A Powerful Anti-Inflammatory You Can Eat?

Let’s talk turmeric.

Turmeric is a rhizome that grows under the ground like ginger. It has a rich, bright, orange colour and is used in many foods. Originally used in Southeast Asia, it’s a vital component for traditional curries. You can find dried, powdered turmeric in the spice aisle of just about any grocery store and sometimes they carry the fresh rhizome too (it looks like ginger root, but thinner and smaller).

Turmeric contains an amazing anti-inflammatory, antioxidant compound called “curcumin” which I’m sure you’ve heard of. The amount of this bioactive compound is around 3-7% by weight of turmeric. Curcumin has been studied like crazy for its health benefits and many of these studies test curcumin at up to 100x more than that of a traditional diet that includes turmeric.

So, what makes curcumin so powerful?

Firstly, it’s an anti-inflammatory compound and fights inflammation at the molecular level. There are dozens of clinical studies using curcumin extract (which is way more concentrated than ground turmeric) and many of them even show it can work as well as certain anti-inflammatory medications (but without the side effects).

Secondly, curcumin is an antioxidant compound meaning it can neutralize free radicals before they wreak havoc on our biomolecules. Curcumin also boosts our natural antioxidant enzymes.

These two functions of reducing inflammation and oxidation have amazing health benefits. We know that chronic inflammation plays a major role in so many conditions, including heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, dementia, mood disorders, and arthritis pain, therefore, reducing the amount of inflammation in our bodies also reduces the liklihood of developing disease.

Curcumin has other amazing functions too:

  • Boosts our levels of “Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor” (like a natural growth hormone for your brain) which is great for brain health.
  • Improves “endothelial” function (the inner lining of our blood vessels) which is important for heart health.
  • Reduces growth of cancer cells by reducing angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels in tumors), metastasis ( the spread of cancer), and even contributes to the death of cancer cells. Amazing right?

This all sounds amazing and I’m sure you’re ready to start incorporating curcumin in your diet but you need to consider these few things.

To start, curcumin is not easily absorbed by your gut. It’s fat soluble – so, as with all fat-soluble nutrients (like vitamins A, D, E, and K), you can increase absorption by eating it with a fat-containing meal.

The second trick to get the most out of your turmeric is eating it with pepper.  Interestingly, a compound in black pepper (piperine) enhances absorption of curcumin, by a whopping 2,000%!

If you want all the health benefits of curcumin, you need to get a larger dose than just eating some turmeric – and this is where supplements come in. Obviously, you want to take caution if you:

  • Are pregnant
  • Are taking anti-platelet medications or blood thinners
  • Have gallstones or a bile duct obstruction
  • Have stomach ulcers or excess stomach acid

(Always read the label before taking a new supplement.)

I want to know: What’s your favourite turmeric recipe? Try my version of “golden milk,” (an anti-inflammatory drink) and let me know what you think in the comments below.

Recipe (turmeric): Golden Milk

golden-milk-3

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup canned coconut milk
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 ½ tsp turmeric, ground
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon, ground
  • ½ tsp honey

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients to a small saucepan. Whisk to combine.
  2. Warm over medium heat, whisking frequently. Heat until hot, but not boiling.
  3. Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can substitute 2 cups of almond milk instead of the 1 cup coconut milk and 1 cup water.


Done With Moo Milk? 6 Alternatives To Help You Go Dairy-Free!

If you’re reading this, you likely already are or may be considering going dairy-free. You may have an intolerance, have been told to eliminate dairy, or just want to have less of it.

Did you know that dairy is inflammatory and also mucous causing? If your kids (or you) are suffering from a cold and the congestion that comes with it, you should consider removing dairy from your diet and I bet you’ll see a decrease in your mucous, congestion or both!

Whatever your reason for wanting to eliminate it, dairy is not an essential nutrient, and there are lots of things you can have instead. Yes, you read that right. Dairy is NOT an essential nutrient. Calcium is…but there are many other foods you can eat that contain more calcium per ounce than dairy does. For a short list of calcium rich foods, click here.

The good news is that dairy-free products are becoming more and more popular. You can easily find them in the grocery store, but make sure you read your labels! Some contain way too much sugar, or other ingredients you may not be able to pronounce….and chances are, you wouldn’t want to eat or drink them anyway.

I’ve put together some simple recipes to make delicious dairy-free foods right in your kitchen. So, go ahead and try these dairy substitutes!

  1. Delicious dairy-free milk

Dairy-free milk is so easy to make and flavour yourself. You can make milk out of just about any nut or seed. You can even make alternative milk out of grains like rice, oats, or quinoa.

It just takes a high-powered blender, some water, and cheesecloth to filter out any remaining bits. For flavouring, you can add a pinch of cinnamon, cardamom, or vanilla extract. You can also sweeten your milk with soaked dates, maple syrup, or honey.

My absolute favourite to make is cashew milk. It’s super simple and requires no straining #causeaintnobodygottimeforthat. To make this super-simple dairy-free milk, here’s my go-to recipe.

If you’ve got time to spare or want to explore making different types of nut milk, try this: Soak ½ cup of almonds, coconut, or even hemp seeds for a few hours. Soaking IS optional, but it makes the blending process easier and the final milk creamier…so, soak the nuts. Then drain the soaking water, rinse, and add to a blender with 2 cups of fresh water. Blend on high until smooth (about 1-2 minutes). Add your flavourings, if desired. Then strain through a nut milk bag, fine mesh strainer, or a few layers of cheesecloth.

If you want to make a dairy-free cream, just blend your nuts, seeds and/or grains with 1 cup of water instead of 2 for a thicker, creamier, dairy-free milk. #easypeasy

2. Delicious dairy-free yogurt

Technically, with the right yogurt starter probiotic culture, you can make yogurt out of any dairy-free milk. The most common one to ferment into yogurt is coconut milk. But you can use almond milk or other nut or seed milk. Coconut milk is also paleo, keto, AIP and lowFODMAP friendly. #bonus

The trick here is with the fermentation. I like to use Cultures for Health yogurt starter. Follow the instructions on the label of the yogurt starter culture, and enjoy delicious dairy-free yogurt in a few days.

And if you have an Instant Pot….try this coconut yogurt recipe.

3. Delicious dairy-free butter alternatives

I’ll be honest, I encourage people to eat butter. It’s great for cooking, baking and it’s a medium chain triglyceride (MCT). It’s good for you…and unless you have a milk allergy, butter can be consumed by people who are going dairy free because butter is the fat of cream. The protein and carbohydrates are no longer present. If you have a milk allergy however, butter is off the table because it could contain trace amounts of milk/cream.

My alternative for butter is coconut oil. It’s a great substitute for butter and also very versatile. You can fry with it, or even bake with it (use the extra virgin type so that the coconut flavour does not overpower the other flavours. My FAVE use of coconut oil is to cook popcorn with it on the stove…SO FREAKIN DELISH!

4. Delicious dairy-free parmesan

If you haven’t tried nutritional yeast, you will be pleasantly surprised at how much it tastes like grated parmesan. Plus, it contains some B vitamins as well. It’s a salty, cheesy, flaky powder that you can use wherever you want to add a pop of savoury flavour to any dish.

TIP: After you’ve popped your popcorn, sprinkle it with a bit of nutritional yeast for a salty, cheesy flavour.

5. Delicious dairy-free puddings

Did you know you can make a delicious and thick pudding without dairy? That’s right; the plant kingdom has some natural thickeners that are full of fibre.

You can make a chocolate pudding with avocado. Take one whole avocado and blend it up with ¼ cup cocoa powder, ¼ cup dairy-free milk, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and honey or maple syrup to taste. Then add dairy-free milk to thin if desired.

For chocolate chia pudding, use cup chia seeds and place in food processor with 1.5 cups dairy-free milk. Wait for 5-10 minutes until the seeds soak up the liquid. Then add ¼ cup cocoa powder, tsp vanilla extract, and honey or maple syrup to taste. Blend into a smooth pudding.

6. Delicious dairy-free ice cream

Who doesn’t love ice cream? Exactly! Even if you are going dairy free, you can still enjoy this sweet treat. N’ice cream is another delicious dessert made with frozen bananas. I’ve included the recipe for this below.

Which recipe are you going to try?  Do you have a great one to share as well? Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe (dairy-free): Chocolate Almond N’ice Cream

Chocolate-Coconut-Ice-Cream

Photo credit: A Food Centric Life

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 bananas, chopped and frozen
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder, unsweetened
  • 2 tbsp almond butter, unsweetened

 

Directions:

  1. Add chopped frozen bananas to a food processor. Pulse or lightly blend until almost smooth.
  2. Add cocoa powder and nut butter. Pulse or lightly blend until mixed.
  3. Serve immediately & enjoy!

Tip: Try different nut and/or seed butter. Or instead of cocoa powder and/or seed butter, use just the bananas with a ½ cup of frozen berries. The recipe combinations are endless.


Need A Mood Boost? Eat This!

No question that what you eat can affect how you feel, right? Both positively and negatively. (And the same goes for your kids. )

Mental health and brain health are incredibly complex. As are the foods we eat, and the ways our bodies interact with those foods. While, we don’t know the exact mechanisms of how food and nutrition help, we know a few ways that food impacts our moods.

First, we know that what we eat becomes the raw materials for our neurotransmitters. “Neurotransmitters” are biochemical messengers that allow our nerve cells to communicate. They are important not just for thinking and memory, but also for mental health. Second, we know what we eat affects our blood sugar. And having unstable blood sugar levels can contribute to mood swings…bad ones. Where do you think the term #hangry comes from?

So, let’s talk about mood-boosting and mood-busting foods….which ones to include and which ones to avoid. Especially as we move into the winter months, with less hours of sunlight we need to take external steps to support and improve our mood.

Top Mood Boosting Foods and Supplements

  1. Did you know that some nutrient deficiencies can look like mental health problems? Yup. The food we eat (or don’t eat) can affect us so profoundly that it mimics a mental health imbalance…this includes deficiencies in B-vitamins, vitamin D, and the mineral selenium. Clearly, getting enough vitamins, minerals, (and other things like antioxidants) are key. These nutrients not only reduce inflammation but also fuel the biochemical reactions in our bodies. So make sure you’re eating a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. In fact, studies show that people who eat the most fruits and vegetables are the happiest. #yesplease
  2. Pay special attention to vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin), as it’s not naturally occurring in too many foods.
  3. Selenium is an essential mineral found in Brazil nuts, walnuts, cod, and poultry. Try to add some of those to your weekly diet.
  4. Fourth. Make sure you get enough protein. Protein is your body’s main supply of amino acids. Amino acids are very important for mood issues because they are the building blocks of neurotransmitters. I recommend eating protein with every meal and don’t forget that protein also helps to regulate blood sugar,
  5. Fifth. Complex carbohydrates like sweet potato and quinoa are great too. They allow better absorption of key amino acids like tryptophan (and remember that Turkey time is just around the corner). Tryptophan is used by your body to make serotonin (your “happy hormone”) and melatonin (your “sleepy” hormone). So, if you want to relax, try these in the evening.
  6. Sixth. Fish and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids (nuts, seeds, and algae) are also mood-boosting. Omega-3s are definitely “brain food” and may help to ease some symptoms.

FUN FACT: One study showed that giving one multi-vitamin and one omega-3  fish oil tablet per day to prison inmates reduced the incidence of violent behavior by 50%!

Not that I’m comparing my kids to prison inmates buuuuuuut, ALL my kids get fish oil in the morning to help set them up for the day AND in the evening before bed to help calm them and prepare them for sleep.

Last but not least, make sure you’re hydrated. Mild dehydration can cause mood issues as well!

Top Mood-busting foods

This shouldn’t be a surprise to you – processed foods are mood-busters! One study suggests that eating a lot of processed foods devoid of nutrients can increase your chances of becoming depressed by as much as 60 percent! This is on top of the research that shows nutrient deficiencies can look like mental health imbalances. How much feedback do you need to jump off this bandwagon? Processed foods are problematic for so many reasons.

I know you’re probably thinking….“But it makes me feel good!” Yes, some of these mood busters can make you feel better…but only temporarily. Most big food companies hire scientists to study how to maximize the “pleasure” centers with the perfect amount of sugar, salt, and fat. Not to mention the color, texture, and taste; they can light up our taste buds and make us feel good… for now. They call it the “bliss point” and their goal is light up this centre of your brain on a regular basis.

But do you know what also makes you feel good? Weight training,  running, walking..or just moving! Lots of things can help boost your mood and make you feel good….AND have the added benefit of improving your health.

A few other things to avoid are:

  • Alcohol (nervous system depressant)
  • Caffeine (may worsen anxious feelings and ability to sleep)
  • Sugar (messes with your blood sugar and can worsen inflammation).

Bad moods can lead to bad eating habits; and, bad eating habits can lead to bad moods. If you need a mood boost, stick to minimally processed nutrient-dense whole foods. Things like fresh fruit and vegetables (including leafy greens), nuts and seeds, eggs, fish, poultry, and meat. Avoid common mood-busting foods like alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.

And remember, sometimes “feel good” junk foods, only make you feel good temporarily.

Recipe (mood boosting): Fruit Salad

fruit salad

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 cups watermelon, cubed
  • 1-2 cups cantaloupe, cubed
  • 1-2 cups blueberries, fresh
  • 1-2 cups blackberries, fresh
  • 1-2 cups green grapes
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds (optional)
  • 2 tbsp walnuts (optional)

Directions:

  1. Place all fruit in a large bowl and gently toss.
  2. Serve & enjoy!

 


The Queen Drinks It…It Must Be Good!

Tea is said to be the most popular beverage in the world. It’s been consumed for thousands of years by millions, perhaps billions, of people.

Tea has also been shown to have many health benefits. And some of these benefits are thought to be related to tea’s antioxidant properties. These properties are from its flavonoids known as “catechins.” Flavonoids are anti-inflammatory and have a range of health benefits that I’ll share with you later.

What’s the difference between black tea and green tea (or does one even exist)?

First of all, they both come from the camellia sinensis shrub that’s native to China and India. Green tea contains slightly more health-promoting flavonoids than black tea. The difference lies in how each type of tea is processed.

If the leaves are steamed or heated, this keeps them green. The heat stops oxidation from turning them black. Then they’re dried to preserve the colour and flavonoids. Hence you have green tea.

If the leaves are not heated, and are crushed and rolled, then they continue to oxidize until they’re dry. This oxidation uses up some of the flavonoids’ antioxidant power, so black teas have slightly less ability to combat free radicals than green tea does.

Did you know? Adding milk to your tea reduces the antioxidant ability….

Both green and black teas contain about half of the caffeine in coffee. That translates to about 20-45 mg per 8 oz cup….so if you are trying to cut back on your caffeine consumption, try drinking tea!

What are some the specific health benefits of drinking tea?

Heart health – For one thing, both green and black tea drinkers seem to have high levels of antioxidants in their blood compared with non-tea drinkers. Green and black tea drinkers also have lower risks of heart attacks and stroke. Drinking green tea, in particular, is associated with reduced triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL oxidation, all of which are risk factors for heart conditions.

Overall, drinkers of green and black tea seem to have a lower risk of heart problems. Green tea has also been shown to reduce risk factors (i.e., blood lipid levels) a bit more than black tea.

Cancers – Antioxidants also reduce the risk of many cancers. Studies show that both green and black teas can reduce the risk of prostate cancer (the most common cancer in men). Also, green tea drinkers have a lowered risk of breast and colorectal cancers. Black tea is being researched for its potential to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.

Overall, antioxidant flavonoids in tea seem to help reduce the risk of some different cancers. Green tea may have a slight edge over black tea, but both seem to be associated with lower cancer risk.

Diabetes – Both green and black teas can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. They also reduce diabetes risk factors, like elevated blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. For example, some studies have shown that both green and black teas can help reduce blood sugar levels. Other studies have shown that green tea can also improve insulin sensitivity.

Once again, green tea seems to have a slight edge over black tea, but both are blood sugar friendly (just don’t overdo the added sugar).

So, what’s the verdict on tea? 

Green tea retains more of the beneficial antioxidants than black tea does; but both are associated with better health than non-tea drinkers. Overall, both green and black teas are healthy drinks, and tea drinkers, in general, seem to have fewer health conditions than non-tea drinkers. Green tea seems to have a slight edge over black tea when it comes to measurable risk factors of some common diseases.

I’d love to know: Are you a tea drinker? Which tea is your favourite? How do you like to enjoy it? Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe (Green tea): Matcha Energy Bites

matcha enrgy bites

Serves 6 (makes 12-18 bites)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
  • 4 tbsp almond flour
  • 1 tbsp matcha green tea
  • 2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients into food processor and pulse until blended.
  2. Shape into 1-1.5″ balls.
  3. Serve & enjoy….and try not to eat them all!

Tip: If you use sweetened coconut, then you can eliminate the honey/maple syrup.


7 Natural Ways To Deal With Bloating

Do you ever feel a bit “overextended” in the belly after a meal or a little “gassy?” Are you tired of carrying your “food baby?”

Well, bloating is common. Up to 25-30% of people experience it regularly (that’s 1 in 3)! It happens when you have trouble digesting. The symptoms come from excess gas, reactions to foods, or food not moving through you as well as it could.

There are many reasons you might experience these symptoms. Maybe because of a serious condition (disease), or a food allergy or intolerance. It can also result from how you eat. If you have a serious digestive issue like IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), then make sure you eat accordingly. Same goes if you know certain foods give you gas. Simply avoid them.

If you’re already doing those things, and still experience bloating, here are some great tips for dealing with it naturally.

1 – Don’t overeat

If you overeat at a meal, then you’ll feel bigger around the mid-section. You’ll feel more pressure in your abdomen. Plus, you’re forcing your digestive system to work overtime (and you’d be grumpy too if you were forced to take on all that extra work!). It’s better to eat until you feel almost full and not overindulge. Grab an extra snack or small meal throughout the day if you have to. Just don’t over-stuff yourself in one sitting.

2 – Avoid sugar alcohols

Sugar alcohols are low-calorie sweeteners made from sugars. In an ingredients list, they end in “-ol,” and include things like sorbitol, xylitol, and erythritol. They’re found in some chewing gums and sugar-free foods. Some people experience bloating after eating foods with these. So, try avoiding them and see if that helps you.

3 – Avoid swallowing air

Seems like a no-brainer right? Think of a baby gulping on the breast or at the bottle…for sure, you’re gonna end up with a gassy baby. Same is true of adults, and things like carbonated drinks are the biggest culprit here. You can also swallow air when you chew gum or drink through a straw, so try ditching these.

You can also swallow air when eating too quickly or while talking. Which leads me to…

4 – Eat slower, more mindfully, and less stressed

Eating too fast isn’t doing your digestive system any favours. You can help the food move along by chewing it thoroughly and s-l-o-w-i-n-g down your eating habits. Be mindful and enjoy the time you are spending eating your meals. Savour them.

The feeling of stress can also cause increased bloating. Stress-reducing techniques can help improve your digestion. Try meditating or deep breathing (but not while you’re eating). 🙂

5 – Try peppermint

Peppermint oil has been shown to improve bloating. It’s thought to increase transit time by relaxing the stomach muscles and increasing the flow of bile. Try diluting peppermint oil in water (ensuring it is certified therapeutic grade), steeping fresh peppermint leaves, or a peppermint tea bag, and drinking it slowly. See if that helps reduce your symptoms.

6 – Take Digestive Enzyme Supplements

There are certain over-the-counter products that can be useful.  This includes supplemental enzymes that can help break down indigestible carbohydrates. Have you heard of or tried Beano? It contains the enzyme alpha-galactosidase, which can help break down indigestible carbohydrates from various foods. And for many people these types of supplements can provide almost immediate relief.

7 –  Take Probiotics

Gas produced by the bacteria in the intestine is a major contributor to bloating. And we know that including probiotics as part of your daily routine can help to populate the good bacteria and also have a positive impact on digestion and immune health. It would reason then, that including a probiotic in your diet will help to reduce gas production and bloating. They can take a while to start working though, so be patient.

As you can see, there are a bunch of natural ways to deal with bloating.

First, avoid it by not eating things that you know give you gas or aggravate a known digestive issue. Try not to overeat, consume sugar alcohols, or swallow air. Also, eating more mindfully and reducing stress can help too. Finally, if you are experiencing bloating, enjoy a cup of peppermint tea.

If you try all of these suggestions, and still experience bloating, then you may have a food intolerance/sensitivity or allergy. If you have a major concern, then please see your doctor. They can help to rule out a serious and/or chronic condition.

Recipe (peppermint): Peppermint Mocha Creamer

hands holding coffee

Ingredients:

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • ½ cup almond milk, unsweetened
  • 2 tbsp cacao powder, unsweetened
  • ½ tsp peppermint extract or 2 drops peppermint essential oil (certified therapeutic, food grade and safe for internal use)
  • 3 tbsp honey or maple syrup (optional)

 

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until well combined.
  2. Store in a sealed container in your fridge.
  3. You can pour into your morning coffee & enjoy or you can enjoy it on it’s own. Either way, you’ll be in heaven!

Apple Pie For Breakfast

With the cold weather officially here (meh), it’s also time for those meals that warm the body and feed the soul!

Like you, I follow a breakfast plan for every day of the week, and right on (weather changing) cue, my kids have been telling me that they’re bored with their current oatmeal. So last week, I switched it up and BAM, it.was.a.hit!

Incredibly easy and super delicious, let me introduce you to Breakfast Apple Pie Oatmeal!

Recipe: Breakfast Apple Pie Oatmeal

*I’m feeding 4 kids so you’ll need to adjust accordingly

Ingredients:
  • 1 medium to large size apple (we like honey crisp)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 cups dry oats
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 4 cups of water
  • **wee bit of maple syrup…WEE

 

Directions:

  1. Add water and egg to the pot and stir.
  2. Add cinnamon.
  3. Peel and grate the apple. Add to the pot.
  4. Add oats. Stir.
  5. Add butter.
  6. Cook on low-medium heat and stir regularly to avoid sticking to the sides (cause it’s got the egg).
  7. You’re welcome.

9 Strategies To Build Your Child’s Immune System

Are your kids always picking up the latest ‘germ of the week’ and holding on to it for far too long? Yes, kids getting sick a few times is normal and having an immune system that is able to handle the offenders quickly and efficiently is important. I’ve created this guide to help you build your child’s immune system and tackle cold and flu season with a lot less snot(bleh) and a lot more fun.

Get Your FREE Copy HERE.

 

Copy of Immune Building For Kids - Balanced Plate Nutrition