think this? Our conversations would go something like this.

Yes, fruit has sugar but it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not a refined sugar that you would find in sodas and packaged foods. This refined sugar would be sucrose which is your common table sugar. I want to keep this very basic and not bore you with science so I will quickly say sugar (a simple carbohydrate) breaks down in our body into glucose. Our bodies need glucose! It keeps our muscles moving and our brain going not to mention a ton of other functions. So, based on what I just said, you get energy from sucrose which you can find in sodas. Yes, but this does not mean you should get your glucose from table sugar as it is devoid of nutrients. In fact, you should do your best to limit your intake of refined sugar. 

The other problem with white table sugar is that it’s everywhere! It’s very easy to consume extra sugars when it’s added and found in fast foods, sodas, cakes and pastry and candy. Yes, OK, this list seems obvious but there’s a lot of foods we assume are healthy that have added sugars.  

  • Yogurt
  • Granola and granola bars
  • Juices
  • Cereals
  • Jams and other spreads

Keep in mind, there’s better versions of the list above if you take a look at the nutrition label when you make your decisions in the grocery store.  See my post here on how to read nutrition labels.

OK, now back to Fruit. Fruit contains fibre and water and is rich in micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. Strawberries are high in Vitamin C and avocados are rich in B Vitamins. Dark berries are rich in anthocyanins which have antioxidant effects to protect our cells. The fibre in fruit helps remove extra junk (extra cholesterol, extra hormones, waste products) from our bodies in our stool. It keeps the waste removal system moving which is essential! Fibre is also important for our gut bacteria. They can use fibre to feed and grow and support our overall health. Water is important for hydration and our metabolism. 

With all these benefits, fruit is not bad for you. If you are consuming fruit in its whole from meaning a banana you peeled vs dried banana chips or a banana flavoured beverage, you will receive all the nutrition fruit has to offer.

It is important to note that I have only covered some very basic principles. Overall, fruit is a very beneficial food and its important to include a variety in your diet. Some people experience a fructose intolerance (or malabsorption) and cannot properly digest fructose and should avoid fruit. Determining this would be done with your Naturopath or preferred Holistic Practitioner.

Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

Berry Chocolate Smoothie Bowl

Smoothies are great. They are refreshing, nourishing and can also be enjoyed on the go. When you have the extra time to spare, why not sit down to enjoy your smoothie in the form of a bowl.

Smoothie bowls are not a new concept. People have been enjoying them for a very long time. Similar to an açai bowl, you have your semi frozen base topped with an array of colourful and crunchy fixings. Your only limit is your imagination.

This smoothie bowl is very simple. A great one to try out if you’ve never made one before because it’s made up of ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen.

The Recipe:

1/2 cup frozen raspberries

1/2 cup frozen blackberries

1 scoop favourite vegan protein

1/2 cup dairy free yogurt

1/2 cup water (or favourite nondairy beverage)

Add everything into a high power blender and blend until smooth. Scrape into a bowl and top with whatever you’d like.

Topping Ideas:

  • Dried fruits like Goji berries, raisins, cherries, apricots
  • Nuts
  • Seeds like pumpkin and sunflower
  • Granola
  • Nut butter
  • Bee pollen
  • Shredded coconut
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Fresh fruit

#livevibrantly

©2019 Vibrancy Health Solutions

Get Bitter about your digestion

Ah, digestion. One of the functions that happens after we enjoy a meal. Digestion is the process by which your body breaks down your food into it’s constituents (fatty acids, glucose, amino acids, vitamins and minerals etc) From here follows assimilation (the absorption of these constituents) and excretion, which speaks for itself. But what happens if digestion is not working optimally? Well, you might feel bloated, gassy, have acid re-flux or experience constipation. Who wants to feel this way after eating or worse, all the time?

Get bitter about your digestion

NO ONE! So, it’s time to get bitter about your digestion. What I mean by this is, help improve your digestion by consuming bitter foods. When something is bitter, it stimulates our taste buds which send a signal to the brain to tell our liver to increase the production of bile. Bile is something our liver makes to help us break down our food. Bile is made up of bile salts, and cholesterol as well as a few other components. Our liver makes it and our gallbladder stores it until we’re ready to eat.

When bile production is increased, we can better breakdown our food. The bitter taste not only stimulates an increase in bile production but it also stimulates our stomach to produce gastric juices and our pancreas to produce digestive enzymes.

So, what foods are bitter?

Well, there’s a few different foods/supplements you can take to improve your digestion.

Dandelion can be consumed in the form of a tea or a herbal tincture. The tea is dried dandelion root which you would steep. The taste is very similar to coffee (think bitter!) and is naturally caffeine free. Dandelion can help reduce bloating and will work as a diuretic to rid the body of excess water. It is supportive for digestion as well as elimination through the kidneys.

Coffee (think about the immediate bathroom break you have to make)

Lemon while not bitter, lemon is sour and can generate the same response. You can enjoy lemon in some warm water. Warm lemon water is a great way to start to get your digestion moving and you might even notice it will help alleviate constipation.

Gentian is a bitter herb that taken be taken in supplement form as a tincture. Gentian can be found in some herbal digestive support tonics as well as on it’s own.

It’s important to keep in mind, that while all the above can assist with your digestion, you will still want to get to the root cause of your troubles. Chat with your Naturopath or preferred Nutritionist about your digestive health as they can walk you through testing for food sensitivities and discuss adding probiotics and supportive anti-inflammatory foods to your diet.

Balch et all. 2010. Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 5th Ed.

For the Sake of Your Health, Love your Adrenals…

Your adrenals are one of the hardest working organs in your body.

 

Yes, all your organs work very hard but in today’s “go-go-go” society, your adrenals do not get the care they deserve.

These grape sized organs sit on top of your kidneys and are responsible for your stress management. Before I say anything else, you might already be thinking:

a) Stress? What stress? I feel great

OR b) Please tell me more! I’m on the verge of a mental breakdown

OR c) somewhere around feeling good but you do think you might be stressed out.

Let’s start with those in group A. You feel great! You have no stress. The funny thing about stress is, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a to-do list you cannot finish. Your body reacts to all stress in the same way, it does not discriminate. Whether you have a mountain of work to get through or you consume lots of caffeine, sugar and alcohol, your body will treat stress the same way. But Alex, how can consuming caffeine, sugar and alcohol be stressful, its relaxing! Wrong, your body can be nutritionally stressed (lots of inflammation), you can be hormonally stressed (relates to adrenals), financially stressed, emotionally stressed etc. Whatever it may be, your body is perceiving some kind of stress and your adrenals are keeping you going.

Group B and C, here’s your explanation:

Our prehistoric ancestors needed to run real fast from the sabre-tooth! We saw and/or heard the threat, our body responded and we either fought or got the hell out. Where your adrenals come in to play is in the body’s response. when your body perceives stress, it releases cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. We’re not going into the anatomy here but it’s a nervous system response sent down from your brain to your adrenals. Adrenaline gets your heart pumping, increases blood pressure and dilates your pupils. Adrenaline and noradrenaline also move blood from the digestive system into the limbs because right now, digestion is not as important as getting ready to flight or flee. Cortisol is released to fuel your body with the energy (amino acids, fats and sugars) it needs to get away or stay and fight. Cortisol also has a negative impact on the immune system and other organ systems. Temporarily it will suppress the immune system to protect against infection but long-term, reduces your immune system function. When cortisol is high for a long time (when we’re stressed for a long time) it will also negatively impact your kidneys, your weight and your blood sugar levels.

All of these hormones are released in the alarm phase of stress; our body perceived a stress and it responds. The second phase is the resistance phase. The stress/stressor does not go away (bills are always coming, workload grows) so our body continues to respond and tries to cope with it by producing more and more hormones and actually taking away from our sex hormones (and sex hormone precursors) to do this! As this stage continues, we start to feel fatigued, depressed, we’re getting sick and rundown. When this phase doesn’t end, our adrenals (that have been supporting us for so long) are tired, and get fatigued. We have reached Adrenal Fatigue and we are burnt out. We have extreme exhaustion, low libido, poor digestion, low stamina and a slew of other symptoms. Our adrenals have had enough and can’t do it anymore.

Adaptogens are wonderful herbs that help your body adapt to stressors.

Adaptogens to not stop the response to stress (this is a normal function that SHOULD happen) but rather, they help your body cope with the response and help protect against the fatigue phase.

Rhodiola

Rhodiola increases mental accuracy and reduces mental fatigue. It has been found to increase neurotransmitters responsible for well-being (serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine) which make us feel happy. It helps support your body’s energy levels and helps you maintain stamina. Rhodiola is one of my favourites!

Maca

Excellent for hormone support and increased libido in both men and women. This can be purhcased in a powder or capsule form and makes an great addition to smoothies or elixirs.

Ashwaghanda

Helps support adrenal function and thyroid.

Siberian Ginseng

Helps balance the production of cortisol.

There are also important vitamins that support your adrenals

B Vitamins

Water soluble and important for energy production, B vitamins help your adrenals manufacture the hormones released under stress. The most important are B5, B6 and B12

Vitamin C

The adrenal cortex is very rich in Vitamin C. This vitamin is also an antioxidant which helps protect the body.

Magnesium

A mineral that is important for over 300 processes and reactions. Magnesium helps support blood sugar levels, heart health and relaxation. When you’re stressed magnesium is important to help your body relax, keep your blood pressure in check and reduce headaches.

#livevibrantly

 

 

References:

https://sites.dartmouth.edu/dujs/2011/02/03/the-physiology-of-stress-cortisol-and-the-hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-axis/

Bach et al. 2010. Prescription for Nutritional Healing 

Protein Oat Bites

Protein Oat Bites (Vegan, Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

Whether they are protein bites or energy balls, whatever you call them, they are quick and healthy snacks. Mixing oats and protein as the base will provide you blood sugar balancing nutrients to get you to your next meal.

I made these ones completely vegan, using a vegan protein powder. If you wanted to, you could use whey but you would have to adjust the liquid. Whey protein will not require as much.

protein oat bites 2

You can have fun with the mix’ins as well. I added pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries. Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of zinc and magnesium. Two minerals your body needs to assist with many different processes. Cranberries contain B vitamins and are also a source of vitamin C.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup gluten free quick oats
  • 1 scoop of your favourite vegan protien powder (I used this one)
  • 1/8 cup pumpkin seeds, unsalted
  • 1/8 cup dried cranberries
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1-2 tbsp almond butter (use a seed butter to keep it nut free)
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk, unsweetened
  • 1/8 cup maple syrup

Mix eveything into a bowl. Use a spoon or your hands to stir the mixture until it comes together.  It wil look a little dry as there is no added oil in the recipe. That’s ok. Use your hands to push together and roll into balls (about 2 tsp of “dough”) This will make 12-18 bites depending on their size. Store in the fridge in an air tight container.

protein oat bites 3

 

©Vibrancy Health Solutions, 2019

Self Care

It’s the holidays. Things are officially crazy. People are busy with work and holiday parties. Fighting crowds at the stores. Battling traffic on the streets. Figuring out how you’re going to buy and wrap gifts, grocery shop, do laundry, feed the family and the dog oh yeah, and work! Can be a lot. Like, A LOT to manage. We do it, but sometimes we get a little rundown in the process.

Dont forget about the importance of self care. This means exactly what it says, taking care of yourself. We always leave ourselves last and we shouldn’t. It’s important for our mental and physical health that we keep our body’s and our minds well. The great thing is, self care can be whatever you want it to be. It could be soaking in the tub with a good book. (Click here for a great body scrub you can use) It could be a killer workout. It could be meditation. It could be a hot cup of coffe and a magazine. Whatever you find most relaxing and whatever makes you feel good, can be self care.

Don’t forgot about your health this holiday season and take time for yourself.

#livevibrantly

Nightshades

Let’s talk Nightshades. This controversial group of plants belong to the Solanaceae family. This family of plants contain an alkaloid called Solanine. Solanine is produced in response to a stress factor. For example, when a bug begins to eat the nightshade, the plant releases Solanine as it is toxic to insects. It’s a natural defense of the plant when bugs eat it. To humans, it’s not toxic* BUT some people are intolerant to Solanine and experience negative symptoms when ingested.

It is thought Solanine may also increase inflammation in the body and so, anyone experiencing arthritis may benefit from reducing these foods in their diet. Most people tolerate Solanine just fine but for some, it can worsen inflammation and inflammation can worsen disease progression.

So now you’re wondering what foods belong to this family of plants and whether or not you might be sensitive to Solanine. Well, white potatoes, eggplant, several varieties of peppers as well as tomatoes belong to the nightshade family. If you do experience sensitivity you might have gas, diarrhea, bloating and heartburn after consuming these foods.

Nightshade

Listen to your body. Pay attention to how you feel after meals especially if you have a lot of nightshades in your diet. If you are experiencing these symptoms speak with your Naturopath or Functional Medicine Doctor about a Nightshade-free diet and how to re-introduce them after elimination.

I’m not writing this to tell you these foods are bad and you should not eat them, that’s simply not true. These foods are rich in vitamins and fibre and are beneficial to your diet. Only if you are one of the few that has troubles with these foods should you consider elimination.

I happen to be one of the few with a nightshade intolerance. My Naturopath put me on an elimination diet and these foods were removed from my diet for a few months. I slowly re-introduced them and began consuming them on a more regular basis. This was a few years ago. I have freely been consuming nightshades for the past year  and I am noticing now, the aforementioned symptoms creep back in; especially with raw tomatoes and white potatoes. This is why I encourage you to take a few minutes to check in with yourself after meals. See how you are feeling right after and again, an hour later. There is only one you. Keep yourself living vibrantly.

 

 

*There are nightshade plants that can be toxic to humans as the Solanaceae family is a large family of plants. A perfect example is belladonna which is also known as “Deadly Nightshade”. Belladonna has been used for centuries in medical practice to aid multiple conditions but if the fruit of the plant is consumed its toxic. In today’s society, Belladonna is used in homeopathic medicine under the care of a homeopathic doctor. 

(Fletcher, 2017. Uses and Risks of Belladonna. Web)
(Balch, 2010. Prescriptions for Nutritional Healing)

Dill-icious Ranch Dip

I love Ranch anything. Ranch dip, dressings, chips etc. I love it all. What I don’t like about Ranch dip is all the ingredients that don’t have to be in there. For starters, there can be added emulsifiers like soy lecithin which is fine if it’s NON-GMO (and you don’t have a soy allergy) but if it’s not GMO free or Organic, is likely from a genetically modified source. There’s also added sodium in these products as well as milk ingredients.

If you’re vegan or dairy free, you need to seek alternatives. There are many great (and not-so-great) alternatives on the shelves of your local grocery or health food store. This recipe came from my desire for a dairy-free ranch dressing. I bought a very well-known brand of dairy free ranch salad dressing, excited for how delicious it would be. Let’s just say after I tasted it, I was very disappointed. It was not tasty nor was it cheap! I poured an expensive bottle down the drain and decided I could make some myself, from scratch.

Ranch is thick and creamy. I needed to get that texture without using dairy. I opted for an unsweetened, dairy free yogurt. I chose Silk coconut yogurt. I also had on hand, vegan dairy free mayo. I figured the two together would give me the consistency I needed.

Ranch Dip 2

 

All the Ranch I typically love has lots of dill in it so I made sure this recipe has a lot. You can add as little or as much dill as you’d like. It’s important to use fresh dill. You’ll get a better flavour out of it and all the little green leaves will look pretty in your dip.

What you will need:

  • Vegan Mayo (keep it dairy free and vegan)
  • Unsweetened non-dairy yogurt (I use Silk coconut, linked above)
  • Green onion
  • Fresh garlic
  • Fresh dill
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Salt & Pepper

You’ll likely have most (if not all) of these ingredients already in your house. I find it tastes best if it sits for a day before you eat it BUT it taste great immediately.

Ranch Dip4

The Recipe:

1/2 cup vegan mayo (like this brand here)

1/2 cup unsweetened, non dairy yogurt

1 green onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

2-3 tbsp fresh dill, chopped

1 tsp unfiltered, apple cider vinegar

1/8 tsp Hebamere* seasoning

1/8 tsp salt

sprinkle of pepper

Combine mayo and yogurt in a glass jar or dish. Add chopped garlic, green onion and dill. Add mustard, apple cider vinegar, Herbamere seasoning, salt & pepper. Whisk and you’re done!

Store in your fridge in an air tight container and enjoy on salads, veggies, potatoes and anything else you’d like! Works well as a yummy sandwich spread too. Can keep in your fridge for a week (if it lasts that long!)

*can be omitted but it’s a super yummy addition 

Ranch Dip 3

 

©2018 Vibrancy Health Solutions

 

 

DIY Brown Sugar Lavender Body Scrub

Winter has arrived and in the cold weather, it’s even more important to take care of your skin. I love using home-made body scrubs to remove dry skin.  One of my favourites to make is very simple and uses ingredients probably already in your house!

I am a huge fan of essential oils and love mixing. This one, I kept very simple using just lavender oil. It’s important when using essential oils to use a carrier oil. A carrier oil is an oil you can use on your skin that helps dilute the essential oil. A few examples are Coconut oil, Jojoba, Avocado, Apricot and Almond. Jojoba has a neutral scent and is very hydrating. Great for winter months!

Body Scrub
Brown Sugar Lavender Body Scrub.  Alexandra Wachelka, B.Sc

When working with essential oils, you want to use dark amber coloured glass. Essential oils do not fare well with direct light so the dark colour helps protect them. I used a 4 oz wide mouth jar from Aura Cacia (www.auracacia.com). In fact, all ingredients (less the sugar) are from this company.

I love this company because of the quality of their products. They work with small farmers all over the world to source their oils. When they go into these countries to partner with the farmers they help the community. They build schools, wells and support the women with jobs. They give a lot back and a few years ago, I had the opportunity to tour their facility in Iowa. The employees are treated incredibly well with an onsite daycare! and organic subsidized hot lunch everyday.  Meeting and speaking with their employees and you quickly learned that everyone loves their job.

So you know a little bit about one of my favourite oil brands, now let’s get to the recipe:

  • 4 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp jojoba oil
  • 20-40 drops lavender essential oil

Add all ingredients to glass jar, mix to combine. Use as you’d like in the shower! It’s that easy.

You can change up the quanity of oil and sugar to get less of a paste texture (use more oil) and you can change and mix the oils to suit your preferences. Just keep the total number of drops the same, too much oil without enough carrier and you may expeirnce some negative reacions on your skin due to the concentration of the oils.

May more recipes like this one can be found on their website (linked above). DIY oil products also make great gifts and can help reduce product waste. Experiment, have fun and #livevibrantly

Macronutrients

You’ve probably heard the term “MACRO” short for macronutrient. Maybe you knew what it meant, maybe you didn’t. If you didn’t, excellent! I will explain them. If you did, maybe you’ll still learn something from this piece.

Macronutrients are considered basic nutrients that everyone needs to sustain life. These nutrients contain the energy our bodies need to grow and live each day. The exception to this would be alcohol. Yes, alcohol can in fact be considered a macronutrient as it contains calories; approximately 7 calories per gram but it’ not required like carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Our main focus will be on Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat.

Let’s keep it simple, starting with the basics of Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat

Continue reading “Macronutrients”