Ketogenic Diet 101

If you haven’t heard the term Ketogenic or Keto in the last little while, I can only imagine that you’ve been living on a beautiful, caribbean island, unplugged from the rest of the world. (and I might be slightly jealous)

But don’t worry…I got you! Today, I’m going to break down the ins and outs of the ketogenic diet and you’ll be able to decide if it’s an eating style that would work for you.

In the most simple terms, the ketogenic diet is a very low carb, very high-fat diet with moderate amounts of protein. It has recently gained a lot of popularity in the wellness sphere because of some of its health benefits. It has been shown to help some people with weight loss and also to help improve certain health conditions, like epilepsy in children.

Read on for some of the lowdown on how it reprograms your metabolism (for “ketosis”), and whether or not it’s something for you to consider.

Let’s start with the end goal – getting your body into ketosis. But what is “ketosis?”

Carbs (sugars & starches) are the preferred fuel for your brain and muscles. They use carbs first, whenever they’re available. This is why not maintaining stable blood sugar can affect your attention, mood, and energy level. It is also the reason why you crave carbs when you are tired – you’re body is trying to get a fuel source that it can easily use.

However, when very low amounts of carbs are available for fuel, your body starts making compounds known as “ketones.” These are your body’s “backup fuel.” And your body makes them from fat (is the lightbulb going off yet?).

When you are a diet very low in carbs, your blood level of ketones increases. This is the metabolic state known as “ketosis.” It’s the same process that your body goes through if you’ve fasted for 72 hours and depleted your supply of carbs as fuel. That’s the trigger for turning fat into ketones.

Ketogenic literally means “the generation of ketones.”

Before I go any further, I want to be clear on one thing. “Ketosis” from a ketogenic diet is not the same thing as the dangerous condition known as “ketoacidosis.”

I’m sure I peeked your interest when I mentioned the Ketogenic diet has been successfully used for weight loss. With a high fat intake, it may be surprising to know that studies show that a ketogenic diet is effective for weight loss….but it’s true! Whoop, whoop!

It can also have better results than low-fat diets. At least one study showed that people lost 2.2 times more weight on a ketogenic diet than those on low-fat or calorie-controlled diets. Ok people, that definitely needs some major whoop, whoop!

So that begs the question…what is it about the ketogenic diet that makes this weightloss possible?

Simple. Eating all that fat and protein is filling! It helps release satiety hormones that tell us that we’re full and satisfied, and we don’t need to eat anymore. It also reprograms your metabolism to use fat as fuel.

Some studies show other health benefits of the ketogenic diet. As you can imagine, having very low levels of carbs can help reduce blood sugar and insulin issues. Some studies show lower blood sugar levels, and even up to 75% improvement in insulin sensitivity. Another study showed improved blood triglycerides (fat) and cholesterol numbers.  Several studies show reduced seizures in children who follow a ketogenic diet.

As with all nutritional changes, this type of diet can be beneficial for some people.

“How To” Keto

Not everyone should go on a ketogenic diet. Make sure you speak with a trained healthcare practitioner before diving in. It can have side effects, including the infamous “keto flu.”

The ketogenic diet involves getting 75-80% of your calories from fat, 10-15% from protein, and just 5-15% from carbs. This a major stretch from what most people eat on a daily basis and can make for a challenging switch.

But there are lots of resources available to you that can help you navigate the Ketogenic eating style. As a starting point, I suggest checking out The Keto Beginning. I love this resource because it focuses on whole foods, it walks you through the keto lifestyle ‘beginning’ and explains everything you can expect in the first 30 days. It’s full of valuable, real-life information, a 30 day meal plan, macro breakdown for each day, grocery lists and recipes! And there’s also a thriving community of Keto-ers who support each other in this eating style. (There’s also a bunch of other resources that you can check out in your keto lifestyle journey)

In general, the foods to focus on for a ketogenic diet are meat, fatty fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, avocados,  low-carb vegetables and low-sugar fruits.

The main thing to avoid are foods that are high in carbs. These include sugary foods and desserts, grains, most fruit, legumes, starchy vegetables, alcohol and “diet foods.”

And because of the limits on fruit and starchy vegetables, many people on the ketogenic diet need to take supplements. This is because, in addition to their sugar and starch, fruits and starchy veggies are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. So, if you’re cutting those foods out, you still need to give your body those nutrients. And often, it means needing supplements (such as electrolyte powder, himalayan rock salt, magnesium powder).

The ketogenic diet is very popular these days. It can be helpful for weight loss, and other health conditions. Again, it’s not for everyone, so make sure you check with a knowledgeable practitioner before you begin.

Recipe (Ketogenic): Peppermint Hemp Fat Bombs/Fudge*

Peppermint fat bombs
Photo credit: http://www.healthfulpursuit.com
* Recipe courtesy of http://www.healthfulpursuit.com

Serves 16

Ingredients
  • ¾ cup (180 ml) melted coconut oil
  • ½ cup (100 grams) stevia-sweetened dark chocolate chips, melted
  • ⅓ cup (50 grams) Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts, soaked overnight, strained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch finely ground Himalayan rock salt
Instructions
  1. Place a silicone mold with rectangular cavities on a baking sheet, set aside.
  2. Place all ingredients in the jug of your blender, and blend until smooth.
  3. Pour mixture into prepared mold and transfer to the fridge to set for 20 minutes, or until fudge is hard to the touch.
  4. Remove the fudge pieces from the silicone mold and place on a plate.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: These are (high fat) super-rich desserts. Don’t eat too many if you’re not going full keto.

No Nuts Allowed! Other Sources Of Healthy Fats To Feed Your Kids.

If you have a child in elementary school, you likely cannot send them to school with any nut containing food. And, as I’m sure you know, nuts are a great source of fat and they’re portable and compact. It’s so easy to just grab a handful of nuts and go!

But what’s the big deal about fat anyway? And do we even need to worry about feeding it to our kids? Firstly, we need fat to survive, but not the processed, toxic types that are in so much of what we eat today. The good stuff. I’m talking avocado, chia seeds, salmon, coconut oil, hemp seed oil, butter……

If we dial it back to our ancestors’ hunter-gatherer days, we will discover that we are actually programmed to put on fat. Back then, we needed it…desperately, and probably wouldn’t have survived without it. All throughout history, as a species, the big challenge in life was to find calories, so our bodies are biologically adapted to this! We seek calorie sources- specifically fats and sugars. If we taste something fatty or sweet we get an immediate signal from our brain saying- “Yes, I want more of that.”

Soooo, where does that leave us today? Why do we even need Fat?

It can be hard to get adequate (and healthy) forms of fat into your kids but it’s necessary to the development of their brains, eyes, and nervous system. It provides an energy source, it helps to transport the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), it provides two essential fatty acids that the body can’t make and IT TASTES SOOOOO GOOD! In addition, balanced hormones rely on appropriate levels of fat in the diet therefore it’s vital that your kids are getting the right amounts of the right kinds!

Let’s start with the bad….

So – what is a bad fat? Any manufactured fat and Trans fat. Trans fats undergo a process that heats the oil and adds hydrogen to them to produce a thick “oil”; the main purpose is to prolong shelf life. It’s everywhere in processed food. AND MUST BE AVOIDED AT ALL TIMES.

You’re probably wondering why? For a whole host of reasons but basically, it has absolutely no positive benefit to the human body in any way, yet it has been proven to harm the body in a variety of ways. It’s literally as bad and unhealthy as it gets, and this fact may be the only thing unanimously agreed upon by everyone in the nutrition field.

Common sources of trans fat include:

– Fried foods.

– Fast food.

– Typical snack foods (chips, cookies, etc.).

– Doughnuts.

– Various pastries.

To make sure you’re avoiding trans fats, read labels. Don’t give your kids foods that have the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” on the ingredients list. In order to avoid feeding your kids trans fats, the best thing you can do is eliminate processed foods from their diet.

And now for the good fat…YAY!

For a long time we thought all solid fat, aka saturated fat, was just as bad. New and better research has shown that solid fats such as coconut oil and organic butter has many benefits.

Fats are made up of Long Chain Fatty Acids (LCFA) and Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFA). LCFA are found in soybean and other processed oils. It’s difficult for your body to digest and is stored in your fat cells. This is bad. MCFA are smaller, easier to digest and is immediately metabolized in your liver, thus becoming energy instead of being stored in your fat cells. Coconut oil is a MCFA. Butter is a MCFA.

And other good fats?

Nut oils such as almond, walnut, and avocado. Nuts and avocados, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds (high in omega 3), olive oil.  Animal fats (in moderation), fish. Good fats have lots of benefits for your kids’ body, so let them enjoy various sources of fat but ensure they come from whole, unprocessed sources.

3 Sources Of Healthy Fats For Your Kids

1. Butter / Coconut oil

Yes, butter. Not Margarine.

How to get it in:

2. Avocados

Avocadoes have long been promoted as a good source of fat…and that continues to be true.

How to get it in:

  • Avocado pressed on toasted bread
  • In smoothies – adds a wonderful smooth texture without altering the flavour
  • Chocolate Avocado Pudding

3. Sunflower Seeds/Pumpkin Seeds

How to get it in:

  • Make your own trailmix with pretzels, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, coconut chips and a few dark chocolate chips.

 

Recipe: Chocolate Avocado Pudding

choco avocado pudding
Photo credit: lovingthebike.com

Ingredients:

  • 3 large avocados, soft and ripe
  • 1/4 cup organic, high-quality cacao powder
  • 3 to 6 Tbsp. coconut milk
  • 1-2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2-4 Tbsp. raw honey or maple syrup

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients to the food processor and blend until smooth.
  2. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.

My Kids Ate Cake All Day

Yup, you read that right.

Maybe you can relate…organizing, purging and getting the kids ready to start school. And my #3 also starts JK this year. And I partnered with Macaroni Kids to bring you Tips For Stress Free Lunches. As you can imagine (or are perhaps living yourself), it’s a bit INSANE in our house.

Yesterday was one of those days and there wasn’t a whole lot of parenting going on. It was so crazy that my kids were primarily nourished with Zucchini Spice Cake and Skittles Shake (recipe for the shake is in Kid Approved Breakfasts).

And guess what?

I didn’t feel guilty about it, one bit.

Wanna know why? The Zucchini Spice Cake is made with cashew butter, eggs, zucchini, coconut sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and allspice. THAT IS ALL!

It’s so nutritious and you can eat it as part of your breakfast (pair it with hard boiled eggs or some greek yogurt with fruit) or give it to your kids as an afterschool snack. It’s incredibly delicious so your kids won’t even think they are eating something that is good for them!

With labour day weekend here, and the NYE of summer, let’s all get to having our cake and eating it too! Enjoy the sun, have some cake and take in the last long weekend of the summer!

Zucchini Spice Cake

* recipe from The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook

FullSizeRender

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups cashew butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (we like cinnamon so I put a little more)
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup grated zucchini
  • Optional: 1/2 cup raisins or 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Grease an 8×8 pan with coconut oil
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the cashew butter, eggs, coconut sugar, baking soda, salt and spices.
  4. Beat in the grated zucchini and optional ingredients (if using).
  5. Let batter rest for a few minutes and then beat again.
  6. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 30 min.
  7. Remove from the oven and cool for at least 20 min before cutting and serving. Or be like me, cut it as soon as it gets out…blow on it between bites and devour two pieces in 5 minutes.

Reduce Inflammation With These Key Foods

Inflammation. I know you hear about it…and believe me, it’s not just for health headlines. There’s reason why it’s talked about so much.

Scientists are measuring levels of inflammation in our bodies and finding that it can be pretty bad for our health; this is especially true when it’s chronic. Chronic inflammation has been linked to obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes, just to name a few.

But, instead of boring you with what it is, how it’s measured, and where it comes from; why don’t I focus on some foods packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants that are proven to help reduce it? AND, are delicious to eat!

Drum roll please…My top anti-inflammatory food recommendations!

Anti-inflammatory Food #1: Berries, Grapes, and Cherries…oh my!

Why save the best for last? Perhaps the most amazingly delicious anti-inflammatory foods are a sweet favourite of yours?

Berries, grapes, and cherries are packed with fibre, antioxidant vitamins (e.g. vitamin C) and minerals (e.g. manganese). And if you live in North America, they are also currently in season and extra delicious right now!

They are also full of phytochemicals that contain the antioxidants “anthocyanins” and “resveratrol” which help to further reduce inflammation. In fact, berries, grapes, and cherries may be the best dietary sources of these amazingly healthy compounds.

Anti-inflammatory Food #2: Broccoli and Peppers

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains the antioxidant “sulforaphane.” This anti-inflammatory compound is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. If you find that broccoli leaves you gassy, try lightly steaming it – this often helps reduce it.

Bell peppers, on the other hand, are one of the best sources of the antioxidants vitamin C and quercetin (and did you also know that quercetin can be beneficial to people who suffer from seasonal allergies?). Just make sure to choose red peppers over the other colours.  Peppers that are any other colour are not fully ripe and won’t have the same anti-inflammatory effect.

I pack these two super-healthy vegetables together in this week’s recipe (see below).

Anti-inflammatory Food #3: Healthy Fats (avocado, olive oil, fatty fish)

Fat can be terribly inflammatory (hello: “trans” fats and omega-6s), neutral (hello: saturated fats), or anti-inflammatory (hello: omega-3s and unsaturated fats). This is why choosing the right fats is so important for your health.

The best anti-inflammatory fats are the unsaturated ones, including omega-3s. These are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Opt for fresh avocados, extra virgin olive oil, small fish (e.g. sardines and mackerel), and wild fish (e.g. salmon). Oh and don’t forget the omega-3 seeds like chia, hemp, and flax.

Anti-inflammatory Food #4: Green Tea

Green tea contains the anti-inflammatory compound called “epigallocatechin-3-gallate”, otherwise known as EGCG. EGCG is linked to reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, and Alzheimer’s.

Drinking steeped green tea is great, but have you tried matcha green tea? It’s thought to contain even higher levels of antioxidants than regular green tea. Bonus is that matcha is also a natural energy booster so if green tea alone doesn’t give you a kick in the pants, the matcha certainly will!

Anti-inflammatory Food #5 – Turmeric

Would a list of anti-inflammatory foods be complete without the amazing spice turmeric? Nope, it wouldn’t! Turmeric contains the antioxidant curcumin. This compound has been shown to reduce the pain of arthritis, acute swelling (inflammation) as well as have anti-cancer and anti-diabetes properties. If inflammation is severe, you might want to also consider taking a curcumin supplement.

I’ve added it to the broccoli and pepper recipe below for a 1-2-3 punch, to kick that inflammation.

Anti-inflammatory Food #6: Dark Chocolate

YES! This *may* be slightly more decadent than my #1 pick of berries, grapes, and cherries…and possibly the broccoli and bell peppers. Who said that eating for health also meant boring, tasteless food?

Dark chocolate, with at least 70% cocoa is packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants (namely “flavonols”). These reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping your arteries healthy. They’ve even been shown to prevent “neuro-inflammation” (inflammation of the brain and nerves). Reducing neuro-inflammation may help with long-term memory, and reduce the risk of dementia and stroke. So go and get your dark-chocolate fix on my friends!

(Of course, this doesn’t include the sugary “candy bars.” You already know those aren’t going to be anti-inflammatory!)

Clearly, reducing inflammation with whole foods can be delicious and nutritious. They range from colourful berries, vegetables, and spices, to healthy fats, and even cocoa! So, what are you waiting for?

Recipe (Broccoli, Pepper, Turmeric): Anti-inflammatory Quinoa

broccoli quinoa salad
photo credit: overtime cook

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup dry quinoa (pre-rinsed to help reduce the bitterness)
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups broccoli, chopped
  • 1 dash salt
  • ½ tbsp turmeric
  • 1 dash black pepper

 

Directions:

  1. In a saucepan place 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the quinoa and simmer until the water is absorbed (about 10-15 minutes).
  2. Melt coconut oil in a skillet. Add diced onions, turmeric, pepper and salt, and lightly sauté for a few minutes.
  3. Add broccoli and lightly sauté for 5-6 minutes, until it becomes softened.
  4. Add the cooked quinoa and stir everything together.
  5. Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Add some cayenne pepper or curry spice for an extra spicy kick.

How Do I Keep My Blood Sugar Stable?

Oh, the words “blood sugar.”

Does it conjure up visions of restrictive eating, diabetes medications, or insulin injections? Or, does it mean absolutely nothing to you?

Blood sugar is the measure of the amount of sugar in your blood. You need the right balance of sugar in your blood to fuel your brain and muscles….basically to function as a human!

The thing is, it can fluctuate. A LOT.

This fluctuation is the natural balance between things that increase it; and things that decrease it.  In the most simple of explanations, when carbs are ingested and broken down into simple sugars, your body keeps blood sugar levels stable by secreting insulin. Insulin allows excess sugar to get out of your bloodstream and into your muscle cells and other tissues for energy.

But why keep your blood sugar stable? Does it even matter?

Your body is always seeking homeostasis (back to high school science with that term, lol) and therefore wants your blood sugar to be at an optimal level. It should be high enough, so you’re not light-headed, fatigued (mid-afternoon slump), and irritable. And, it should be low enough that your body isn’t scrambling to remove excess from the blood. Homeostasis. That’s the goal.

Okay, we’re going to get slightly technical but I want you to stay with me because this information is important. Ready?

When blood sugar is too low, this is referred to as “hypoglycemia.” When blood sugar is too high, it is referred to as hyperglycemia.  Prolonged periods of elevated blood sugar levels (chronic hyperglycemia) can lead to “insulin resistance.”  This means your cells are just so bored of the excess insulin constantly floating around that they start ignoring (resisting) it, and that keeps your blood sugar levels too high. It’s like the boy who cried wolf. He set off so many false alarms about the wolf that when the wolf came, no body else did. With insulin resistance, your cells do the same thing!!!

Insulin resistance and chronic hyperglycemia can eventually lead to diabetes. And a whole host of other health related problems that are best avoided.

So let’s look at how you can optimize your food and lifestyle to keep your blood sugar stable. And keep you human.

4 simple steps you can take to help balance your blood sugar are:

  1. Reduce the number of refined sugars and starches you eat.  To do this, you can start by dumping sweet drinks, overabundance of starchy carbohydrates, candy and having smaller portions of dessert (or only having one set night during the week where you have dessert. In our house, Sunday is our dessert night. The kids put in their request and I do my best to honour it. Not only do they appreciate and savour the dessert, but they’ve come to understand that dessert isn’t something to eat on a daily basis.)
  2. Eat more fibre. Fibre helps to slow down the amount of sugar absorbed from your meal; it reduces the “spike” in your blood sugar level.  Fibre is found in plant-based foods (as long as they are eaten in their natural state, processing foods can reduce or remove fibre).  Eating nuts, seeds, and whole fruits and veggies (not juiced) is a great way to increase your fibre intake.
  3. Eat more protein. Like fibre, protein slows down the amount of sugar absorbed from your meal. It also helps keep you feeling full and satiated. Protein sources include beef, poultry, pork, fish and some legumes.
  4. Eat more fat (the good kind). Consuming foods like avocadoes, coconut oil, butter, olive oil, fish oil, flax seed oil, hemp oil are not only good for you, but will also help to keep your blood sugar stable.

FUN FACT: Cinnamon has been shown to help cells increase insulin sensitivity. Not to mention it’s a delicious spice that can be used in place of sugar. (HINT: It’s in the recipe below)

Besides making changes to your nutrition, there are also lifestyle changes you can implement to help balance blood sugar.

  1. Exercise. Get your body moving on a regular basis. It helps to improve your insulin sensitivity; so that your cells don’t ignore insulin’s call to get excess sugar out of the blood.  Not to mention, when you exercise, your muscles are using up that sugar they absorbed from your blood. That makes exercise a WIN-WIN!
  2. Reduce stress. Would you believe that stress affects your blood sugar levels? Yup! Stress hormones increase your blood sugar levels. If you think about the “fight or flight” stress response, what fuel do your brain and muscles need to “fight” or “flee”? Sugar  (glucose)! When you are stressed,  signals are sent to release stored forms of sugar back into the bloodstream, thereby increasing blood sugar levels.  So, try to reduce the stress you’re under or manage it more effectively.
  3. Sleep goes hand-in-hand with stress. When you don’t get enough quality sleep, you tend to release stress hormones, have a higher appetite, and even get sugar cravings (yes, yes and YES! I’ve personally not been getting alot of sleep lately and I WANT ALL THE BREAD and CHOCOLATE). Sleep is a crucial, often overlooked, factor when it comes to keeping your blood sugar stable. Making sleep more of a priority – will do your blood sugar (and mental health) good.

Your body is on a constant 24-hour quest to keep your blood sugar stable. Its always looking for homeostasis….it’s little piece of Zen. The body has mechanisms in place to do this, but those mechanisms can get tired and lazy if you constantly overload your system.  And those long-term blood sugar issues can spell trouble! Minimizing exposure to excessive starchy or refined carbs, and eating more fibre, protein, and fat, while also incorporating exercise, reducing stress, and improving sleep are all key to having stable blood sugar (and overall good health).

NEVER MISS AN UPDATE FROM ME. CLICK TO HAVE WEEKLY NUTRITION INFORMATION YOU CAN ACTUALLY USE, DELIVERED RIGHT TO TOUR INBOX.

Recipe: Cinnamon Apples

IMG_8756

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 apples, chopped
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Slice apples
  2. Place them in a bag or bowl with lid
  3. Add cinnamon
  4. Shake to coat
  5. Take a bite and enjoy the deliciousness


Tip: Keeping the peel on increases the fibre content, which is even better for stabilizing your blood sugar.

The Gut Brain Connection: How To Feed Your Brain

If there was ever a call for “digestive health,” THIS. IS. IT. So, take note!

Your gut is considered your “second brain.” There is no denying it anymore.

And because of the new scientific discoveries about the vagus nerve, the enteric nervous system, and the amazing influence your gut microbes can have, it’s no wonder what you eat, feeds not only your body but can directly affect your brain.

So, what exactly is the “gut-brain connection?” It’s very complex, and to be honest, we’re still learning lots about it!

Let’s dive into some basics…we’ll call them Gut Brain 101.

To start, there are multiple things working together.  Things like:

  • The vagus nerve that links the gut directly to the brain;
  • The “enteric nervous system” (A.K.A. “second brain)  helps the complex intricacies of digestion flow with little to no involvement from the actual brain;
  • The massive amount of neurotransmitters produced by the gut;
  • The huge part of the immune system that is in the gut, but can travel throughout the body; and,
  • The interactions and messages sent by the gut microbes.

This is complex. And amazing, if you ask me.

I’ll briefly touch on these areas, and end off with a delicious recipe (of course!)

  1. Vagus nerve

This is a nerve that runs directly from the gut to the brain. And after reading this far, you’ll probably get a sense of which direction 90% of the transmission goes…Not from your brain to your gut (which is what we used to think), but from your gut up to your brain!

2. The enteric nervous system and neurotransmitters

Would you believe me if I told you that the gut has more nerves than your spinal cord? Crazy right? And that’s why it’s referred to as the “second brain.”

And, if you think about it, controlling the complex process of digestion (i.e. digestive enzymes, absorption of nutrients, the flow of food, etc.) should probably be done by a “smarty pants” don’t you think?

And do you know how these nerves speak to each other, and to other cells? By chemical messengers called “neurotransmitters.” In fact, many of the neurotransmitters that have a strong effect on our mood are made in the gut! Let me say that again. MANY OF THE NEUROTRANSMITTERS THAT HAVE A STRONG EFFECT ON OUR MOOD ARE MADE IN THE GUT! A whopping 95% of serotonin is made in your gut, not in your brain! (Serotonin maintains mood balance and I call it your ‘happiness hormone’.)

3. The immune system of the gut

Because eating and drinking is a huge portal where disease-causing critters can get into your body, it makes total sense that much of our defense system would be located there too, right? Approximately 75% of our immune system is in our gut!

But did you know that the immune cells can move throughout the entire body and cause inflammation just about anywhere? If they’re “activated” by something in the gut, they can potentially wreak havoc anywhere in the body…including the potential to cause inflammation in the brain.

4. Gut microbes

Your friendly neighbourhood gut residents…just like spiderman (lol)! You have billions of those little guys happily living in your gut and they do amazing things like help you digest certain foods, make certain vitamins, and even help regulate inflammation!

But more and more evidence is showing that changes in your gut microbiota can impact your mood, and even other, more serious, mental health issues.

So how do these all work together for brain health?

The honest answer to how these things all work together is that we don’t fully understand all the complexities just yet. But one thing is becoming clear. A healthy gut IS KEY to a healthy brain!

So my question to you – are you feeding yourself in a way that supports your mental health?

Of course, a variety of minimally-processed, nutrient-dense foods is required, because no nutrients work alone. Two things that you may consider eating more of are fibre and omega-3 fats. Fibre (in fruits, veggies, nuts & seeds) help to feed your awesome gut microbes. And omega-3 fats (in fatty fish like salmon, walnuts, algae, and seeds like flax, chia, and hemp) are well-known inflammation-lowering brain boosters.

Recipe (Gut food fibre, Brain food omega-3): Blueberry Hemp Overnight Oats

Gut-Brain-Connection-Overnight-Oats
(photo credit: )

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup oats (gluten-free)
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

  1. Blend blueberries in the food processor until smooth.
  2. Mix blueberries, oats, almond milk, chia seeds, hemp seeds in a bowl with a lid. Let set in fridge overnight.
  3. Split into two bowls and top with cinnamon, banana, and walnuts.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Your gut microbes love to eat the fibre in the blueberries, oats, seeds, and nuts. Meanwhile, your brain loves the omega-3 fats in the seeds and nuts. A match made in health heaven.