Gluten intolerance appears largely undiagnosed in Canada

Research on a large sample of Canadians suggests that most people with celiac disease don’t know they have it.

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Ahmed El-Sohemy, a professor of Nutritional Science at the University of Toronto, and his colleagues studied the bloodwork of almost 3,000 Canadians and found that one in 114 (or almost one per cent) had elevated antibodies that indicate they suffered from celiac disease, which causes gastric distress and other symptoms. However, the vast majority, almost 90%, were unaware they had the disease. The data was collected about a decade ago, just before public awareness about the potential problems with gluten skyrocketed. The study, published in the journal BMJ Open, is the first to screen for celiac antibodies in a Canadian population. It confirms previous research suggesting that Caucasians are more susceptible to celiac disease than other ethnocultural groups. Although the number of South and East Asians screened in the Canadian study was small, none were found to have the disease. Intriguingly, though, a genetic variant that puts people at high risk for celiac disease was almost as high in the South Asian samples as the Caucasian ones, suggesting that other factors could play a role in who goes on to develop the disease.

“This hopefully should just raise awareness that despite the gluten-free craze there are a lot of people who still don’t know they have celiac disease,” says El-Sohemy. “It’s important for people to understand that celiac disease is not a single clear symptom — it manifests itself in different ways. Symptoms could be fatigue, gastro-intestinal, or other problems. These symptoms are so diverse that doctors have a difficult time pinpointing the cause. Gluten intolerance is not usually the first thing that comes to their mind.”

Adding to the diagnostic confusion, reactions to gluten are not often immediate and acute, El-Sohemy says. “It’s not like lactose where you feel bad within a day after consuming it. Gluten causes damage to the intestinal lining, which results in malabsorption of vitamins and other nutrients, and the effects of those nutrient deficiencies are quite varied.” El-Sohemy believes people with a genetic susceptibility to celiac disease should consider blood tests to determine whether they have the disease if they present with any of the disease symptoms. His analysis of blood samples from Canadians of South Asian heritage suggests that genetic predisposition is only one piece of the celiac puzzle. Future research may focus on the timing of exposure to gluten as well as the role of gut bacteria.

As for why so many non-celiac sufferers feel better after giving up gluten, El-Sohemy speculates the real issue is “because they stopped eating heaping servings of pasta, white bread and other sources of processed carbohydrates.”

Adapted from: Joseph Jamnik, Christopher R Villa, Sirbarinder Bryn Dhir, David J A Jenkins, Ahmed El-Sohemy. Prevalence of positive coeliac disease serology and HLA risk genotypes in a multiethnic population of adults in Canada: a cross-sectional study. BMJ Open, 2017; 7 (10): bmjopen-2017-017678 DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-017678

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Let your heart be the guide when grocery shopping! Look for foods with the American Heart Association’s trusted Heart-Check mark to make smarter food choices.

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Guilt-Free Ice Cream Is Trending, but Is It Actually Healthy?

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In a perfect world, ice cream would have the same nutritional properties as broccoli. However, this isn’t a perfect world, and ice creams marketed as “zero guilt” or “healthy” aren’t exactly selling the right message. Alongside a $2 billion valuation, Halo Top’s been getting all of the consumer attention lately, outselling legends, such as Ben & Jerry’s this summer. It doesn’t hurt that Halo Top’s trendy packaging speaks to the eye. Clean lines, a touch of color, and unique, flashy tops egg on customers to add this yummy goodness to their grocery cart.

This brand, which didn’t exist before 2012, isn’t the only ice cream claiming to be healthy. Others, such as Arctic Freeze, Thrive, Wink, and Enlightened have slick marketing campaigns that target everyone from athletes to health nuts. Personally, I do not like the flavors of Artic Zero. I have tried three flavors and was completely dissatisifed with them all….I stopped purchasing after the third one. No one’s denying Halo Top’s rise to fame. However, we might want to question its validity, and that of other trendy ice creams, as a “health” food.

The biggest difference between real ice cream and ‘healthy’ ones

Halo Top and Enlightened both use real cows milk, while others, such as Arctic Zero and Wink must be labeled a “frozen dessert” because of its minimal dairy content. A product has to have a minimum of 10% dairy fat to be labeled ice cream, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Halo Top also contains the sugar alcohol erythritol and stevia. These sugar substitutes are considered “safe” options with minimal health impact when consumed in moderation (~50 grams/day). However, eating an entire carton of Halo Top as advertised means consuming 45 grams of sugar.

Other “healthy” frozen dessert brands contain alternative sweeteners, which have been shown to cause side effects, such as changes to gut bacteria, increased risk for cancer, obesity, diabetes, and an increase in sugar cravings. An Italian study conducted in 2005 revealed that aspartame, the most common artificial sweetener, resulted in diagnoses of lymphomas, leukemia, and tumors in rats.

Ice cream will never be a health food

According to Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CTL, a nutrition expert who’s worked with Arctic Zero and is developing recipes for Halo Top, the FDA is currently in the process of “redefining the legal definition surrounding the term healthy.” That means brands claiming to sell healthy products, when they’re actually filled with artificial ingredients, will be restricted. What does that mean for these frozen desserts or “healthy” low-calorie ice creams that are filled with artificial or highly processed ingredients? Many will have to re-image their marketing campaigns that focus on guilt-free, whole pint consumption because it’s “healthy.”

The side effects of eating healthy ice cream

These ice creams may be marketed as healthier, but if you went ahead and followed their guilt-free motto (because who stops eating at one serving?), your gut health might be in for a surprise.

1. Higher risk for obesity from alternative sweeteners

While Halo Top doesn’t have artificial sweeteners, many other brands that advertise themselves as “sugar-free” may. Ingredients, such as sucralose, aspartame, and acesulfame potassium may confuse the brain and cause people to eat more. They also eventually cause upset stomachs, nausea, and diarrhea. “These ingredients have demonstrated to exhibit undesirable effects on the gut microbiota and can cause stomach pain, loose bowels, or diarrhea in some individuals,” says Shaw.

On the other hand, alternative sweeteners aren’t free from the link to obesity, either. Research suggests that sweetener alternatives, including stevia, do little for weight loss. Another 2017 study looked at 264 college freshmen and found an association between erythritol and weight gain. Ultimately, frozen dessert brands that suggest a pint is the “ultimate single serve” aren’t really promoting a healthy lifestyle. They’re just promoting themselves.

2. Bloating, constipation, or diarrhea

Though not considered artificial, sugar substitutes, such as erythritol, an ingredient found in Halo Top and Enlightened, can cause nausea when in doses above 50 grams/day, since your body doesn’t carry the enzymes to break it down. Most erythritol eventually exits via urine. Most of these frozen desserts offer themselves as a “healthy” alternative to ice cream because of their high protein content. However, if you indulged in an entire pint, you’d be consuming 20 grams of fiber, which is more than half your daily fiber intake and more than likely, you are not deficient in protein. The result? A wildly upset stomach.

For many of these frozen desserts, labeling themselves different and a “perfectly guiltless pleasure” is due in part to its prebiotic fiber. Prebiotics are a dietary fiber that help produce nutrients for digestion. Vegetables, such as garlic, leeks, and onions are all naturally high in prebiotic fibers. Many of these frozen desserts promote their natural ingredients; among them are GMO-free fiber ingredients, such as chicory root or organic agave inulin.

The problem is that there’s no real health reason why prebiotic fibers are added to these treats. Instead, they’re added to maintain the creamy texture of ice cream, since erythritol has an inclination to form ice crystals. So, it’s not really that these additions are healthy, it’s just another platform these brands can use to market themselves. In the end, it’s better to get your fiber from whole foods rather than ice cream, anyway.

3. Cost on your wallet

With all these ingredient facts in mind, you might not actually be getting your scoop’s worth. “Healthy” ice creams cost about four to five times more than a Target-branded ice cream and contain far more artificial and processed ingredients. If you’re able to stick to portion size, buy traditional, natural ice cream, even the boutique stuff from your local creamery (for those who can tolerate dairy). They’re made with just a handful of ingredients and could be better for your wallet and gut.

Health comes down to the serving size

Everyone is human, and even registered dietitians and nutritionists (RDNs) have been known to indulge, says Shaw (We definitely are not perfect!). Rather than focus on consuming products labeled “healthy” but are highly processed, turn to wholesome, original ingredients that you love and recognize. Just remember to practice moderation! “Healthy is about balance and learning to appreciate the facts,” says Shaw. “All foods can fit in a balanced diet,” she adds.

As a reminder: Even nutrient-rich fresh fruits and vegetables can cause stomach pain and bloating when consumed in excess. Knowing your limits and serving size can go a long way. Halo Top provides 60 calories per 1/2-cup serving, compared to traditional ice creams and custards that provide 130 to 250 calories per 1/2-cup serving. While this is undoubtedly appealing to many customers, it’s still a processed food product, despite its simpler ingredient list and safer sugar substitutes.

Most experts agree to just go for traditional ice cream with minimally processed ingredients and limit artificial sweeteners, stabilizers, and gums. They also agree to stop when you hit a serving, not the bottom. Minimizing distractions and mindfully eating any meal or dessert, whether it’s marketed as healthy or not, is the best way to maximize pleasure with smaller portions and avoid the habit of overeating.

 

Adapted from: Meaghan Clark Tiernan and medically reviewed by Natalie Butler, RD, LD

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Vegetables and fruits are loaded with nutrients and fiber, and typically low in calories and sodium. Fresh, frozen or canned produce can all be healthy choices, but compare food labels and choose wisely.

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Healthy bacteria in yogurt may reduce lupus symptoms in mice + Charles Stanley’s devotion for kids

 

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Researchers at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech have released findings that explain how a type of healthy bacteria in yogurt and other dairy products might reduce disease symptoms in certain patients with lupus. Xin Luo, assistant professor of immunology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, and her colleagues expanded upon earlier research linking a lack of Lactobacillus, which produces lactic acid and is an important part of gut microbiota in both humans and mice, and autoimmune diseases such as lupus. The new research describes the mechanism behind this association. “In our 2014 paper, we found that mice with lupus had decreased amounts of Lactobacillus, which led to our hypothesis that adding this bacteria could ameliorate disease symptoms,” said Luo, who added that she and her colleagues also found that the mice had a “leaky gut,” a condition that affects the intestinal lining. “Probiotics, such as Lactobacillus, work by patching up and reversing the leaky gut.”

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can cause chronic fatigue, joint pain, rash, fever, renal failure, and even death. It affects an estimated 3 million people in the United States. Luo’s recent study deals with lupus nephritis, or inflammation of the kidney that is caused by lupus. According to the National Resource Center on Lupus, lupus nephritis usually develops within the first five years after lupus symptoms start, and as many as 40 percent of all people with lupus, and up to two-thirds of children with the disease, will develop kidney complications.

“In addition, we found that the addition of Lactobacillus to the diet only affected female mice and not males,” said Luo, who explained that lupus is 10 times more prevalent in females than in males. “We think that testosterone is suppressing the effect of the healthy bacteria. Before our study, researchers had never looked at male hormones suppressing the probiotic effect before.” The research team included Qinghui Mu, a Ph.D. student in the biomedical and veterinary sciences program and recent recipient of an American Association of Immunologists Careers in Immunology Fellowship, and S. Ansar Ahmed, professor of immunology and associate dean of research and graduate studies at the veterinary college. Ahmed is also one of the leading authorities on the effect of hormones on lupus and other autoimmune disorders.

Although the research was limited to mice with lupus and kidney inflammation, and more work would need to be done to determine whether Lactobacillus has the same effect in humans, Luo emphasized that yogurt and probiotic supplements are considered safe. “If a lupus patient is female and also has kidney inflammation, there would be no harm in adding yogurt or a probiotic supplement to the diet,” she said. Now that researchers have identified the “good” bacteria that affects the severity of lupus, they hope to turn their attention to other areas of research. “The next question is, ‘Are there bad bacteria that can be detrimental to the disease?’ ” Luo asked. “If that can be found, we can target the bad bacteria and remove them to ameliorate disease symptoms.”

The paper, “Control of lupus nephritis by changes of gut microbiota,” was published in the July 2017 issue of the journal Microbiome and is available online.

Adapted from: Qinghui Mu, Husen Zhang, Xiaofeng Liao, Kaisen Lin, Hualan Liu, Michael R. Edwards, S. Ansar Ahmed, Ruoxi Yuan, Liwu Li, Thomas E. Cecere, David B. Branson, Jay L. Kirby, Poorna Goswami, Caroline M. Leeth, Kaitlin A. Read, Kenneth J. Oestreich, Miranda D. Vieson, Christopher M. Reilly, Xin M. Luo. Control of lupus nephritis by changes of gut microbiota. Microbiome, 2017; 5 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s40168-017-0300-8

 

† Charles Stanley’s devotion for kids: Every-Day-With Jesus 

 

Nutrition Tip of the Day

For snack time, keep fresh fruit and pre-chopped or no-chop veggies on hand! Your family is more likely to grab fruits and vegetables over other items if they’re readily available.

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Why You Need Fermented Foods in Your Fridge, Stat!

Be honest… when’s the last time you ate sauerkraut? Unless you’ve been firing up brauts on the barbecue this holiday season, you probably haven’t eaten it recently. So, what’s the scoop with fermented foods? 

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Fermented foods – like kraut – are officially “a thing,” and here’s why. The hard reality is many of the processed foods we eat today have half the nutritional value of their raw forms. You could opt to get your nutrients by chowing down on raw veggies, which isn’t a bad option; however, there are huge health benefits to eating them fermented. Simply put, it all comes down to the amount of healthy bacteria found in fermented food. So, check out the details below and how to incorporate these yummies into your diet.

Your gut with thank you, your taste buds will say “whoa, wow!” and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy and delicious fermented foods are.

So, why all the hype about fermented foods?

Fermentation is nothing new. The Ancient Greeks wrote about the health benefits of fermented cabbage, and the Romans found that cabbage fermented in acid prevented and treated intestinal infections. The renewed interest today comes, in large part, from an increased awareness that our eating habits (i.e. decades of processed foods) have damaged the balance of bacteria in our guts. Our digestive systems have paid the price for our dietary choices and at least part of the answer to fixing the problem lies in probiotics.

There are plenty of mass-produced probiotic supplements available now, but fermented foods actually offer a cheaper and tastier way to balance the “good bacteria” in your stomach. Naturally incorporating probiotics into your diet not only promotes healthy digestion but may also prevent a host of illnesses. Now that’s a win-win!

Bacteria: The good, the bad, the ugly

Fermentation 101: When a food is fermented, it’s placed in a contained environment and exposed to healthy lactic-acid producing bacteria. By ingesting these good bacteria, you’re helping create a more acidic environment in your stomach, which aids in digestion and the production of more good enzymes. The result is a healthier digestive tract. If you’re facing any of the health problems listed below, you probably need some good bacteria in your tummy….and most of us do!

Constipation

If you’re finding it hard to digest certain foods, or maybe anything at all, you probably don’t have enough acetylcholine in your bloodstream. Acety-what?? In science speak, acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that aids in sending out nerve impulses. It can increase the movement and responsiveness of the stomach which aids in digestion and relieves constipation. Lucky for you, acetylcholine is naturally produced in the fermenting process and can be ingested through any fermented food.

Diabetes

The good bacteria found in fermented food may also increase pancreatic function. In addition, because organic matter that sits in lactic acid is partially digested already, vegetables and other fermented treats are easier for your body to process and put less strain on your pancreas; something no other food can do.

Weakened Immune System

If you find you’re getting sick all the time, you might be able to help your body combat the bad bacteria it’s exposed to through fermented foods. We still don’t know why many pathogens are sensitive to acidic environments, or what exactly fermented foods contain that combat the bad bacteria… but they’re doing something right.

DIY fermented foods

Alright, so you are now convinced of the health benefits, but how about another great benefit: Cost. Fermented foods are typically cheap to make and you can do a lot of it at home!

A few ideas to inspire you:

  • Sauerkraut is easily made with sliced cabbage, salt, and caraway seeds. Grab a mason jar and make your own sauerkraut tonight. If you’re looking to spice things up, many gourmet dishes feature kraut in them as well!
  • Kimchi is a variety of kraut that’s deliciously spicy. Relying on lacto-fermentation and a whole lot of chili, kimchi is the perfect way to dress up traditional kraut.
  • Pickled vegetables of any kind can be made with some whey protein, sea salt, dill, and garlic for taste. Ordinarily vinegar would be used to can vegetables, but to get the full probiotic potential of your fermented vegetables, rely on the bacteria on the surface of their skin to do the work for you.
  • Kombucha is a traditional fermented drink that’s easy to make at home, and even possible to carbonate! If you would prefer drinking your probiotics, fermenting milk and juices may be more up your alley. There’s a whole world of fermented drinks available to you so go crazy!
  • Fermented cranberry sauce may sound a little unconventional, but it’s an easy way to incorporate some probiotics into dinner or any holiday meal.

Fermented foods incorporate numerous benefits into your diet, while also supporting a healthy immune system and digestive tract. Cheaper than over-the-counter probiotics, homemade slaws, krauts, and pickles are an easier, more natural way to sustain your body and make gourmet food from home. Go kraut crazy!

Adapted by: Corinne Keating; medically reviewed by Natalie Olsen, RD, LD, ACSM EP-C

Nutrition Tip of the Day

When you cook at home you have more control over ingredients and portion sizes. Aim to cook at home more often than eating out!

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Remarkable Benefits of Cinnamon (& 12 Ways to Use It More) + Sneak Peek at “Read it Before you Eat it”

Practically everyone has cinnamon in their spice drawer but some may not know all of its many health benefits and uses. This pleasant-tasting herb has a long history both in natural medicine and as a culinary favorite.

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Cinnamon: A Spice for the Ages

From the Old Testament to the ancient Egyptians, many ancient cultures used cinnamon for anointing, preservation, and consumption. Cinnamon was so highly prized in the Middle Ages it was considered a luxury commodity and a status symbol. At one time, it was even more valuable than gold! Ancient Chinese medicine has long relied on this spice as a warming and cleansing agent to treat the heart, lung, and bladder. (Chinese medicine uses Guizhi, made from the twigs of the cinnamon tree as opposed to the familiar cassia spice made from the inner bark.)

Today, this spice still enjoys incredible popularity and resides in just about every spice cabinet. Just a mention of it probably brings to mind warm, comforting images, such as freshly baked muffins, apple pie, oatmeal, or mulled apple cider. The awesome part is, it has benefits beyond being sweet and spicy!

The Many Benefits of Cinnamon

Looking at the long list of proven benefits it’s no wonder this delicious spice has such a long history of use. Cinnamon fights against digestive trouble, kidney infection, colds, flu, hypertension, and even shows promise in fighting some types of cancer.

Regulates Blood Sugar

Perhaps the most well documented benefit is cinnamon’s ability to regulate blood sugar. More study is needed as to what role the herb can play in pre-diabetic or diabetic treatment, but research shows hypoglycemic benefits from ingesting about 2 teaspoons a day.

Anti-inflammatory

Studies show that the bark of the cassia variety strongly counteracts the enzyme responsible for inflammation. Add a pinch (or two or three) to drinks, recipes, or smoothies to get more anti-inflammatory benefits.

Anti-microbial

Cinnamon bark oil is an especially effective antibacterial agent and has long been known to disinfect and preserve. It has even been shown effective against E. coli, as well as its ability to kill the bacteria responsible for tooth decay.  The store bought brand OraWellness, explains why they include cinnamon in their mouth rinse: Recent research conducted in New Zealand demonstrated that the essential oil of cinnamon has the greatest antimicrobial potency against Streptococcus mutans, the bacteria responsible for tooth decay, and Lactobacillus plantarum, one of the bacteria responsible in gum disease. The research study concluded “that there may be a role for essentials oils in the development of novel anticaries (anti cavity) treatments.”

Anti-fungal

Certain species of cinnamon are effective against fungal infections, and it has even been used to treat oral candidiasis (a common symptom in HIV patients).

Anti-viral

Cinnamomum cassia bark has been shown effective against viral respiratory illness, flu, and colds.

Antioxidant

Can we fit any more “anti” in here? Yes! Cinnamon also exhibits antioxidant influence on free radical cells. The C. zeylanicum species shows the most potent antioxidant effects, but Ceylon or the more common Cassia varieties offer these benefits as well.

Lowers Blood Pressure

Since many compounds that help with insulin and blood sugar levels also lower blood pressure, cinnamon has benefits here too. In a study with rats, regular consumption lowered systolic blood pressure in hypertensive rats fed a high-sucrose diet almost down to the normal level of the non-sucrose consuming rats.

For the Brain

Exciting new research shows that cinnamon may block a protein called tau in the brain. This is important because tau buildup is found in the brain of people with Alzheimer’s. The exact mechanism isn’t clear yet, but this may be a promising use.

Ceylon Cinnamon vs. Cassia Cinnamon

Many people do not realize that there are multiple types of this spice. The two main types are ceylon and cassia. Both are considered healthy, but it is important to know the difference when using cinnamon as a remedy. The smell and flavor in cinnamon comes largely from a compound called cinnamaldehyde. Cinnamaldehyde is responsible for many of the health benefits of cinnamon as well but the dose makes the remedy in this case. Too much cinnamaldehyde can be harmful. But not to worry, there are safe cinnamon options that do not contain high amounts of cinnamaldehyde.

Ceylon Cinnamon

Ceylon is considered “real cinnamon.” It comes from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum verum tree and grows in Sri Lanka and parts of India. It has a milder flavor than Cassia due to its lower cinnamaldehyde content. This also makes Ceylon a safer cinnamon for use as a remedy. Some also prefer Ceylon in culinary uses as well since it has a slightly milder flavor.

Cassia Cinnamon

This is the cinnamon you’ll find in most grocery stores. It comes from the Cinnamomum cassia tree and originates in China. Cassia is a cheaper variety but over 90% of its oils come from cinnamaldehyde. This makes it great for using in recipes since a little goes a long way. Many experts warn against using this variety as a remedy though due to the high cinnamaldehyde content.

Cassia also contains high levels of coumarin. This substance can cause liver damage in high amounts. In fact, the government of Denmark recently started regulating cinnamon use in bakeries to make sure that people aren’t consuming too much coumarin. Ceylon does not contain high levels of coumarin.

Is It Bad to Eat Too Much Cinnamon?

Like anything, too much of a good thing can be harmful. This is true with water and it is certainly true with this spice as well. Experts agree that culinary use is almost always safe (as long as you aren’t adding 1/4 cup to a smoothie), but there are some important cautions with using it as a remedy. Studies have looked at diabetics using up to 6 grams of cassia cinnamon a day for blood sugar management. They found improvements in fasting blood glucose and other measurements (compared to placebo) and did not report any adverse side effects.

Cassia is traditionally used in studies, probably because it is more widely available, but many experts recommend Ceylon for the benefits without the coumarin and high levels of cinnamaldehyde. That said, all the available research I found indicates that small amounts of 1-2 teaspoons a day of either type are likely safe for those without a medical condition. Of course, anyone under the care of a doctor or taking a medication should check to make sure there are no contraindications or interactions before taking large amounts of anything.

How Much Cinnamon to Eat?

Research shows that up to 6 grams per day (for adults) seems to be safe and it is recommended using only a high quality Ceylon variety and also cycling on and off for best results. This also holds true for supplements. For example, only consuming cinnamon supplements during the week and resting on the weekend to give the body a break and to not become acclimated to the supplement.

12 Ways to Use Cinnamon

So with all these benefits, how do we safely work this spice into daily life?

  1. In the Morning: Add a pinch to a cup of hot tea for a boost of energy (and sweetness) to start the day. Or, add some to your coffee!
  2. For Colds and Flu: Take up to a 1/2 teaspoon in a cup of tea with lemon juice and honey, or add it to elderberry syrup.
  3. For Coughs: This herbal cough syrup is another immune-boosting way to use cinnamon.
  4. In a Tincture: Add cinnamon to a homemade tincture to increase absorption of the herbs and improve flavor.
  5. In Fish Oil: Surprisingly, cinnamon makes a dose of fish oil taste much better (great for kids!).
  6. As a Digestive Remedy: Add a 1/2 teaspoon to water, tea, or capsule form after a meal out when you have consumed foods you normally wouldn’t eat.
  7. In Oral Products: Cinnamon’s oral health benefits are well documented (see above).
  8. In Savory/Spicy Meals: Curry and jerk seasoning blends often feature cinnamon, or try making your own.
  9. For Weight Loss: Used to soothe late night sugar cravings and boost metabolism.
  10. For Vaginal Health: Use cinnamon tea, tincture, or powder externally on vaginal infections to speed healing.
  11. As a Skin Soother: Mix some ground cinnamon with honey and apply to insect bites.
  12. In Makeup: Yup! Cinnamon is used in some DIY makeup recipes. 

Or Just as a Spice…

Of course there’s nothing wrong (and everything right) with getting this spice the traditional way in recipes, such as muffins, cobblers, and pancakes, or in drinks, such as chai tea, wassail, teas, and eggnog.

Other Uses and Precautions

Pregnant women should not use large amounts (culinary uses or under 1/2 tsp day is fine) or the essential oil as it can cause contractions. As always, check with a doctor or medical professional before using this or any other herb medicinally. There is some evidence that the coumarin content of this herb can be harmful in large doses. Ceylon cinnamon has a much, much lower amount of coumarin, making it safer to take in large doses or during pregnancy or breastfeeding. It also has a much milder taste, making it suitable for children.

Check out a preview of Read it Before you Eat it by Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Read food nutrition labels! Pick healthy foods that provide nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber but limit sodium, added sugars, saturated fat and trans fat.

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……Although it seems like it at times!

6 ‘Bad’ Carbs That Are Actually Good For You

Despite their bad rap, these carbs are good for your health and your waistline.

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Have your carbs and eat them too

Thanks to the popularity of low-carb diets, some carb-heavy foods have been unfairly blacklisted. However, there’s no need to be scared of spuds or ban bananas. Lets set the record straight, and dig in guilt-free!

Corn

Corn gets a bad rap because it’s frequently found in packaged, processed food that can be void of nutrients. However, real, straight-up corn is a healthy whole grain, points out Jessica Levinson, RD, a New York City-based dietitian. “It’s a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which promote healthy vision,” she says. Grill corn on the cob, heat up popcorn, or top a salad with fresh kernels.

Bananas

It’s bananas to think that nature’s perfect portable snack could have ever gotten labeled as bad for you, just because of its carbs and sugar content. “The fruit is a good source of vitamin B6, manganese, potassium, and fiber,” says Henderson, and when slightly unripe, bananas are also a good source of slimming resistant starch. Snack on them whole, pop them into smoothies, or even use them as a substitute for fats in baking.

Breakfast cereal

There’s no need to shun a bowlful of flakes. Many cereals are made with whole grains these days, so they can be a healthy way to start your day. Just check the label: Look for a short ingredients list with whole grains at the top and at least 3 grams of fiber and no more than 10 grams of sugar per serving.

White potatoes

We know we’re supposed to limit white bread, white rice, and white pasta. Somehow potatoes got swept up in that ban, too. “White potatoes are actually very good for you,” says Christian Henderson, RD, a New York City-based dietitian. “They’re a great source of potassium and vitamin C, and they have almost 4 grams of fiber with the skin on—15% of your recommended daily allowance.” As an alternative to the classic sour cream-slathered baked potato, try cutting potatoes into cubes, tossing them with olive oil and rosemary, and roasting until crisp.

Sourdough Bread

You don’t always have to pick whole wheat bread. Traditional sourdough is made through a process of fermentation, so it contains beneficial bacteria known as probiotics. “When these good bacteria are present in the bread-making process they help break down some of the gluten, so sourdough may actually be easier on gluten intolerant people than other gluten-containing breads,” Henderson says. “They also lower your insulin response and make some nutrients more readily available for digestion.”

Green peas

Sure, they’re higher in carbs and sugar than non-starchy vegetables, they’re even on some low carb diets’ “foods to avoid” lists. “ However, peas are a great source of phytonutrients with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity,” Henderson says. One in the spotlight is coumestrol, which has been shown to potentially protect against stomach cancer, Henderson adds. A cup of cooked green peas also boasts more than 7 grams of filling fiber. Eat them straight up or in soups or salads, or add dried peas to a trail mix.
Adapted from: Leslie Barrie
Nutrition Tip of the Day
Some fats are better for you than others! Use liquid vegetable oils such as canola, corn, olive, safflower, sesame and sunflower oils in place of butter and solid fats whenever possible.
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Good Carbs, Bad Carbs — How to Make the Right Choices

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Carbs are highly controversial these days. The dietary guidelines suggest that we get about half of our calories from carbohydrates. On the other hand, some claim that carbs cause obesity and type 2 diabetes, and that most people should be avoiding them. There are good arguments on both sides, and it appears that carbohydrate requirements depend largely on the individual. Some people do better with a lower carb intake, while others do just fine eating plenty of carbs. So lets take a detailed look at carbs, their health effects and how you can make the right choices.

What Are Carbs?

Carbs, or carbohydrates, are molecules that have carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. In nutrition, “carbs” refers to one of the three macronutrients. The other two are protein and fat. Dietary carbohydrates can be split into three main categories:

  • Sugars: Sweet, short-chain carbohydrates found in foods. Examples are glucose, fructose, galactose and sucrose.
  • Starches: Long chains of glucose molecules, which eventually get broken down into glucose in the digestive system.
  • Fiber: Humans can not digest fiber, although the bacteria in the digestive system can make use of some of them.

The main purpose of carbohydrates in the diet is to provide energy. Most carbs get broken down or transformed into glucose, which can be used as energy. Carbs can also be turned into fat (stored energy) for later use. Fiber is an exception. It does not provide energy directly, but it does feed the friendly bacteria in the digestive system. These bacteria can use the fiber to produce fatty acids that some of our cells can use as energy. Sugar alcohols are also classified as carbohydrates. They taste sweet, but usually don’t provide many calories.

Whole” vs “Refined” Carbs

Not all carbs are created equal. There are many different types of carbohydrate-containing foods, and they vary greatly in their health effects. Although carbs are often referred to as “simple” vs “complex,” some find the terms “whole” vs “refined” to make more sense. Whole carbs are unprocessed and contain the fiber found naturally in the food, while refined carbs have been processed and have had the natural fiber stripped out.

Examples of whole carbs include vegetables, whole fruit, legumes, potatoes and whole grains. These foods are generally healthy. On the other hand, refined carbs include sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices, pastries, white bread, white pasta, white rice and others. Numerous studies show that refined carbohydrate consumption is associated with health problems, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.

They tend to cause major spikes in blood sugar levels, which leads to a subsequent crash that can trigger hunger and cravings for more high-carb foods. This is the “blood sugar roller coaster” that many people are familiar with. Refined carbohydrate foods are usually also lacking in essential nutrients. In other words, they are “empty” calories. The added sugars are another story altogether, they are the absolute worst carbohydrates and linked to all sorts of chronic diseases.

However, it makes no sense to demonize all carbohydrate-containing foods because of the health effects of their processed counterparts. Whole food sources of carbohydrates are loaded with nutrients and fiber, and do not cause the same spikes and dips in blood sugar levels. Hundreds of studies on high-fiber carbohydrates, including vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains show that eating them is linked to improved metabolic health and a lower risk of disease.

Low-Carb Diets Are Great For Some People

No discussion about carbs is complete without mentioning low-carb diets. These types of diets restrict carbohydrates, while allowing plenty of protein and fat. Over 23 studies have now shown that low-carb diets are much more effective than the standard “low-fat” diet that has been recommended for the past few decades. These studies show that low-carb diets cause more weight loss and lead to greater improvement in various health markers, including HDL (the “good”) cholesterol, blood triglycerides, blood sugar, blood pressure and others.

For people who are obese, or have metabolic syndrome and/or type 2 diabetes, low-carb diets can have life-saving benefits. This should not be taken lightly, because these are currently the biggest health problems in the world, responsible for millions of deaths per year. However, just because low-carb diets are useful for weight loss and people with certain metabolic problems, they are definitely not the answer for everyone.

“Carbs” Are Not The Cause of Obesity

Restricting carbs can often (at least partly) reverse obesity. However, this does not mean that the carbs were what caused the obesity in the first place. This is actually a myth, and there is a ton of evidence against it. While it is true that added sugars and refined carbs are linked to increased obesity, the same is not true of fiber-rich, whole-food sources of carbohydrates.

Humans have been eating carbs for thousands of years, in some form or another. The obesity epidemic started around 1980, and the type 2 diabetes epidemic followed soon after. Blaming new health problems on something that we’ve been eating for a very long time simply doesn’t make sense. Keep in mind that many populations have remained in excellent health while eating a high-carb diet, such as the Okinawans, Kitavans and Asian rice eaters.

What they all had in common was that they ate real, unprocessed foods. However, populations that eat a lot of refined carbohydrates and processed foods tend to be sick and unhealthy.

Carbs Are Not “Essential,” But Many Carb-Containing Foods Are Incredibly Healthy

Many low-carbers claim that carbs are not an essential nutrient. This is technically true. The body can function without a single gram of carbohydrate in the diet. It is a myth that the brain needs 130 grams of carbohydrate per day.
When we don’t eat carbs, part of the brain can use ketones for energy, which are made out of fats.  Additionally, the body can produce the little glucose the brain needs via a process called gluconeogenesis. However, just because carbs are not “essential,” that does not mean they cannot be beneficial. Many carb-containing foods are healthy and nutritious, such as vegetables and fruits.
These foods have all sorts of beneficial compounds and provide a variety of health benefits. Although it is possible to survive even on a zero-carb diet, it is probably not an optimal choice because you’re missing out on plant foods that science has shown to be beneficial.

How to Make the Right Choices

As a general rule, carbohydrates that are in their natural, fiber-rich form are healthy, while those that have been stripped of their fiber are not. If it’s a whole, single ingredient food, then it’s probably a healthy food for most people, no matter what the carbohydrate content is. With this in mind, it is possible to categorize most carbs as either “good” or “bad,” but keep in mind that these are just general guidelines. Things are rarely ever black and white in nutrition.

“Good” Carbs:

  • Vegetables: All of them. It is best to eat a variety of vegetables every day.
  • Whole fruits: Apples, bananas, strawberries, etc.
  • Legumes: Lentils, kidney beans, peas, etc.
  • Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, etc.
  • Seeds: Chia seeds, pumpkin seeds.
  • Whole grains: Choose grains that are truly whole, as in pure oats, quinoa, brown rice, etc.
  • Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.

People who are trying to restrict carbohydrates need to be careful with the whole grains, legumes, tubers and high-sugar fruit.

“Bad” Carbs:

  • Sugary drinks: Coca cola, Pepsi, Vitaminwater, etc. Sugary drinks are some of the unhealthiest things you can put into your body.
  • Fruit juices: Unfortunately, fruit juices may have similar metabolic effects as sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • White bread: These are refined carbohydrates that are low in essential nutrients and bad for metabolic health. This applies to most commercially available breads.
  • Pastries, cookies and cakes: These tend to be very high in sugar and refined wheat.
  • Ice cream: Most types of ice cream are very high in sugar, although there are exceptions.
  • Candies and chocolates: If you’re going to eat chocolate, choose quality dark chocolate.
  • French fries and potato chips: Whole potatoes are healthy, but french fries and potato chips are not.

These foods may be fine in moderation for some people, but many will do best by avoiding them as much as possible.

Low-Carb Is Great For Some, But Others Function Best With Plenty of Carbs

There is no one-size-fits-all solution in nutrition. The “optimal” carbohydrate intake depends on numerous factors, such as age, gender, metabolic health, physical activity, food culture and personal preference. If you have a lot of weight to lose, or have health problems, such as metabolic syndrome and/or type 2 diabetes, then you are probably carbohydrate sensitive. In this case, reducing carbohydrate intake can have clear, life-saving benefits.

On the other hand, if you’re just a healthy person trying to stay healthy, then there is probably no reason for you to avoid “carbs.” Just stick to whole, single ingredient foods as much as possible. If you are naturally lean and/or highly physically active, then you may even function much better with plenty of carbs in your diet. Different strokes for different folks.

Adapted from: Kris Gunnars, BSc

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Cook someone a meal! There’s no better way to show you care than to make the effort to cook for somebody you care about.

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