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!



Intermittent Fasting – Whaaat?

In a nutshell, intermittent fasting is just that: fasting intermittently. But WHAT is it exactly and are there any benefits (and will it help me lose weight)?

By definition, it’s limiting calorie intake during certain hours/day or days/week. It’s more of an eating pattern than a diet (think along the lines of carb cycling). It limits when to eat, and not so much what to eat. And that’s part of it’s appeal to people who don’t want to count calories or use their food log to track everything. That’s not to say that it can’t be used as part of particular way of eating (Keto for example).

Supporters of intermittent fasting say that it’s a more natural way to eat because humans evolved without refrigerators, drive-throughs, or 24-hour convenience stores. We now have access to food (including junk food) all day long, so eating several meals per day plus snacks may be less natural than fasting from time to time. In addition, intermittent fasting has also been linked to improvement in the brain’s neurological functioning.

In this TEDx talk, Mark Mattson, talks about how and why fasting is good for the brain. He’s the current Chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging. He is also a professor of Neuroscience at The Johns Hopkins University. Mattson is one of the foremost researchers in the area of cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

There are lots of variations on this theme.  A few include:

  • 16/8 which is 16 hours of fasting, and eating only within the other 8 hours (often 1:00 pm. – 9:00 p.m.);
  • 5:2 days of fasting, where you eat regularly for five days of the week, then take in just 500-600 calories/day for the other two (non-consecutive) days.

So, we know it’s good for the brain….but is intermittent fasting also effective for weight loss? It can help to lose weight because it can help you to eat fewer calories, and burn more calories too. Lots of people say they have success with it…but what do the studies say?

  1. According to one review study, intermittent fasting helped people to lose 3-8% of their weight over 3-24 weeks.  In this study, people also lost 4-7% of their waist circumference (i.e., belly fat).
  2. Another study of 100 people with obesity showed that after a year, the people who fasted on alternate days lost more weight than people who didn’t change their eating pattern. But, (and here’s what is interesting) they didn’t lose any more weight than those on a calorie restricted diet. Out of the people who were to follow the intermittent fasting protocol, 38% of them dropped out.

One of the reasons people drop out of the intermittent fasting eating pattern is that it’s hard to stick with the fasting part. They eat more than the allowed level of calories when they’re supposed to be fasting. And when they finish fasting, they may overindulge due to the reaction of the appetite hormones and hunger drive while fasting. So having strong social support will be key to those intermittent periods of fasting.

Before you consider intermittent fasting, you should know it’s not for everyone. People who are underweight, or have eating disorders shouldn’t fast. Neither should women who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or are breastfeeding.

In addition, certain medical conditions can be worsened with longer periods of fasting and people taking certain medications can be prone to side effects with intermittent fasting as well. As with any eating program, checking in with you healthcare provider before getting started is also a good idea.

What about you – Have you or someone you know tried intermittent fasting? What were the results? Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe: Almond Butter Energy Bites*

granola balls

Makes about 16 energy bites

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup oats
  • ½ cup almond butter
  • 2/3 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
  • ½ cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet and dairy-free if possible)
  • ½ cup flax seeds, ground
  • 2 tbsp maca powder
  • 1/4 cup raw honey

*These are NOT kid friendly (Unless you want them with an overabundance of energy after consuming the maca…..) To make them for your kids (which I do ALL THE TIME), just remove the maca powder. Perfect granola balls that the kids love.

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir.
  2. Using a tablespoon to measure, roll into about 14-16 energy bites.
  3. Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can roll the bites to coat them in cocoa powder for a bit of extra flavour and to prevent them from being too sticky.


The Mediterranean Diet 101

Maybe you’ve heard of it and thought hmmmm, a ‘diet’ that includes wine?! Sign me up! But then never looked into it anymore. There are SO MANY health benefits that result when you subscribe to following a Mediterranean way of eating.

To begin, it’s one of the most studied lifestyles out there. It’s based on the traditional foods that people who lived around the Mediterranean Sea ate about 50 – 70 years ago. Back then, in the mid 20th century, researchers noted that people in Spain, Greece, and Italy lived longer and healthier than North Americans. And they had lower levels of heart disease, the #1 killer.

The research keeps coming in on determining what is so healthy in this part of the world and what we’re seeing is pretty impressive.

Eating a Mediterranean based diet is linked with:

  • Less risk of being overweight and obesity
  • Better blood sugar control (for diabetes and metabolic syndrome)
  • Lower risk of heart disease and stroke (and blood markers like cholesterol and triglycerides)
  • Reduced risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases
  • Fewer cancers (breast & colorectal)
  • Less premature death

Overall, it’s simply really good for you.

BREAKING NEWS: Recent research even links the Mediterranean diet to better gut microbes! This makes sense when you feed your gut, friendly, microbe-loving foods including fibre, fruit, and vegetables.

Here’s another bonus: Most people that I work with want to make changes in how they look and feel but struggle because they focus on restrictive diets that make it difficult to maintain long-term. I’ve found that many women and families who start eating a Mediterranean diet can stick with it long-term. How’s that for a healthy whole-foods health-promoting not-so-restrictive diet?

So, what are you actually eating on a Mediterranean diet…and what’s the bit about drinking wine?

It’s quite simple to follow since the Mediterranean diet is chock full of healthy whole foods. #myfavourite

Foods like:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Fish and seafood
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Herbs and spices

These foods are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats, and fibre. And they’re often eaten in social settings where the food (and the company) is enjoyed so people don’t ever have to feel like they are missing out or that they have to pack food to bring along. The other BONUS to the Mediterranean diet is that it discourages being too sedentary, eating alone, and being overly stressed…all habits that result in weight-gain and sickness.

The go-to beverage for the Mediterranean diet is water. Coffee and tea are also regularly consumed (but without the addition of lots of sugar or milk).

And YES, red wine (about 1 glass per day) is very commonly enjoyed. #canIgetanAMEN

Some foods and drinks that are eaten in moderation include:

  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Cheese and yogurt

Red meat, unfermented dairy (e.g., milk), and salt are rarely consumed, if at all.

Although this is not a restrictive way of eating, there are foods that are not consumed when eating Mediterranean. Not surprisingly, this includes many highly processed and unhealthy foods like:

  • Processed meats
  • Sauces and gravies
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages or fruit juices
  • Refined grains and oils (including hydrogenated oils)
  • Too much salt
  • Added sugars
  • Desserts

Overall, the Mediterranean diet is a very healthy way of eating. It is a whole-foods diet based on fish, olive oil, and herbs and spices and focussed on plant foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains). It is high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats, and fibre; all of which are health-boosting from your head to your heart… and the rest of your body.

Health isn’t just about what you put in your body…it encompasses body, mind and spirit. I love that the Mediterranean lifestyle incorporates regular exercise, eating with people whom you care about, and overall enjoyment of life. ALL the keys to health and happiness!

Do you think you could add or ditch certain foods to get closer to the Mediterranean diet? Do you have a favourite recipe that embodies this way of eating? I’d love to know! Add it to the comments below.

One Pan Mediterranean Cod

mediterraneancod5

photo credit: kit coastal

Ingredients:

  • 4 cod fillets
  • 1 cup Basil Leaves
  • 1/4 Lemon (juiced)
  • 1/2Garlic (clove)
  • 1/8 tsp Sea Salt
  • 2 tbsps Hemp Seeds
  • 2 tbsps Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 handfuls asparagus, ends removed
  • 1/4 cup Pitted Kalamata Olives
  • Tomato (large, quartered)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Make pesto by combining basil, lemon juice, garlic, sea salt, hemp seeds and olive oil together in a small food processor. Pulse until smooth.
  3. Lay cod on baking sheet and arrange the asparagus, olives and tomatoes on the baking dish around the fillets. Top each piece of cod with a generous spoonful of pesto.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until fish is cooked through. Divide onto plates and enjoy!

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.