Where Should I Buy My Supplements?

What is the main benefit of shopping at your local health food store? The answer is “staff assistance”. Staff assistance doesn’t just mean that someone is available to point you towards the Vitamin C aisle. This concept entails the product knowledge behind the labels, the compassion behind the conversation and the carefully asked questions to find the right product to fit your unique needs. 

Most health food store employees are certified natural product advisors who consistently take part in continuing education and specialized trainings. In addition, many staff members have achieved extra credentials on their own time, such as nutrition diplomas or personal training certificates. A product advisor is trained to ask those important questions you won’t get from just looking at the shelf. These include: Why do you want to take this product? What else are you taking? What are your symptoms or conditions? Have you tried anything already? What is your diet/lifestyle like? What budget are you working within? What are you looking to achieve?

When it comes to natural supplements, who is to say you are getting the right product for your specific needs? Have you ever asked yourself if what you picked off the shelf is in fact the best choice and the best investment for your health? Shopping with no staff assistance leaves one to rely solely on the label marketing claims and price. Here are some examples why having an interaction with a knowledgeable advisor can be financially beneficial and worth your time. This is how health stores add value to your purchase and save you the “guesswork”.

 

Example 1 – Choosing a Supplement Form: Perhaps you have heard from a friend that you need to take magnesium for your anxiety. However, there could easily be 6 or more forms of magnesium on the shelf. How do you know which one to choose? A trained advisor knows that magnesium oxide works differently than magnesium bisglycinate. While magnesium oxide does not absorb well in the body and is commonly used as a laxative, the bisglycinate form can actually cross the blood-brain barrier and help support an overactive mind. Perhaps, you are looking for vitamin B12 as you have heard it supports energy levels. However, you realize once again that there are multiple forms on the shelf. Which one do you take? An experienced staff can explain to you that the methylcobalamin form does not require “intrinsic factor” for absorption and enters the bloodstream more quickly, bypassing the digestive system. This is especially important if you have an underactive stomach, which is common.

 

Example 2 – They Understand Ingredients and How They Work: B-vitamins are marketed as “a factor in the maintenance of good health” or “help metabolize proteins, carbohydrates and fats.” What does that mean? How does this apply to your life? A product advisor can explain the underlying benefits of B-vitamins, such as energy, mood and cognitive support, in addition to what factors commonly deplete them. They can also explain key uses for individual B-vitamins. For example, Vitamin B12 plays a role in red blood cell production and Vitamin B6 is known as the “Women’s Vitamin” and may help with PMS. Or perhaps you are picking up a product marketed towards “arthritis” but you have no idea how or why it’s supposed to work. A trained staff can explain to you that the turmeric and boswellia in the formula have anti-inflammatory properties, the white willow helps with pain and the collagen, glucosamine and chondroitin are important building blocks.  

 

Example 3 – They Warn about Side Effects: A product advisor can also tell you about the normal “niacin flush” effect that may accompany taking vitamin B3. This occurs because it acts as a potent vasodilator, expanding blood vessels to increase the flow of blood, causing an uncomfortable flushing effect. Or perhaps you are looking at purchasing a cleansing kit. An experienced staff member knows that you will need to increase your intake of water and fiber throughout this period of time in order to adequately flush the toxins out of your system, otherwise you could end up with adverse effects from the cleansing reaction. This important information can save you from wasting the effects of the supplement and potentially causing harm.

 

Example 4 – They Help You Make Wise Decisions: Talking to a product advisor can also help you get the most value for your dollar. For example, you may be taking a greens supplement, multivitamin and protein powder separately. By having a conversation about your current supplement protocol, an advisor can suggest an “all-in-one” protein powder that contains all three of these products in one easy and economical scoop. In addition, their main concern is making sure that you are giving your body the basic essentials it needs before moving onto anything else.  An advisor can help you evaluate your priorities and start with the “essentials” that you are potentially lacking in your diet, before moving on to the “extra support”. First thing’s first, if your body is deficient in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre, omega fats, protein or probiotics, you will most likely be experiencing symptoms. Therefore, this should be the first thing to correct. These basic essentials are the best investment to start with as they benefit a wide range of things from cholesterol and blood sugar to skin health and weight control.

 

Example 5 – They Target Potential Root Issues: Product advisors can help you get a better understanding of the potential root triggers behind the symptoms you are dealing with. For example, say you are struggling with hair loss and want to take a product for “thicker, healthier hair”. What a holistic professional can do for you, is help you recognize the many potential root causes behind hair loss and suggest possible areas and tests to inquire about. For example, is your thyroid underactive? Do you have low iron? Is it due to stress? Perhaps you have an autoimmune condition? Are you taking in enough protein in a day? Product advisors also understand interconnections in the body, such as that the gut and brain are highly connected. Something like this may play a role in a condition like depression. Instead of just sending you home with a product that targets part of the solution, they can also include a probiotic supplement as part of their recommendation to support a healthy gut.

 

Example 6 – They Have More Resources: Product advisors have access to books, professionals and educational materials beyond what you can see on the label. They can provide you with the information and tools you need to empower you to take control of your health! Health food stores may also be able to carry unique higher end brands due to the fact that they have a licensed Naturopath on staff. 

 

Note that product advisors and nutritionists are not legally allowed to diagnose or use the terms “cure”, “heal”, or “treat”. They will not give any information regarding pharmaceutical medications or medical practices. Health food store staff focus mainly on holistic prevention and do not in any way replace these areas of expertise. It is advised to seek out a Naturopathic Doctor for more specific treatment information beyond the scope of what health food store staff can provide.

So what makes all the difference when you are buying your supplements? It’s the people!

 

-This article is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach –

Aging Well…

Like it or not, as we age we are naturally more susceptible to certain symptoms and health conditions. The statistics for higher incidence of things like benign prostate hyperplasia (“BPH”), reduced immune function (“immunosenescence”), osteoporosis and osteoarthritis,  dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, skin wrinkles, age-related muscle loss (“sarcopenia”), stiffening of the blood vessels and increased risk of heart disease, vision and hearing loss, tooth decay and even gum disease in senior citizens are astounding. Unfortunately, we cannot prevent aging, but we CAN age well. Here are some common problems that contribute to aging poorly.

 

Problem 1: Free Radical Damage

Free radicals are unstable, highly reactive atoms that damage our cells. These tend to accumulate with age and can also be created by factors such as exposure to pollution, tobacco smoke, pesticides, alcohol, fried foods, excess stress, etc. According to Dr. Denham Harman “Free radical damage is a major contributor to most age-related degenerative conditions”.  Oxidative damage by free radicals has been shown to play a role in problems such as macular degeneration, cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease and accelerated aging.  

SOLUTION -> Antioxidants are vital in keeping cells and tissues healthy by protecting the body from free-radical damage. In addition to avoiding the triggers mentioned above, it is suggested to increase antioxidant intake through foods and supplements. These could include green food or berry powder blends, turmeric, green tea, vitamins C & E, resveratrol, carotenoids (lutein, beta-carotene), selenium, pycnogenol, alpha lipoic acid, quercetin, etc.

 

Problem 2: Nutrient Depletion

As we age, production and absorption of certain nutrients tend to decline in the body. These include collagen, CoQ10, and Vitamin B12 to name a few.

 

Seniors who are protein deficient tend to lose muscle, have increased risk of osteoporisis, cardiovascular disease, compromised immune function and low energy. Collagen is the key structural protein in the body, making up ¼ of total protein. It is found in cartilage, ligaments, skin, bones, tendons, muscle, teeth, intestines, nails, eyes, blood vessels and hair!  Its production begins to decrease by roughly 1% per year after the age of 20. Collagen improves skin elasticity and firmness, helps rebuild damaged joint cartilage and blood vessels and slows down the process of age-related muscle loss.

SOLUTION: Eat more protein. To slow loss of muscle, strength and mass (sarcopenia), seniors are advised to aim for 1-1.2g/kg or .45-.5g/lb daily. Consider a quality collagen supplement as a source of protein. Tip: Creatine supplementation in seniors is also helpful for reducing age related muscle loss in addition to helping to protect the brain and support heart health.

 

Our stores of CoQ10 diminish with age and production is in rapid decline by the age of 40. This is associated with a decrease in muscle strength, fatigue, gum integrity and cognitive sharpness, in addition to an increased risk of heart disease. CoQ10 is an antioxidant and is beneficial in postponing aging and preventing age-related diseases.

SOLUTION: Consider a CoQ10 supplement in it’s active form, “ubiquinol”.

 

Due to deficiencies in stomach acid and “intrinsic factor”, seniors have a reduced ability to absorb vitamin B12, and certain minerals. Vitamin B12 is important for energy production, nervous system function, supporting memory and learning, counteracting depression, slowing cognitive decline that comes with aging and protecting the heart.

SOLUTION: The methylcobalamin form of this vitamin is highly bioavailable and does not require “intrinsic factor”. It is readily absorbed directly into the blood, bypassing digestion.

 

Problem 3: Poor Gut Health & Inflammation

Aging contributes to impairments of digestive function and nutrient absorption. This means that the food we eat is no longer being broken down as efficiently into the nutrients we need. Not only does the body’s production of digestive enzymes and stomach acid decline as we age, but after the age of 50 the “microflora” profile in our intestines begin to reduce. In fact, studies have found that people over the age of 60 have around 1000-fold fewer friendly bacteria in their gut than younger people. This can lead to an increased risk of infection or overgrowth, constipation, malabsorption and inflammation in the gut, which can then spread and negatively affect other areas in the body such as the joints, heart and brain.

SOLUTION: Seniors are advised to look for a high ratio of Bifidobacterium in a probiotic supplement as it helps replenish the bacteria species that are most affected by ageing. It is also recommended that people over the age of 35 take a daily digestive enzyme supplement (with HCl if necessary). In addition, aim for at least 30g of fiber intake daily for proper elimination and consider Omega 3 fish oils, which help manage inflammation and support brain, joint and heart.

 

Problem 4: Malnutrition

As we age, our metabolism slows down which means we can gain weight by eating fewer calories than before. This means it is even more important to make every bite count by choosing highly nutritious foods.

SOLUTION: Avoid high-sugar, processed, hydrogenated or refined foods and excess animal products. Instead focus on choosing natural, whole, alkalizing, anti-inflammatory and organic ingredients as much as possible. Also, take a quality multivitamin +D3 to fill in nutritional gaps.

 

Other tips include: Get regular daily exercise and include a few sessions of resistance training per week. Manage stress and ensure quality sleep. Drink plenty of water. Engage your brain with mentally stimulating activity. Maintain an active social life and a positive attitude. Get regular checkups. Ask about specific natural supplements to target various concerns.

 

-This article is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach –

The Newest Superfood: Bone Broth

Bone broth is made by simmering the bones (and other parts) of a variety of animals and fish in a large stock pot with water, vegetables, herbs and spices for one to multiple days. A long, slow cooking time is necessary to fully draw out the nutrients. Some people may also add a bit of apple cider vinegar to assist in this process. This results in a nutrient-dense and easily digestible end product.

 

Key Nutrients ->

Holistic Pharmacist, Rosemarie Pierce explains that bone broth is rich in collagen, amino acids, glycosaminoglycans, and key minerals.

  • Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It is the structural protein found in all connective tissues. These include bones, skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels, giving them firmness and strength. Collagen is made primarily of very specific “non-essential” amino acids (glycine, proline and glutamine), that are generally not found in muscle meat we generally consume. There are 16 types of collagen with different structures and functions. The majority of these are either Type 1, 2 or 3. Type 1 is more so found in bone, skin, ligaments, tendons, organs, gums, teeth and eyes. Type 2 is present in joint cartilage in knees, hips, shoulders. This type of collagen is commonly sourced from chicken. Type 3 is present in skin, lungs and vascular system. Type 1 and Type 3 are often found in combination and are commonly sourced from beef. Collagen naturally decreases as we age. Consequences of collagen deficiency include wrinkles, thinning hair, brittle bones, bleeding gums, weak joints, poor wound healing and bruising. Note that gelatin is part of broken-down collagen, so cooking collagen helps isolate gelatin.
  • Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Bone broth contains 18 amino acids, although it is generally low in tryptophan, cysteine and methionine. It is made up predominantly of proline, hydroxyproline, glycine and glutamine. Glycine is a conditionally essential amino acid in humans and is used to help create muscle tissue, convert glucose into energy, regulate bile salts and support liver detoxification. It is necessary to repair damaged tissues. Proline and hydroxyproline are the main amino acids needed to build collagen in the skin, bones, ligaments and tendons. It is said that increased amounts may help slow down the aging process and enhance skin health. Glutamine helps heal the gut lining, reduce sugar cravings, improve mental focus and memory, promote muscular growth and enhance recovery from injury and illness.
  • Glycosaminoglycan’s (GAG’s) help to repair and restore joint health. The three most important are hyaluronic acid, chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate. These ingredients are often found in supplemental formulas for arthritis. Hyaluronic acid loves water and acts as a lubricator and shock absorber in joints. It is also naturally-occurring in the skin and helps keep it elastic, hydrated and supple. Chondroitin and glucosamine sulfate help keep cartilage healthy and minimize joint pain.
  • Bone broth can also provide various minerals, depending on the type, method and length of cooking time. These can include potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, sulfur in addition to multiple trace minerals. They may also contain small amounts of vitamins A, C & B’s.

 

General Health Benefits ->

Specific health benefits will vary based on the source. Ask a nutritionist or natural product advisor which is type is best for you and your unique needs.

  • Gut Health: Improves digestive health, assists in gut lining repair and supports immune system.
  • Healthy Bones & Joints: Supports and regenerates cartilage, reduces joint creaking/popping/pain, helps back pain and regenerates disks, assists with injury recovery, builds strong bones, improves circulation and supports ligaments, tendons, muscles.
  • Skin, Hair, Nails: Improves skin health and elasticity, minimizes fine lines and wrinkles for smooth skin, promotes strong nails and thick hair.
  • Stress & Sleep: Promotes relaxation and healthy sleep.

 

Therefore, bone broth may be useful for those with gut problems, inflammation or degenerative diseases such as arthritis, among other ailments. It is ideal for athletes, those following a ketogenic or Paleolithic diet or individuals who are in cardiac recovery.  

You can either make your own bone broth from scratch, buy it ready-made or consider an easy to use bone broth protein powder for a quick nutrition boost! These can be mixed with hot water and sipped or added into stews, soups or sauces. Look for bone broth made from organic, grass-finished cattle and free-range chickens, raised without antibiotics and hormones.

 

-This article is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach -

Understanding Heart Health - Part 2: Common Risk Factors

Last week we looked at atherosclerosis (plaque buildup) in the arteries. It appears that at the root of this process is damage or stress to the arterial lining (also known as endothelial dysfunction) from a variety of factors, which then sets off a series of events due to an overactive inflammatory response. With prevention as our first priority, here is a brief look at 8 common risk factors that may cause this initial dysfunction and set off this detrimental process.

 

Oxidative Stress -> This is a fancy way of saying that there are not enough antioxidants available to neutralize harmful oxidants (free radicals) in the body. Oxidative stress is one of the main drivers of inflammation and destruction of arterial lining. As mentioned last week in Part 1, oxidation occurs due to highly unstable molecules, known as “free radicals” which damage cells. Oxidative stress can be the result of regular biological processes, smoking, alcohol, emotional stress and lack of sleep, pollutants, chronic infections, poor nutrition or high blood sugar. Note that excess homocysteine also promotes oxidative stress. This amino acid is normally found in the bloodstream but is dangerous when elevated.

Poor Diet -> The following dietary factors contribute to “endothelial dysfunction” and excess inflammation in the body: alcohol, regular intake of processed/refined foods and trans fats, high sugar or low-fiber diet, chemicals, additives, and imbalanced consumption of omega 6 in relation to omega 3. Note that both omegas are necessary from the diet, however excess omega 6 can be harmful.

Unhealthy Weight-> Accumulated belly fat contributes to chronic inflammation and may initiate atherosclerosis. Even people who are overweight, but not obese are at increased risk of heart disease. Physical inactivity and sedentary lifestyle are major risk factors for heart disease. Regular exercise protects against the development of cardiovascular disease and can help improve other risk factors such as insulin resistance and obesity. Dr. Michael Murray, ND, states that “obesity is the major dietary cause of high blood pressure”.

High Blood Sugar -> Increased blood sugar and insulin resistance both trigger inflammation and are associated with increased oxidative stress. High blood sugar also contributes to the production of molecules called AGEs, which are able to modify LDL cholesterol particles so that they can be more easily oxidized. This we know, from Part 1, is a common underlying trigger for atherosclerosis. Insulin resistance also causes retention of sodium and water from the kidneys, leading to high blood pressure as well as greatly increases the risk for clot formation.

Environmental Toxins -> These may come in the form of cigarette smoke, air pollution, pesticides, herbicides, chemical additives, heavy metals or hormone disruptors (i.e. in plastics). Toxic exposure contributes to oxidative stress, causing damage to the endothelial lining and triggering silent inflammation in the body. When the body is overburdened with toxins, antioxidants are depleted.

Poor Gut Health -> We have seen that inflammation plays a role in all stages of atherosclerosis, as it is an inflammatory disease. What is important to note is that the gut is the major source of chronic, low-grade inflammation. This generally occurs in response to changes in gut bacterial balance or activity, food sensitivities, emotional stress, inadequate enzymes or stomach acid or intestinal permeability (i.e. leaky gut), which allows bacteria and undigested food to enter circulation. Therefore, there is a direct connection between the gut and the heart. The gut also plays a major role in cholesterol metabolism. Brenda Watson, CNC, states that a study has shown that the composition of gut bacteria may even affect whether statins work effectively or not!

Emotional Stress -> Stress increases inflammation in the body. This can lead to an increase in abdominal fat, high blood lipid levels, poor digestion and insulin resistance, which are other triggers for heart disease. Brenda Watson explains that the physiological response to stress increases blood pressure and heart rate, which puts pressure on arterial walls, thus damaging the lining. As we have seen, this damage can trigger an inflammatory response that sets off plaque accumulation. She also states that elevated levels of cortisol are found in people with both acute and chronic stress and that even mild “normal” stress can negatively affect the heart. Did you know that depression and anger are also related to heart disease? According to a study shared by Dr. Michael Murray, ND, greater anger and severity of depressive symptoms were significantly associated with increased inflammatory markers as well as increased cortisol, endothelial dysfunction, high blood pressure and increased platelet aggregation.

Inflammation -> Inflammation plays a role at every stage of the plaque buildup process and is considered a risk factor as it can initiate artery damage. Inflammation is necessary in the body and serves as the response to injury or infection. It can occur due to a foreign invader, malfunction or damage. It serves an important purpose and is meant to stop once the trigger is taken care of. However, when the irritation is constant, the result is chronic, low-grade inflammation. Factors that promote this “silent” inflammation include poor diet, high blood sugar and insulin resistance, obesity, environmental toxins, emotional stress, chronic infections (even gum disease), increased exposure to free radicals, poor digestion and food sensitivities, etc. Remember that the gut is an important source of inflammation.

 

Bonus Tip: healthy estrogen levels can play a protective role against heart disease. These levels are known to decrease after menopause. Balance is an important key to heart health!

 

Now that we understand that heart disease stems from a combination of risk factors, we see how important it is to target various aspects of health in our efforts to prevent heart disease. In addition to taking lifestyle measures to control these triggers (such as balancing blood sugar, eating well, managing stress, digesting properly, controlling weight, avoiding toxin exposure), tune into Part 3 next week for natural ingredient suggestions to help increase your chances of a healthy and happy heart!

 

-This article is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach –

 

Understanding Heart Health - Part 1: What Causes Plaque Build-Up?

In order to fully understand how to protect the cardiovascular system from disease, we should first be aware of what can go wrong and the common risk factors associated with major concerns, such as atherosclerosis (plaque buildup). The following is intended to provide a more accurate picture of the hidden process responsible for making heart disease the “silent killer”. After all, did you know that your blood flow can be reduced by up to 90% before you feel any symptoms?

The build-up of plaque and narrowing of the arteries is known as atherosclerosis. According to Brenda Watson, CNC, atherosclerosis is not only preventable but reversible! She explains that it was once thought that plaque buildup associated with narrowed arteries was caused by the accumulation of cholesterol in the arteries. While it is true that cholesterol is a component of plaque and plays a role in the process, it is not necessarily the main trigger.

 

Defending Cholesterol

Brenda elaborates that cholesterol is not all bad and that we need it to build cell membranes, produce hormones and convert Vitamin D in the body. Did you know that blood cholesterol levels have little to do with dietary intake? She explains that cholesterol is recycled and reabsorbed from the small intestines in the body. When we take in more cholesterol from foods, a healthy liver responds by producing less to maintain the balance. On the other hand, when we do not eat enough of it, the liver will produce more to compensate. Having said that, we should still exercise the principle of moderation in our diet and choose healthy foods in proper portions to ensure optimal health.

Therefore, Brenda cautions that we shouldn’t worry as much about cholesterol in itself, but rather the state it is in. Let me explain. Cholesterol needs a carrier to travel through the bloodstream and gets around in the body with “lipoproteins” (LDL or HDL). Contrary to popular belief, cholesterol itself is not “good” or “bad”, it is the lipoprotein carrier and its condition that makes the difference. LDL for example, carries cholesterol from the liver to different areas of the body, such as the arteries (making it “bad”). HDL on the other hand, picks up cholesterol from different areas of the body and brings it back to the liver for removal (making it “good”). Dr. Michael Murray, ND, explains that “the ratios of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol and LDL to HDL are referred to as cardiac risk factor ratios because they reflect whether cholesterol is being deposited into tissues or broken down and excreted”. However, Brenda Watson also notes that it is important to consider the state in which LDL is found. For instance, the size of the LDL particles matter as the smaller and denser particles are more destructive. In addition, oxidation of LDL cholesterol particles makes them more harmful. Oxidation occurs due to free radicals, which are highly reactive molecules. Now hold that thought for now…more on this topic in Part 2 next week!

 

So What Causes Plaque Accumulation? 

So if cholesterol isn’t necessarily the biggest problem, what is?  According to Brenda, atherosclerosis is a gradual series of events that is triggered by dysfunction (damage or stress) to the inner arterial lining (endothelium). Endothelial dysfunction can be due to a range of factors including: poor diet, aging, alcohol, obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, free radical exposure, environmental toxins, inactivity, poor gut health, chronic inflammation, emotional stress, infection, etc. This “dysfunction” then triggers an overactive inflammatory process which attracts immune cells and oxidized LDL into the artery wall in an effort to repair the damage. This then further triggers the inflammatory response, leading to the buildup of fatty material, more cholesterol, immune cells, fibrin (blood clotting material), minerals (i.e. calcium) and free radicals, thus making up “plaque” found inside the artery. Inflammation plays a role at each stage of this process. Therefore, the key triggers to atherosclerosis are deterioration of the endolethial lining from a variety of risk factors and the resulting inflammatory reaction. 

 

The Vicious Cycle

As plaque builds up over time, the artery thickens and loses flexibility, narrowing the opening. This stiffness or hardening of artery walls creates arterial resistance, which is a potential cause of hypertension (high blood pressure). In fact, Dr. Michael Murray, ND, states that “high blood pressure is most often due to atherosclerosis”. In turn, this increased pressure can then lead to more damage on lining, further triggering and worsening the process of atherosclerosis.

Note that other factors that can lead to elevated blood pressure include: arterial stiffness as a result of aging or reduced production of nitric oxide, increased blood flow from exercise or chronic stress and fluid retention or increased blood volume from high sodium/low potassium or potential kidney problems.

After breaking down the complex process of atherosclerosis and its main trigger, we can understand the importance of preventing deterioration in the arteries. In order to do this, we need to target the potential triggers or common risk factors. More on this in Part 2 next week!

 

-This article is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach –

Build a Better Breakfast!

You may know by now that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. But why? Breakfast literally breaks your fast from the night before. Our bodies need nutrition first thing in the morning, ideally within one hour of rising.  This meal is critical as it helps fuel the brain and muscles to perform all of our daily functions!

 

However, the many negative consequences associated with skipping breakfast can also be the result of poor breakfast choices. These include low energy, irritability, weight gain, brain fog and sugar cravings to name a few. So reaching for a box of sugar cereal, white bread or pre-packaged toaster waffles may be just as bad as, or arguably worse, than not eating breakfast at all! These ingredients can be packed with trans fats, GMO ingredients, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives and artificial dyes and flavors. As a rule, whenever purchasing anything that contains more than its original ingredient, be sure to read the label, regardless of the marketing claims on the box. The quality of your breakfast is just as important as the habit of eating it!

 

6 Reasons to Consume a Balanced Breakfast

 

  1. Set The Tone For the Day: This will increase the chances that you will eat well and make wise nutritious choices for the remainder of the day.
  2. Kick Start Metabolism: Regularly consuming a nutritious breakfast is associated with maintaining a healthy body weight and efficiently burning more calories all day long.
  3. Stabilize Blood Sugar: A well-balanced breakfast leads to sustained energy and satiety. It helps to reduce appetite and prevent crashes, mood swings and cravings. 
  4. Prevent Overeating: Those who eat breakfast regularly generally consume fewer calories and avoid falling into negative patterns of mindless snacking and “junk” food binges later on.
  5. Boost Brain Power: Both adults and students who consume proper breakfast are shown to have enhanced concentration, memory, cognitive performance and productivity throughout the day.
  6. Heart Health: Skipping breakfast increases the risk of heart attack and coronary disease as well as obesity, high blood pressure, and cholesterol.

 

How to Build a Better Breakfast!

 

As mentioned before, in addition to actually eating breakfast it is important to choose wholesome ingredients that contain key nutrients such as high-fiber complex carbohydrates, quality proteins and healthy fats. Remember, variety is key to attain adequate nutrition!

 

Tip 1: Choose High-Fiber Ingredients

Whole grains (and pseudo grains) are complex carbohydrates and packed with fibre, vitamins and minerals. They help provide sustained physical and mental energy for the next few hours.  Excellent breakfast choices include millet, quinoa, amaranth, oats, barley, kamut, spelt, buckwheat, etc. Note that soaking and sprouting grains starts their natural growing processes, releasing more available nutrients and increasing their digestibility!

Produce items are also full of vitamins, minerals, fibre, and protective antioxidants. For fruit, try adding fresh berries to yogurt, dried cranberries in homemade granola or pineapple chunks into a smoothie. Choose fruit in moderation and consume them in their whole form in order to retain beneficial fiber. If blood sugar levels are of concern, select low glycemic ingredients or focus more on vegetable intake. For example, you can incorporate shredded carrots to oats, leafy greens into smoothies or peppers, tomatoes, sweet potato, zucchini to various egg-dishes.

BONUS: Flax and chia seeds are both great sources of fiber and make great breakfast additions!

 

Tip 2: Get Enough Protein & Fats

Adding protein and fats to meals helps to increase satiation, balance blood sugar and boost metabolism. They have an important role in keeping you full longer and preventing cravings. Individual protein needs vary, but certain experts suggest aiming to consume up to 25g of protein at breakfast. While whole grains provide some protein, other great choices include organic, grass-fed dairy products (i.e. greek yogurt or cottage cheese), lean meats or seafood (i.e. smoked salmon) or organic/free-run eggs. Note that nuts and seeds (and their spreads) provide both fat and protein (i.e. hemp, pumpkin seeds, and almonds). Other healthy fat sources include olive oil, avocado, aged raw milk cheeses, grass-fed butter/ghee, or coconut ingredients such as cream, flakes, oil.  

BONUS: Consider incorporating a quality protein powder from either whey or plant sources to your breakfast to meet protein requirements with fewer calories. These can easily be added into most recipes such as smoothies, oats or even pancakes!

 

Tip 3: Boost It With Superfoods!

Increase your breakfast’s nutritional content by adding a scoop of matcha green tea, maca, fermented turmeric, nutritional yeast, cacao powder, cinnamon, berry fruit blends or green food powders (prairie grasses, sea vegetables, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables). If needing to add some sweetness to your dish, choose raw honey or pure maple syrup in moderation.

BONUS: Don’t forget to take your daily essentials: multivitamin + D3, fish oils and probiotics!

 

Time Crunch Tips

Prepare smoothie ingredients ahead of time. Pre-cook and freeze homemade whole grain pancakes, waffles, bars or mini egg quiches and breakfast sandwiches/wraps. Make whole grains overnight in a crock-pot for a hot breakfast. Combine rolled oats or chia seeds with milk of choice and desired “extras” in a mason jar overnight for a quick, “grab and go” option.

 

Examples: Try avocado and tomato slices with boiled eggs on whole grain toast. Blend together banana, chocolate protein, flax and almond butter into a smoothie. Make your own healthy oat/fruit/nut granola or muesli and serve over yogurt. Make cottage cheese pancakes with eggs, oats and cinnamon! Combine sprouted buckwheat with berries, seeds and coconut flakes. 

 

This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.

Grass isn’t just for cows!

When people talk about “green foods”, most people automatically think of spinach or kale. Others might lean more towards the idea of sea vegetables, such as spirulina or chlorella. However, did you know that prairie grasses fall into this superfood category as well? They have a nutrient profile similar to dark leafy vegetables and are also considered alkalizing, nutrient-rich, complete whole foods!

So what is a prairie grass exactly? Holistic pharmacist, Rosemarie Pierce explains that they are the young green plant stages of cereal grasses. Therefore, they are not a grain as the plant has not yet matured. Examples include barley grass, wheat grass, alfalfa and oat grass.

Rosemarie adds that prairie grasses contain important nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, amino acids, certain enzymes, phytonutrients, antioxidants and fibre! These ingredients help to protect cells from free radical damage, neutralize toxins, deodorize bad breathe and gas, correct nutritional deficiencies, support immunity, help repair the digestive tract and provide sustained energy while mineralizing and alkalizing the body.

Therefore, prairie grasses are ideal for anyone with respiratory conditions, cold and flus, anemia, skin disorders, digestive issues or just looking to improve overall health. They work to detoxify, support immunity, improve digestion, alkalize and boost energy and stamina!

Let’s look at some of these ingredients in detail:

 

ENERGIZING: Wheat Grass

This is an exceptional, alkalizing super food that can be used daily to provide key nutrients. Wheat grass contains antioxidants (such as beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin), fibre, Vitamins C, K, A, E and B vitamins (including folic acid and biotin), as well as minerals like calcium, iron, selenium, manganese, potassium and zinc. It contains 20 amino acids and has roughly 30% protein and 30% fibre. Wheat grass has been said to support bowel health and may help to reduce colitis. Due to its high levels of chlorophyll (green pigment), it is known as a potent detoxifier and powerful energizer. It gently cleanses the liver and blood while supporting metabolism and thyroid function. Wheat grass provides easy nutrition that can be used as an energy boosting substitute for stimulants like coffee.

 

ANTI-AGING: Barley Grass

This is the young, green version of the barley grain. Containing even more nutrients than wheatgrass, it is loaded with 20 amino acids and phytonutrients such as beta-carotene and chlorophyll. Barley grass has antioxidant, anti-aging, energizing, mineralizing, cleansing and anti-cholesterol properties. Since barley grass is associated with an alkaline effect on the body, it can help counter acidic foods and optimize pH balance. It has also been used to reduce pain and inflammation. It is high in vitamins A, C, K, and B-vitamins in addition to zinc, potassium, manganese, calcium and iron. Barley grass has approximately 30% protein and 40% fibre. It also contains the SOD (superoxide dismutase) enzyme, which converts hydrogen peroxide into oxygen, helping to reduce inflammation and prevent the physical signs of aging.

 

BRAIN HEALTH: Oat Grass

Oat grass is used to help cleanse major organs and has up to 30% protein as amino acids. It is rich in chlorophyll and loaded with iron, calcium, magnesium, Vitamin B5 and potassium. It also provides fibre, the SOD enzyme and lecithin. Lecithin is an essential fat and good source of choline, which supports the brain, nerve function and liver health. It is a building block of brain cell membranes and a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, a brain chemical involved in both memory and cognitive function. Oat grass is said to help nourish and strengthen the nervous system.

 

LIVER SUPPORT: Alfalfa

Alfalfa is high in various antioxidants, protein, as well as exceptionally rich in chlorophyll. It is a source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, silicon, and other trace minerals as well as a broad range of vitamins. It has deep roots that can extract nutrients from the soil. In fact, all parts of this plant can be used for their health benefits. Alfalfa contains 8 essential amino acids. It is known to be a nutritive tonic due to its rich nutrient content and has been used in cases of malnutrition, stomach problems (i.e. indigestion), constipation and prolonged illness. Alfalfa also contains specific phytonutrients that may support hormone-balancing and has been used by women to reduce menopausal symptoms. Some sources also suggest it may help reduce cholesterol levels. A potent ingredient for liver support, it alkalizes and detoxifies the body in addition to protecting cells with its antioxidant capabilities. Alfalfa also acts as a diuretic, anti-inflammatory, and antifungal.

 

Look for organic, fermented ingredients for enhanced bioavailability. The fermentation process unlocks nutrients held inside plant fibre walls and promotes the production of friendly gut microbes.  Prairie grasses in the form of an instant, ready-to-use powder makes for an easy addition to smoothies, dressings, sauces and home-made snack bars!

 

-This column is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach –

The Power of Plants

In his book, “Healthy at 100”, John Robbins explores the scientifically proven secrets of the world’s healthiest and long-lived populations. He describes the characteristics of various indigenous peoples who are famous for their longevity and health.

These societies contain the world’s healthiest documented elders, longest recorded life expectancies and highest concentrations of centenarians (people above the age of 100). The majority are physically fit, mentally healthy and outgoing. Within these populations rates of heart problems, diabetes, dementia or cancer are extremely low or non-existent. In addition, most have their own teeth and reports of fractures, poor hearing and bad eyesight are rare.

What makes these cultures so different? Robbins points out a few common lifestyle factors:

 

  • Large Amounts of Physical Activity. Exercise is built into everyday life routines. This includes mostly walking through rugged terrain and working hard at daily work.
  • Lack of Emotional Stress. These people live at a relaxed, simple pace that aligns with the rhythms of nature. They also enjoy peaceful quality sleep.
  • Respect for the Aged. People’s status increases with age and they receive more privileges as years pass. Wisdom is admired and the process of aging is cherished.
  • Celebration is Part of Life. Music, singing, laughter and dancing are common. They maintain a positive attitude, sense of humour and gratitude with only few possessions.
  • Community-Minded. These cultures are highly relational and have a strong sense of interdependence. They find joy and purpose in being together and loving each other.
  • Plant-Based Diet. Their focus is primarily on plant-based, natural, whole foods.

 

As each group has developed unique dietary patterns based on their surroundings and what they have to work with, there are some overall common themes that have been discovered.

  • They generally have a very high vegetable intake, usually eaten raw or lightly steamed. These include both leafy greens and root vegetables. They also cultivate herbs.
  • Fruit is enjoyed either fresh or dried and in moderation, as a snack or dessert.
  • They get the majority of their protein intake from unrefined complex carbohydrates such as whole grains (i.e. wheat, millet, buckwheat, barley, quinoa), nuts and seeds, and legumes (beans, lentils and peas), which may be soaked and allowed to sprout.
  • Nuts, avocadoes, coconut, seeds and fish are the primary sources of fat intake, depending on the culture and what is available to them.
  • The emphasis is on foods that are grown locally and consumed in season as much as possible, for peak nutritional value and freshness.
  • These diets contain no refined, processed or artificial ingredients. Ingredients are generally consumed in their original form without modification, additives (i.e. sugar or salt) or substitutions. Their focus is on food from the earth and not boxes or cans.
  • These people generally eat very little (less than 2000 calories per day). They are able to get their daily requirements from less food, as they choose nutrient-dense ingredients. They don’t count calories, but instead make every calorie count! They are also careful not to overeat and generally stop when they are 80% full.
  • Meals are often enjoyed together as a social event, eaten slowly and chewed well.
  • Every diet contains at least some measure of animal food, usually enjoyed occasionally and always coming from healthy animals. Depending on the group observed, this could include wild game, eggs or fish. Others with farmland may consume meat or raw, fermented dairy from pastured cows, goats or sheep.
  • Organic farming is practiced, as no chemicals or synthetic ingredients are used on their land. A great deal of effort and thought is put into its preservation and enhancement. There is an emphasis on resourcefulness and sustainability. Soil health is incredibly important and is therefore highly mineralized.

 

Due to the fact that our lifestyles and circumstances here in North America may not necessarily resemble those of these cultures, it is difficult to directly compare ourselves and ways of life. However, it is interesting to note the prevalence of plant-based foods in these diets as well as the overwhelming reports of good health and longevity. Regardless of dietary style, many agree that increasing the amount of plant based foods in the diet can lead to positive health benefits as these ingredients are rich in minerals, phytonutrients and fiber, among others. Various professionals who advocate plant-based diets will aim for different ratios of plant to animal-based food. In the end, each person needs to find what works best for them and fits their unique needs. However, if increasing the amount of plant-based foods in your diet is of interest, here are a few tips and precautions.

It is of utmost importance to consume high quality sources in order to attain proper nutrition for each calorie. When choosing ingredients, look for organic, whole foods grown in good soil. Also, aim to sprout, soak and ferment plant foods as much as possible in order to increase nutritional status and reduce “anti-nutrients” that may hinder digestion. When consuming animal products, look for free-range, wild, grass-fed and pasture-raised sources.

Ensure that you are receiving adequate protein and amino acids from your food intake. Do this by combining and rotating a variety of whole grains, nuts and seeds, leafy greens, sea vegetables, beans and legumes in adequate portions throughout the day. Depending on the amount of animal products consumed and other digestive factors, potential deficiencies include Vitamin B12, Omega-3, iron, zinc and calcium, as these may be predominantly found in large amounts from animal foods. Regardless of dietary style, consider natural supplementation if you are not getting adequate amounts from food or due to malabsorption.

Some of the best plant ingredients include spirulina, quinoa, black beans, hemp seeds, almonds, buckwheat, pumpkin seeds and avocado. If you are unsure where to start smoothies, salads, soups and powerbowl recipes are easy, versatile and tasty options! For quick and nutrient-packed options, consider grab-and-go plant-based protein powders and bars.

 

-This column is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach -

Making Sense of “Healthy Living”

In this day and age, we are presented with an overwhelming amount of conflicting evidence regarding what types of & how much when it comes to matters of “healthy living”. I don’t know about you, but it has most definitely caused me stress in trying to figure it all out. For example, various medical experts, professionals and athletes have voiced their opinions on optimal dietary patterns, fitness regimes and healthy living tips. Unfortunately, sometimes these opinions conflict in some way, shape or form. So how do we know what is the “right” answer?

In my opinion, there is no “standard” equation or “one size fits all” solution for everyone, and after a long personal journey of extreme ups and downs, I have learned that’s ok! We are all so unique and research is constantly changing and evolving, so all we can do is use our common sense and do the best we can, wherever we are, with whatever resources we have…then let it go. A wise mentor once told me that the stress of trying to figure it all out and be perfect will kill me before making a “less than ideal” healthy living choice every so often will. This has helped me achieve proper perspective.  

Instead of focusing on rigid numbers, rules and targets, I personally try to apply key common sense principles when structuring my own “healthy habits” in order to make them a permanent lifestyle. These can apply to all areas of healthy living (i.e. nutrition, fitness, mental health).

 

  1. BALANCE & ADAPTABILITY (Stay in control while allowing for exceptions)

Balance – Be realistic by avoiding extreme behaviors. Try to use the old “80/20” rule and make optimal choices 80% of the time while learning to relax and enjoy the 20% when you don’t!

Adaptability – Aim to make the best choices possible in special circumstances that require you to exceed your regular range of healthy balance (i.e. vacations).

Nutrition Tip: I know and believe that organic, whole, natural foods are best for me. Therefore, I choose to prioritize these ingredients and invest in my health. However, I still purchase and consume “less healthy” items once in a while for certain events and occasions.

 

  1. VARIETY & ENJOYMENT (Change it up & making it fun)

Variety – Use rotation to ensure you meet all of your needs from a diverse range of sources.

Enjoyment – Find what works for you to increase the chances that behaviors stick long term.  

Nutrition Tip: Get creative and make different varieties of smoothies, salads, soups, stir-fries or power bowls with a range of ingredients in balanced combinations!

 

  1. MODERATION & ADEQUACY (Find a healthy minimum to maximum range)

Moderation – Ensure that you don’t get too much of anything in order to leave room for others.

Adequacy – Guarantee that you get enough of the essentials your body needs to thrive.

Nutrition Tip: Aim for adequate amounts of the essentials and moderate amounts of the extras! However, while moderation is an obvious concept when it comes to less nutritious foods, too much of a good thing can be a problem too!     

 

  1. MINDFULNESS & INDIVIDUALITY (Tune into your body and accept yourself)

Mindfulness – Stop and listen to your body. Be aware of what it is saying, and trust it to guide you! Pay attention to your mood, energy, cognitive ability, discomfort, satiety and cravings, etc.

Individuality –No two people are the same. Accept and embrace your unique needs.

Nutrition Tip: I believe we all operate best on personalized diets and that we may each thrive on various amounts of certain nutrients, meal timing and combinations based on individual factors.

 

  1. QUALITY & SIMPLICITY (Don’t make it complicated! Less is more when you do it right)

Quality –When you choose quality, quantity naturally falls into place.

Simplicity - Keep things simple and learn to be efficient with fewer things.

Nutrition Tip: When in doubt, choose ingredients as close to their original, natural, whole form as possible without additions, subtractions or modifications and prepare them using traditional methods to optimize nutrition and digestibility. It is very possible to make a delicious, easy and nutritious meal out of a few simple, high quality ingredients.

 

  1. CONSISTENCY & PERSISTENCE (Fake it until you make it and never look back)

Consistency – Intentionally repeat behaviours the majority of the time until you have created actual habits that become permanent and natural.

Persistence – Focus on the future with optimism and motivation, not dwelling on the past.

Nutrition Tip: Having a complete, balanced breakfast supports energy levels, mental focus, mood control and weight management. If you tend to skip this meal, start slowly by committing to something light every morning (i.e. protein smoothie) until breakfast becomes a habit.

 

  1. PLANNING & MODIFICATION (Set yourself up for success & adjust as needed)

Planning –Avoid failure and preventing relapse by pre-establishing loose guidelines and schedules.  Be pro-active and prepared in areas of weakness!

Modification –Acknowledge that we all go through seasons and no plan or pattern is set in stone. We must consistently re-evaluate and change our patterns accordingly.

Nutrition Tip: Note that temporary exceptions are sometimes made for those in need of strategies for specific therapeutic purposes or life stages.  For example, those on elimination, Candida or ketogenic protocols may need to cut out certain ingredients that are otherwise healthy for a short while as part of treatment before slowly re-incorporating them into the diet.  

 

  1. PERSPECTIVE, PERSPECTIVE, PERSPECTIVE! (It’s all in how you see it)

Perspective –Emphasize what you are adding to your life instead of what you are cutting out!

Studying in the field of holistic nutrition is highly rewarding as it allows one to look at each person’s unique biology, history and lifestyle in deciding which diet and lifestyle patterns work best for them.  If we look at the big picture, what really matters is that there is an overall shift towards a higher quality of life and becoming the best possible version of ourselves.  

 

-This article is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach-

Got the Faspa Farts?

To put it as maturely as possible, gas is what happens when air is released from either the mouth or rectum. This can be uncomfortable and embarrassing when it is excessive or smelly. Bloating occurs when gas fills the abdomen and this area appears distended (a.k.a “a food baby”).


Gas can be made up of different elements and may be produced in different ways. Often it is from people swallowing an excessive amount of air (whether from talking too much while eating, eating too quickly, or drinking carbonated beverages) which can create an odourless rectal gas or gas in the upper stomach which causes belching. Gas can also be caused by poor digestion, which leads to bacterial fermentation. This gas gives off a foul odour, similar to that of rotten eggs.


Suggestions


It is important to chew food well while eating slowly and in a relaxed state. It is also advised to avoid drinking with meals and eliminate carbonated beverages. In addition, consider natural supplementation this holiday season to help relieve the discomfort of gas and bloating after consuming a large meal or certain foods that are harder to digest.


The Essentials
Digestive enzymes help break down foods into substances we can absorb. Consult a natural product advisor to determine which enzyme formula is best suited for you in order to support proper digestion. In addition, probiotics are highly recommend as they play a role in the digestion and absorption of nutrients. They are used to balance out the “bad bacteria” that are the culprits behind the fermentation of undigested food and also help produce enzymes.


Activated Charcoal
Activated charcoal has been used for general detoxification and intestinal disorders. As a digestive aid, it can bind many unwanted substances in the gastro-intestinal tract such as toxins and gases. Therefore, it can be used for internal problems such as diarrhea, unpleasant smelling and excessive flatulence, waste and toxin removal from the gut, food poisoning management, intestinal infection reduction, yeast die-off symptom relief and neutralizing excess stomach acid for ulcer and reflux problems!

Therefore, those looking for general digestive cleansing and intestinal support, eating out or presented with questionable food, struggling with gas with bloating and cramps, exposed to moldy food or experiencing food/alcohol poisoning, suffering from bad breath or occasional acid reflux can benefit from internal activated charcoal supplementation.

Activated charcoal is most effective when it comes from a high quality source. When derived from pure coconut shells it has superior power. Look for a product that has been manufactured for ultra-purity and excellent pore volume.

 

Carminative Herbs

Carminative herbs have antispasmodic activity that are used to alleviate cramps in the digestive tract and ease flatulence. These are good at soothing the stomach and fighting inflammation, reducing excess gas and bloating, stimulating peristalsis of the digestive tract and fighting yeast and bacteria such as H. Pylori. A few examples include fennel, anise and caraway seed. These aromatic herbs are well known spices that have been used to help with conditions such as gastritis, ulcers, indigestion, heartburn, in addition to helping dissolve mucous in the upper respiratory tract.

Ginger acts as a both a bitter and carminative herb meaning it helps to both stimulate digestion and relieve flatulence. It helps relieve digestive upset including lack of appetite, digestive spasms, indigestion, dyspepsia and gas or flatulent colic. Ginger is also a mild anti-inflammatory, improves the tone of intestinal muscles and may protect the stomach from the damaging effect of alcohol and certain drugs. Ginger is an effective treatment for those struggling with nausea, dizziness and vomiting whether it be from motion sickness or seasickness, throughout pregnancy or following surgery.

 

-This article is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach -

About Good n’ Natural

Good n Natural

Good n’ Natural started as a small-family owned business in 1994. Our team has grown and diversified to include Certified Natural Product Advisers, a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, and a part-time Naturopathic Doctor. Our mission is to educate, inspire, and empower our customers to pursue a healthy lifestyle in order to achieve their wellness goals and in turn build a stronger community.

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