Fats That You Should Cheer About

All fat is NOT created equal!

Fat is one of the three critical macronutrients; along with protein and carbohydrates. Some fats are super-health-boosting; and, others are super-health-busting.

Health-building fats support your brain, hormones, immune system, heart health, and moods while health-busting fats pretty much bust all of these (brain, hormones, immune system, heart health, and moods) – clearly not the type of fat you want to be consuming alot of.

As a general rule, the fats from whole foods that are the least processed will be the healthiest for you. But, you already knew that, right? #ofcourseyoudid

So let me give you a definitive list of the fats to use, and the fats to ditch.

Health-boosting fats are from:
• Nuts and seeds (hemp, flax, and chia)
• Fish
• Seaweed
• Pasture-raised/grass-fed animals/eggs
• Olives
• Avocados
• Coconuts

And what about  “virgin” oils – do they make a difference? THEY SURE DO, and here’s why. Getting the oil out of a whole food involves some processing. Sometimes it’s by squeezing, or heating. Other times it’s by using chemical solvents. The word “virgin” is used to show minimal processing (and no solvents!).

According to the World Health Organization’s Codex Alimentarius:

“Virgin fats and oils are edible vegetable fats, and oils obtained, without altering the nature of the oil, by mechanical procedures, e.g., expelling or pressing, and the application of heat only. They may be purified by washing with water, settling, filtering and centrifuging only.”

For example, Extra virgin olive oil must:

  • Be cold pressed
  • Not contain any refined olive oil
  • Possess superior quality based on chemical composition and sensory characteristics.

Don’t you think these standards ensure higher quality? I sure do!

Plus, the minimal processing helps to maintain some of the quality of delicate fat molecules, as well as their antioxidants. #AllTheWins

Health-busting fats are from:

• Seed and vegetable oils like safflower, soybean, and corn oils
• Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils.

Hydrogenated oils are particularly bad; this is because they contain small amounts of “trans” fats. Studies show that trans fats lead to insulin resistance, inflammation, belly fat. They also drastically raise the risk of heart disease. #aintnobodygottimeforthat

So, now the question is, ‘How do I get more health-building fats Melanie?’

Well, first of all, you have my permission to ditch any foods in your cupboards that contain safflower oil, soybean oil, corn oil, or any hydrogenated oil. Soybean oil alone accounts for over 75% of oils consumed by North Americans…#gross. You need to kick that crap to the curb.

Second, try substituting one of the health-building oils whenever you have a recipe that calls for the other stuff. Try flax oil in your salad dressing, avocado and/or olive oil in your cooking, and coconut oil in your baking.

Third, make healthier versions of your go-to processed foods. Pinterest is fabulous for finding easy and healthy swaps. Of course, I’ll help you out below with my super-simple mayonnaise recipe. It’s way better for you than the unrefrigerated stuff you find at your grocery store.

Now tell me: What’s your favourite fat and why? Let me know in the comments below.

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Recipe: Healthy Mayonnaise

food-eggs.jpg
Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

Makes about 1 ½ cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 large or extra large egg
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 cup olive or avocado oil

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients except oil to your food processor. Process until creamy (about 10 seconds).
  2. With the food processor running, add a few drops of oil into the egg mixture. Every few seconds add a few more drops. Continue until the mixture starts to thicken.
  3. Now you can do a slow drizzle. Stop pouring, every once in a while checking that the oil gets fully incorporated.
  4. Store leftovers in a covered container in the fridge for up to 1-2 weeks.
  5. Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Use this in place of mayonnaise for egg, salmon, chicken salads, etc.


Life Hacks of the Longest Living People

Have you ever thought about how awesome it would be to live forever? Ok, maybe not forever but for a really, really, really long time? And do you think living a long and healthy life well into your nineties or even one hundred years old is only for those lucky few who hit the genetic lottery? Think again! Both my paternal grandparents lived 100+ years and I know a lot of their good health came from their lifestyle factors (and that they lived in Barbados). Lifestyle factors, i.e. the things you do everyday over the long-term – can add up to increase the number of quality years in your lifespan.

And there’s a group of people who are living proof of how powerful everyday habits are when it comes to staying healthy for the long haul. The Blue Zones (or blue zone people) are regions around the world where people have very low rates of chronic disease and live longer compared to other populations. They are located in regions of Greece, Sardinia, Costa Rica, Japan, and California

Because these communities are home to the greatest number of people who live healthfully into their nineties and even hundreds, researchers have studied them to determine just how they age so healthfully.

Do you have to live in an actual Blue Zone to guarantee longevity? Nope! You can adopt some of the well-studied lifestyle traits of these folks to promote health and longevity right where you are! (or move if that works for you too!)

Here’s the top 5 life “hacks” of the world’s longest living people:

Hack #1: Eat a Plant-rich Diet

Blue Zone residents eat a mostly plant-based diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains. Animal foods aren’t avoided – they simply eat smaller portions of meat. You don’t have to become a strict vegetarian or vegan, but we can all become a little more vegetarian and eat a variety of plant foods daily. They contain fibre, vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants that help decrease inflammation and protect you from chronic disease, like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

A simple rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with vegetables at every meal. Yup, every meal!

Hack #2: Include Healthy Fats

You already know this because we talk about fat ALL.THE.TIME.

Eat heart healthy unsaturated and omega-3 fats in the form of olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fish. Read more about the benefits of omega-3 fats here.

Getting enough omega-3’s helps decrease disease-causing inflammation and keeps your heart and brain healthy. Eating enough fat also keeps you feeling fuller longer, which can help prevent overeating that leads to weight gain – bonus!

Hack #3: Stop Eating Before You Feel 100% Full

Avoid the clean plate club. The post meal nap club. The I-ate-so-much-i’m-physically uncomfortable club. Eating slowly and chewing your food thoroughly gives your brain and stomach time to register that it’s had enough to eat. Blue Zone communities avoid overeating and eating beyond feelings of fullness….they never eat so much that they become uncomfortable or lethargic.

Hack #4: Drink Red Wine

Enjoying a glass of red wine a day increases your antioxidant intake, which is thought to decrease inflammation and help prevent heart disease. Of course, moderation is key. Four ounces of wine is considered a glass and drinking more than that is associated with negative health effects. Read more about red wine benefits here.

Hack #5: Shake Your Booty (or move your body)

Have you heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking”? As in, it’s not good for your health to sit for extended periods of time. Lack of physical activity and prolonged sitting is linked to weight gain, obesity, and increased mortality. Be sure to look for opportunities to add movement into your regular routines.

Think:

  • Stretching while you watch tv
  • Take an after dinner evening walk
  • Park farther away from your destination
  • Choose stairs over elevators
  • Take standing and stretching breaks at work
  • Use a stand-up workstation, and fidget while you work (or dance!)

The world’s longest living people live active lives that include daily physical activities, like gardening, walking, and manual tasks.

RECIPE: Mediterranean Bean Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 15-oz cans of beans, drained and rinsed (use black beans, cannellini beans, kidney beans or chickpeas/garbanzo beans)
  • 1 english cucumber, chopped with skin on
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 cup cherry tomato, halved
  • 1 cup kalamata olives, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup virgin olive oil (= longevity oil!)
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 whole cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano or 2 tsp fresh herb
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Combine beans, cucumber, pepper, onion, tomatoes, and olives in a large bowl.

2. In a small bowl or sealed jar with a lid, whisk or shake together olive oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, and salt and pepper.

3. Toss salad with dressing and enjoy at room temperature and refrigerate unused portions.


10 Signs You May Have a Hormonal Imbalance (And What To Do About It)

Hormones are like chemical messengers, and govern nearly every cellular action in our body. Each group of hormones has a very distinct role in our body – some are considered essential, others are not.

Let’s start with our sex hormones. While very important, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, are actually not essential for our survival. They’re responsible for sexual functioning and fertility, as well as in more of a “beauty” capacity – keeping our skin, hair & nails vital and youthful looking.

On the other hand, stress hormones (like cortisol & epinephrine, also known as adrenaline) are critical to our survival because they synthesize proteins, maintain cellular electrolyte balance, regulate heartbeat and blood pressure, and transport glucose into our cells – essentially feeding our brain.

These hormones are so crucial, that in times of chronic stress, cortisol (the “hormone of stress”) will be made at the expense of sex hormones. No wonder we can start feeling whacked out and disconnected at certain stages of life!

So what happens when hormones stop playing well together?

We can often experience a ripple effect, even when there’s a slight hiccup in hormone function. Also, with the interconnected nature of your endocrine system, one hormonal imbalance can lead to an additional one, causing multiple symptoms and overlapping health issues. #notgood

The 10 most common signs that you may have a hormonal imbalance:

  1. Poor sleep – not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep
  2. Fatigue that’s not alleviated by sleep
  3. Night sweats and hot flashes
  4. Resistant excess weight and body fat, especially around the belly
  5. Low libido or sexual dysfunction
  6. Acne or other skin issues
  7. PMS symptoms
  8. Foggy thinking (brain fog!) and difficulty concentrating
  9. Mental health issues – depression and anxiety in particular
  10. Mood changes like irritability and anger

NOTE: I know that maybe you’ve been to the doctor and have been told that your hormone levels are within the normal range and there is no cause for concern. Here’s the thing – normal does not meal optimal. You could be on the low end of normal range but still within the normal range and be feeling like crap. Don’t settle for normal or average….aim for optimal. Choose to bring your overall health to the highest possible levels.

While there can be many causes to hormonal imbalances, the following are the most common ones that have been identified:

  • Age and stage of life
  • Chronic stress
  • Medications (e.g. the Pill)
  • Toxins and endocrine disruptors like xenoestrogens (think plastics, chemicals in skincare products)
  • Poor nutrition and lack of adequate key nutrients (not enough or poor quality fat)
  • Blood sugar regulation problems (think cravings, fatigue, hangriness)
  • Disrupted circadian rhythm (poor sleep)
  • Chronic inflammation (e.g. leaky gut & digestive system inflammation)

If you’re reading this and thinking, “this is me, this is me”…. don’t panic! I’m going to share with you 5 simple ways to support and rebalance your hormones naturally.

Eat whole foods: processed, packaged foods offering little to no nutritive value will also offer little to no fuel for your hormones.

Be sure to eat fresh over packaged foods, including plenty of vegetables, fruits, and quality sources of free range and grass fed meats and eggs. Also, if tolerated – nuts, seeds, and legumes in moderation. Keep in mind that grains and dairy may cause or exacerbate hormonal problems for some people so these should be infrequent or avoided all together.

Eat more good fats: Good fats are essential for hormonal health because sex hormones need fat as a building block – and your body can only use the ones you give it. Fat is also needed for your brain, eyes, immune system, heart health and mood.

Opt for sources of good fats from whole foods, such as avocados, raw nuts & seeds, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, real butter or ghee (grass fed preferable), wild-caught salmon, and free range eggs – yes, you can eat the yolks (and you should)! I posted recently about Healthy Fats and Dangerous Fats. Check it out here.

Exercise daily: Working out on a regular basis, engaging in strength training, and incorporating HIIT (high intensity interval training) has been proven to be especially beneficial for keeping our bodies AND our hormones fit. And exercising also helps you sleep better.

Sleep better: Getting deeper, more restorative sleep can be the key to supporting your hormones, above all other measures (but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the other ones!). If you have trouble falling asleep, consider adding essential oils to your night-time routine (via diffuser or topical application). We have had great success adding essential oils to many different areas of our lives!

Manage stress & practice self-care: the truth is – stress can be devastating for hormonal health (an overall health in general). We need to equip ourselves to manage the stress and “business” of everyday life through the actions that bring back balance and wellbeing to our bodies AND our minds – like good nutrition, exercise and sleep!

Learn better coping mechanisms (like breathing techniques), practice mindfulness and be sure to engage in daily self-care. Self-care doesn’t have to be a complicated or expensive venture. What is it that you enjoy doing to relax? Having a bath? Giving yourself a facial? Reading a book? Taking a walk? Whatever it is, engaging in it daily (ideally) will dramatically support your hormones.  Lastly, have you heard of the app Calm? It has guided meditation (5min), breathing exercises, relaxing music and sleep stories. It’s a great app that really helps you to focus, relax and sleep.

If you’d like to chat about simple ways you can get your hormones working with you (instead of against you), book a free 30 min call 

RECIPE: Hormone-friendly Choco-nut Fat Bombs

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup almond or other nut butter, no sugar-added (if nut-sensitive, use sesame tahini or sunflower seed butter)
  • ½ cup virgin coconut oil
  • 3 Tbs raw, unprocessed cacao powder
  • stevia, xylitol or monk fruit to sweeten to taste ( 1-2 drops or 1/8 tsp powder)
  • silicone candy mould or mini-muffin pan

Optional add-ins:

  • splash of real vanilla extract or vanilla powder
  • cinnamon or ginger
  • pinch of Himalayan pink salt or Celtic grey salt

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet melt coconut oil and nut butter over low heat.
  2. Stir in cacao powder and desired sweetener.
  3. Remove from heat and add vanilla (+ other add-ins), if using.
  4. Pour or spoon mixture into silicone candy molds or mini-muffin pan (about 1 Tb of mixture)
  5. Put in freezer until set.
  6. Remove from molds and store in the freezer or fridge in an airtight container.

Be mindful that each fat bomb is considered a full serving of fat – great for curbing the appetite, satisfying a sweet tooth and supporting your hormones with the building blocks they need! And FREAKIN DELISH. The hubby makes these HIMSELF every two weeks….seriously, that easy and totally delicious.


Red Wine…Is It REALLY Good For You or Just Hype?

This is the question of the ages. Or at least Moms….and it goes something like this; “If I’m going to have some wine, it should be red because it’s good for me.” If this sounds familiar and you’ve heard that red wine is one of the healthiest of all alcoholic beverages, it’s for good reason. #AndOhSoTasty

Thanks to the antioxidants found in the skins of grapes from which it’s made, red wine has been widely publicized as being “healthful”. One of the antioxidants found in red wine, called RESVERATROL, has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation and oxidation are considered the root causes of most disease, so consuming antioxidant-rich foods is a key component in disease prevention.

Moderate consumption of red wine has been linked to improved heart health, along with other health benefits, like decreasing the risk of:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • diabetes
  • certain cancers
  • depression

Some of the buzz around red wine’s health benefits comes from its prominent role in the well-studied Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet includes lots of fruit, vegetables, fish, olive oil, and red wine, and is believed to contribute to a long lifespan and low incidences of heart disease and cancer among Mediterranean populations. If you want to read more about the Mediterranean diet, check out a post I did on it a while back.

The health benefits of red wine are also thought to contribute to low rates of heart disease among the French, despite this population traditionally eating a diet high in saturated fat.

But, does a glass of red wine a day really keep the doctor away?

Maybe.

Studies have linked regular consumption of red wine with the following positive outcomes:

  • increased HDL cholesterol (the good, protective kind)
  • lowered LDL cholesterol (the bad, inflammatory kind)
  • lowered triglycerides (fat or lipids found in the blood)
  • improved blood pressure
  • more stable blood sugar levels

High blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, and undesirable cholesterol and triglyceride levels are all contributing factors in the development of more serious heart disease, like heart attacks and stroke.

But is red wine an essential part of a healthy diet?

The short answer is no. Not essential but definitely beneficial.

Now, if you aren’t a fan of wine or choose not to consume alcoholic beverages, there’s no reason to start drinking red wine for the sake of your health! Plenty of other diet and lifestyle factors, like eating lots of fruits and vegetables, getting regular physical activity, not smoking, and managing stress can provide similar health benefits.

If you enjoy drinking wine, you should choose red varieties over white for the added antioxidants and health benefits. While white wine does contain some antioxidants from grapes, red wine contains much higher amounts.

Like any other alcoholic beverage, it’s also important to remember to limit wine consumption. The health benefits of red wine only apply when it is enjoyed in moderation. #NoSurpriseThere. When consumed in excess, any alcoholic beverage can negatively impact your health, contributing to alcohol dependence, organ damage, and increased risk of several cancers.

A good rule of thumb for alcohol intake is to limit consumption to one (1) drink per day for women and one to two (1-2) drinks per day for men. The serving size for one standard glass of red wine is 4 oz. And remember, since the size of wine glasses can vary, use a liquid measuring cup to familiarize yourself with what a 4 oz pour of wine looks like. Then, stick to that serving size!

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Recipe: Skinny Sangria Spritzer

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle dry red wine (use your favourite but consider seeking out an organic variety = no sulphites or other congenors/additives)
  • 1 ½ cups seltzer/sparkling spring water/perrier/san pelegrino (you can use a fruit flavoured variety, if desired – but no sugar added)
  • 2 cups assorted fresh fruit, such as sliced strawberries, blackberries, orange slices, chopped apples, pears, or plums (have fun mix and matching your favourites!)
  • ice cubes

Directions:

  1. Place prepared fruit in bottom of a large pitcher and lightly muddle with a wooden spoon.
  2. Pour wine and seltzer into pitcher and stir to combine.
  3. Add 1 cup of ice to pitcher and stir to chill.
  4. To serve, pour Skinny Sangria over ice-filled glasses. Be sure each glass gets a spoonful of fruit!

Made Good – New Product Reveal

Do you know about the Made Good Foods line? If not, READ ON! (and even if you do, read on anyways!)

All their products are safe for school (meaning nut free) they are also gluten free, certified vegan, organic, Non-GMO, kosher parve AND contain a full serving of vegetables.

They already have a large stable of amazing products that include granola bars, granola minis, crispy squares, baking chips, and cereal. Now, you can indulge and celebrate in their Newest Products – Soft Baked Mini Cookies and Crispy Light Granola!!!

The soft baked mini cookies are the ideal addition to your snack toolbox – slightly sweet that they will leave you feeling satisfied without the guilt. And don’t forget about the crispy light granola….SO VERSATILE! You can add it to yogurt or eat it with milk…it can be breakfast, lunch or a snack!

If you haven’t tried Made Good yet, what are you waiting for???

 

 


Omega 3: It’s Essential For A Reason!

Healthy Fats are becoming part of mainstream discussions and this is AWESOME. People everywhere are including more fat in their diets and forgetting about the fat-free diet crazes of the past. YAY!

You’ve probably heard about omega fats but may not know exactly what they are and why you should be including them. Sooooo, what are Omega Fats? Do they all perform the same function in our bodies?

We’re gonna take a short science detour but I promise it’s not complicated. Omegas are a group of fatty acids known as Omega-3, Omega-6, and Omega-9. They’re numerically named based on their chemical composition.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids (EFA’s). The body is capable of producing some fatty acids on its own, like Omega-9 – meaning you don’t need to get them from food.

But the fatty acids the body can’t create on its own must be obtained from food, and therefore, are considered essential. Both fats are needed for good health, but most diets contain an abundance of omega-6 and not enough omega-3. In general, we are exposed to an overabundance of omega-6 due to the consumption of processed foods. A 1:1 ratio is ideal for keeping inflammation at bay, but it’s estimated that most people have a ratio closer to 20:1! WHOA right?!

And here’s the bad news…this skewed ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 is considered a cause of chronic inflammation that can lead to scary stuff, like heart attack and stroke. As we’ve talked about before, chronic inflammation is bad and something we want to reduce/eliminate.

Low intake of Omega-3’s means most people are missing out on the major health benefits of this essential fat because it contains several types of fats including:

  • ALA (alpha linolenic acid) – found in plants, like nuts and seeds, and;
  • DHA/EPA – found primarily in fish

The protective qualities of Omega-3’s include:

  • Improved immune system function
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Decreased risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer, arthritis, and depression
  • Improved triglyceride and cholesterol values
  • Critical role in human development – the brain and retina contain lots of omega-3 in the form of DHA (UBER important for our kids)

 

WHAT ARE THE BEST FOOD SOURCES OMEGA-3’s?

This is a loaded question but keep reading for the answer!

The best sources of ALA include flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts.

Although it would be hard to meet all your omega-3 needs only with sources of ALA, flax, chia, and walnuts are still healthy fats with lots of other good-for-you vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and should be included in your diet.

Now, Canola and soybean oil are also decent sources of ALA, but these oils aren’t the healthy options since they quickly oxidize and turn rancid, which promotes inflammation and cancels out any beneficial effects of the omega-3s they contain. My suggestion is that you limit/avoid these sources of ALA.

While meat and dairy aren’t a good source of omega-3s, it’s worth noting grass fed meat and dairy contain higher amounts of omega-3s than conventional grain fed meat (which is high in the inflammatory omega-6). More reason to eat grass fed meat and dairy right there!

I’ve Heard That Fish Contains EFA. Is This True?

YUP, it sure does! ALA needs to be converted into EPA or DHA by the body for it to be utilized. This process is pretty inefficient, with estimates of 1-20% of the ALA we consume being converted into a usable form. Since fish contains the ready-to-use EPA/DHA form, it is recommended that most people obtain their omega-3’s from fatty, cold water fish, like salmon, tuna, herring, and sardines.

Did you know fish don’t actually produce the omega-3s they contain? Instead, algae makes EPA/DHA and fish accumulate the fat from the algae they eat. Cool fat fact!

If omega-3’s from fish are so good for us, shouldn’t we be eating fish every day? Nope!

While there are no official recommendations for daily omega-3 intake, it’s thought most people can meet their basic omega-3 needs by consuming fish 2x/week. To avoid taking in too much mercury, a toxic heavy metal in fish, you should alternate the types of fish you eat and limit varieties known to be high in mercury.

If you choose not to consume fish because of mercury or other concerns, it’s best to supplement with fish oil or, if you’re vegan – try algae oil. Fish and algae oils don’t contain mercury as a result of processing.

It’s generally considered safe to consume up to 3 – 6g of fish oil per day. If you include a high quality fish oil supplement and a variety of sources of healthy fats in your diet, you don’t have to worry about counting omega-3s.

People who are managing symptoms of heart disease or other illness may benefit from even higher, therapeutic doses of omega-3’s. However, high doses of fish oil could interfere with blood clotting. If you’re currently taking blood thinners or have surgery scheduled, you should check with a healthcare provider before supplementing.

RECIPE: Chia Berry Breakfast Bowls

 

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk, such as almond or coconut
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • 1-2 tbsp hemp hearts
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mixed berries
  • 2 tbsp raw walnuts, chopped
  • Optional: 1-2 tbsp maple syrup or honey (depending on how much sweetener you like to use)

Directions:

  1. Combine milk, chia seeds, hemp, vanilla and optional sweetener in a mixing bowl and whisk until well-combined. Alternatively, you can place ingredients in a glass jar with a lid and shake to combine (my personal preference).
  2. Refrigerate chia pudding at least 2 hours or overnight. Portion pudding into bowls. Top with fresh berries and chopped walnuts.
  3. ALTERNATIVELY:You can mix this first thing in the morning, give it a very vigorous shake in the glass jar, throw on your berries and nuts and put it back in the fridge. The chia seeds will start to set within 20 minutes. It won’t be as thick as the overnight version but this is what I do most days that I make it. Eat it or bring it to work and eat it when you arrive.

Tip: You can add 2 tbsp cocoa powder (unprocessed preferred) to the pudding mixture to make a rich chocolatey version!