Fermented Foods

Show your gut some love with fermented foods. Fermented foods (and drinks) are foods that have naturally occurring probiotics. The naturally occurring sugars and carbohydrates in the foods are left to sit (and steep when it’s a beverage) while they interact with beneficial bacteria. This changes the chemical structure of the food and it becomes rich in gut-healing probiotics. In addition, this makes the nutrients more bio-available which means our body absorbs them better.

Fermented foods provide the body with good bacteria that helps to heal the gut, fight yeasts and fungus, support the immune system and improve digestion. Some fermented foods you can start incorporating into your meals include:

  • Kefir is a drinkable yogurt made from dairy (usually cow or sheep)
  • Kimchi is a fermented spicy cabbage traditional in Korean culture
  • Sauerkraut is popular in Eastern European culture and is made from cabbage. Great as a topping or a side dish
  • Pickles to be fermented, they cannot be vinegar based. Fermented pickles are found in a salt brine and are refrigerated. When looking for fermented pickles, it is very important to read the ingredient list. This is an excellent brand of fermented pickles which you can find in most grocery-carrying health food stores in Canada.
  • Kombucha is a fermented drink made from black tea and sugar. It’s lightly carbonated from the fermentation process. This beverage comes in all kinds of flavours and can be purchased or made at home.

Fermentation is so beneficial that there are many companies out there creating all kinds of fermented foods, drinks and even supplements. Genuine Health was one of the first companies to create a line of fermented protein powders and bars because of how beneficial probiotics are to our health. Living Alchemy is another Canadian supplement brand that uses a unique kefir-kombucha fermentation process to create their products. I really appreciate companies who use fermentation in the creation process because of how much more available the nutrients become to our bodies.

You don’t need to be experiencing trouble with your digestion to incorporate fermented foods into your diet. Pick one you’ve never tried before and start there.

#livevibrantly

Double Chocolate Protein Truffles

Mmmmm, chocolate. Like most, I love some good dark chocolate which is partly why this recipe is a double chocolate one. I enjoy having protein balls (or energy bites) on hand for a quick snack to help keep blood sugar balanced. A lot of the time, I’ll make them oat or coconut flour based. This one is mostly protein powder based and uses raw cacao as the fibre rich ingredient.

Raw Cacao is important for this recipe not only for the fibre it contains but it’s also not processed like a traditional cocoa powder. Instead, it remains rich in minerals like magnesium and iron making these truffles nutritious as well as delicious.

Collagen powder is another powerhouse in this recipe, providing additional protein as well as muscle building amino acids. Collagen is an excellent supplement to add to any diet. This amino acid rich supplement helps enhance our hair, skin and nails as well as our joints, digestive system, muscles and all our connective tissues.

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup raw cacao powder (I use Bulletproof)
  • 2 scoops of your favourite vanilla whey protein*
  • 1/4 cup collagen powder (I used Organika collagen)
  • Pinch of Himalayan pink salt (can add more for a salty chocolate flavour)
  • 2 tbsp natural almond butter (use a seed butter to make them nut free)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup raw honey
  • 3 tbsp chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life mini chips)

Directions:

  1. Combine cacao powder, protein powder, collagen and sea salt in a bowl. Stir to combine.
  2. Combine almond butter, coconut oil and honey in a small microwave safe bowl or sauce pot. If microwaving, melt for 45 seconds. If using the stove top, turn heat to low and stir until everything is melted.
  3. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry and stir until everything is combined and there is a consistent colour.
  4. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Scoop by the teaspoon onto a parchment lined baking try.
  6. Place truffles in the fridge for half an hour to set.**
  7. Yields 22 truffles. Store in fridge in an airtight container

*I made this recipe with a whey protein. Specifically, a fermented Greek yogurt protein. I have not tried it with a vegan protein. If you choose a vegan protein, you’ll likely have to add additional liquid to the mixture as plant proteins require more liquids to get the same texture.

**If you’d like a softer, more traditional truffle texture allow the truffles to cool on the counter for at least an hour and store at room temp in an airtight container. Will keep at least a week, if they last that long!

©Vibrancy Health Solutions, 2019

Our Microbiome

I received an email this morning from Dr. Mark Hyman regarding the human microbiome and felt it was something I needed to share. Rather than paraphrase his already short email, I decided to present it in it’s entirety here. Below is the original email with all the information and links he provided. None of this is my own material.

With the trend of probiotics and fermented foods like sauerkraut and kombucha, it’s becoming easier to understand what a beneficial impact certain types of bacteria can have on our health. 

That goes for viruses and fungi, too, as the three collectively up make up our microbiome—the microbes that live in and on us and influence everything from our immune system and digestion to our ability to focus and have a clear complexion, plus so much more. 

And while it’s wonderful that the microbiome is finally getting some of the attention it deserves, there’s a pretty big problem: we’re starting to see a disappearance of microbes from our bodies.

Within developed countries, each new generation is found to have less and less of our native microbes. And while we know that certain imbalances lead to specific problems—for example, low levels of Bifidobacterium and high levels of the fungi Candida are related to eczema and allergies—we can’t quite predict what could happen if certain varieties of our native microbes become extinct

There are many reasons for this microbial decline, some of which we can work on with our daily diet and lifestyle choices. 

You won’t be surprised to hear me talk about food first; a high-fiber diet supports microbial diversity, while one of refined carbs and starches (very high in the Standard American Diet) does not. Microbes need to eat just like we do, prebiotic fiber is the best way to feed our internal probiotics. 

Then there is our obsession with cleanliness, leading to the use of hand sanitizers that do kill bad bacteria but take the good bacteria with it. And of course, antibiotics are a major part of this conversation, as they do the same thing on a larger scale—wipe out bad microbes and take the beneficial ones too. The aftermath of antibiotics can linger long after use, can support the spread of opportunistic bacteria, and can also lead to antibiotic resistance due to widespread overuse.

Antibiotics were definitely a breakthrough in medicine, we are just using them entirely too much and often without looking at alternative options as our first line of defense. 

Another link to our changing microbiome may surprise you—dirt. Or, to be more specific, the soil we are growing our crops in. Conventional farming practices like pesticides, heavy tillage, and a failure to add organic matter back to the soil have depleted the soil microbiome that our own microbes coevolved with, affecting both our food and our health. 

For more on the topic of soil and the microbiome, be sure to check out my latest episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy with Dr. Daphne Miller, where we discuss how healthy dirt leads to a healthier food system and healthier body. I hope you’ll tune in to gain a better understanding of soil microbes and how they impact us.  

Dr. Mark Hyman

Wishing you health and happiness, 
Mark Hyman, MD

Egg Nutrition: Too Much Cholesterol?

I overheard part of a conversation the other day between two individuals while shopping. They were talking about eggs and using them in cooking and making paleo breads (which usually call for 5-7 eggs depending on the recipe). The question of “What about a person’s cholesterol levels?” came up between the two. When the other answered “I just get checked by my doctor” I realized our level of education (as a society) is a little behind the times. Yes, these two individuals were a generation older than me and yes, I know there has been plenty of research in the past cracking-down on eggs but it raises the question of “are eggs healthy?”

I’m going to share with you my thoughts on the subject. Yes, I do believe in moderation, eggs are a great addition to a whole food lifestyle. My reasoning is their nutrient value outweighs the cholesterol aspect. Eggs are an egg-cellent source of lecithin which is a phospholipid that actually helps block the absorption of cholesterol. Eggs are also a good source of protein. The yolk is rich in Vitamin D and choline. Choline is a B vitamin that is important for the nervous system as well as fetal brain development (for all the pregnant mommas out there). Registered Dietitian Lily Nichols calls it “Folates long lost cousin”.

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It’s important to keep in mind how the eggs are prepared. When you fry an egg, you oxidize the cholesterol which is what leads to the cascade of events that causes cardiovascular disease especially if you’re enjoying them with a side of bacon and white toast. Boiled eggs or poached eggs are better options to protect the cholesterol from oxidizing. It’s also a good idea to choose eggs from happy chickens that get to be outside on their own terms and eat omega rich flax seeds and/or an organic diet. You’ll notice the deep orange colour of these yolks compared to the pale yellow of a conventional egg. Colour always means nutrition! These deep yellow/orange yolks are richer in nutrients and have nigher levels of anti-inflammatory omega 3 than conventional eggs.

There is a ton of information available in this article by Julie Daniluk if you want to know more about what the different labels on eggs mean as well as great recipes and tips if you are sensitive to chicken eggs.

Overall, I believe most people can incorporate a few eggs a week into their diets.

#livevibrantly

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