What’s The Scoop on Turmeric?

I think by now most of you have heard about the amazing spice, turmeric.  The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin.  Turmeric is a popular spice similar to ginger, known for its bright yellow/orange color and is used in curry powders and mustards.  This plant grows across India and other areas of Asia and Central America and is considered an Ayurvedic medicine.  Ayurvedic medicine (or Ayurveda for short) is one of the world’s oldest holistic (whole-body) healing system.  It was developed almost 4,000 years ago for medicine in India and is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body and spirit.  Unlike traditional medicine, Ayurvedic medicine’s main goal is to promote good health, not fight disease, however treatments may be geared toward specific health issues.  Turmeric has now been studied extensively and there are more than 15,000 manuscripts published about curcumin and about 50 manuscripts are added to this collection every week, according to the National Institute of Health.  There just has to be something to this.   So why is turmeric so popular?  Because according to the majority of users, it simply works.  Its main use is for its anti-inflammatory properties.  You will find it in almost all arthritis formulas and is endorsed by the Arthritis Foundation.  The foundation recommends taking 400 – 600 mg of turmeric up to three times per day for inflammation relief.  It is also great for pain because inflammation causes pain.  Reduce inflammation, reduce the pain.  Also, some studies show that turmeric (at 800mg levels) seems to work as well as ibuprofen in people with arthritis in their knees.  Turmeric is also gaining a lot of attention for improving liver function because of its powerful antioxidant properties.  In fact, the antioxidant effect of turmeric appears to be so powerful tat it may stop your liver from being damaged by toxins.  This is great news for people who are taking strong medications long-term, which have a negative impact on their liver.  You will find turmeric (curcumin) in many liver detox products.  Turmeric has also shown to have anti-cancer properties and as a treatment for cancer.  Turmeric can hep with digestion so add it to as many foods as possible when cooking.  Not only does it add a lot of flavor, turmeric can contribute to healthy digestion due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well as healing gut permeability and gut inflammation so if you have gut issues such as IBS, learn to cook with turmeric.  You can get turmeric in your diet in a number of ways.  Add turmeric to your salad dressings, marinades, spice mixtures, eggs etc.  You can certainly get turmeric in powder or capsule form at your local health food store.

Why Not Drink Turmeric Tea (aka Turmeric Milk)?

You can make your own turmeric tea using your own recipe or you can purchase it already made at your local health food store.  There now are a number of turmeric milk powders to choose from but I have two favorites.  The first one is the “Botanica Turmeric Golden Mylk” which comes in regular and chocolate flavor and packs a whopping 2,000mg of turmeric per serving in the regular flavor and 1,000 mg in the chocolate flavor!  Its all-natural ingredients are made with cinnamon, ashwagandha (another ayurvedic ingredient), cardamom, dates, coconut, and black pepper.  They recommend that you add one teaspoon into warmed almond or soy milk.  Some may like to add a little sweetener such as stevia or honey for a little sweetness.  My second favorite is “Organic Traditions Turmeric Latte with Probiotics and Saffron”.   This powder contains dried turmeric along with a supercritical turmeric dual extract, saffron, probiotics (I billion per serving), supercritical ginger and cinnamon dual extracts in a base of coconut milk and coconut palm sugar.  This one you shouldn’t need to add any additional sweetener to it due to the coconut palm sugar.  It only has 1g carb and 1g sugar so it is great for people following a low carb/low sugar diet.  You can make a nice warm latte with either of these powders or you can add them to a smoothie.  You can even add it to your coffee!  I suggest you try it because it is by far one of the healthiest drinks you could possibly sip on.

Can Vitamin D Help You Lose Weight?

Many of us know that our bodies need vitamin D to absorb calcium and promote bone growth.  Too little vitamin D results in soft bones in children, known as rickets, and fragile bones in adults.  Vitamin D is needed for many important functions in the body other than building strong bones such as strengthening the immune system, protecting us from cold and flu season.  Vitamin D also plays a major role in the life cycle of human cells.  A deficiency of this important vitamin could result in health problems such as depression, weight gain, cancers, and heart disease.  Vitamin D is so important that your body makes it by itself through exposure to the sun however if you don’t expose your skin to the sun, you use a sun block when in the sun, or you have dark skin, you may be at risk of low levels of vitamin D.  You can however get vitamin D from some foods such as fatty fish (sardines, mackerel, salmon, tuna), beef liver, cheese, egg yolks, and some foods fortified with vitamin D such as some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk and cereals.  You can also take vitamin D in capsule or liquid drops which ensures you are getting enough.

Did you know that getting in an adequate amount of vitamin D can help you lose weight?  Recently, researchers from Canada found that people with higher levels of vitamin D also have lower levels of body fat.  The connection isn’t a coincidence.  Vitamin D helps you feel fuller because it releases more leptin, which I have discussed in my past blogs.  Leptin is a hormone made by the fat cells that is essential to weight loss for a number of reasons.  It controls appetite and food intake so we don’t overeat and plays an important role in controlling body weight.  Vitamin D also helps you store less fat by decreasing parathyroid hormone, which makes you hold onto fat.  Best of all, vitamin D literally burns more fat by reducing the production of the stress hormone ‘cortisol’.  Remember that when our cortisol levels are high, it makes the body think you are in a fight or flight situation and when that happens, the body automatically stores fat because it needs to store energy (fat) as it doesn’t know how long you’re going to fight or run for.  You will need at least 3,000IU to 4,000IU per day if you want to see best results.

How Has Canada Food Guide Changed and Has it Helped Us?

Did you know that Canada’s Food Guide no longer includes how many servings of different foods to include daily, but urges people to eat more of some things and less of others?  They say to eat more fruits and vegetables and less meat.  The iconic rainbow of the Canada’s Food Guide recommended eating 4-10 servings of vegetables (1/2 cup serving size) has now changed to a ‘plate’, half of which is now fruits and vegetables.  One quarter of the ‘plate’ should include whole grains like pasta and rice and the other quarter should be filled with protein, preferably plant-based like nuts, tofu, lentils or beans.  They recommend plant-based proteins in order to increase fiber intake and lower intake of processed meats and saturated fats (to reduce risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and colon cancer).  Missing on this new ‘plate’ are the ‘milk and alternatives’ food group which may reduce key sources of many nutrients that many of us fall short of.  Although dairy products are not shown on the ‘plate’ they do say that you can include low-fat dairy products like milk and cheese as a protein source.  Where do fats fit in all of this?

There are no fats showing on the new ‘plate’ however they say that choosing foods that contain mostly healthy fats are the way to get your fats into your diet and are recommended such as nuts, seeds, avocado, fatty fish, vegetable oils and soft margarine.  Soft margarine????  Really?  So, I supposed they are not opposed to partially hydrogenated fats which are essentially trans-fats and are used in most soft margarine.  They do not recommend saturated fats such as fatty meats, high fat dairy products and oils such as coconut oil (old school thinking).  When preparing foods, they recommend using healthy oils such as olive, flax seed, safflower, sunflower, soybean, peanut, sesame, canola and corn oil.  OK, so we know that saturated fats have been given a bad wrap in recent history as being bad for our health, particularly heart health.  Most of this advice is backed by flawed, incomplete scientific studies that ignore the principles of the ketogenic diet which we now have numerous scientific data to back this diet up, and more keep coming.  Also, a lot of the old research that condemns saturated fats failed to consider or take into account the high consumption of carbohydrates alongside the fat intake of the research subjects.  Of course, when you mix high fat with high amounts of carbohydrates, you are just asking for trouble.

I know it’s hard to change your thoughts on what we have been ‘trained’ to believe over the past number of years but if what they say is true in terms of better health, why is obesity a major epidemic right now, especially among children?  We have a lot of scientific data that shows that people who are obese have a greater risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer ad premature mortality than a normal weight person.  This alone has been estimated to cost our Canadian economy by approximately $4.6 BILLION, which is an increase of about 19% from 2000.  So where is the disconnect?  At the same time, we are now gathering so much evidence that the low-carb and keto diet are much healthier for you mainly because you are drastically reducing your sugar intake.  Remember EVERYTHING with the exception of meat and fat is sugar.  ALL carbohydrates (simple and complex) and ALL other foods break down into glucose.  I believe, as many health professionals believe, that sugar is the culprit to ill health.

Ok, so we know that sugary foods such as sugary drinks, donuts, cakes and candy are bad for you but keep in mind, as much as these are very high-sugar foods, they are still bad because it’s sugar.  How does sugar affect our health?  Did you know that an abundance of sugar may cause your liver to become resistant to insulin, which helps turn sugar in your bloodstream into energy?  This means your body isn’t able to control your blood sugar levels as well which can cause type 2 diabetes.  When you eat excess sugar, the extra insulin in your bloodstream can affect your arteries causing the walls to grow faster than normal and get tense which adds stress to your heart and over time, damage to the heart which can lead to heart disease.  Sugar creates a surge of dopamine in your brain (the feel-good hormone) and your brain starts to need more and more sugar to get that same feeling of pleasure creating more and more sugar cravings that are hard to ignore, causing you to eat more.  Eating something high in sugar can give you a quick burst of energy aka ‘sugar high’ by raising your blood sugar levels fast.  However, when your levels drop as your cells absorb the sugar, you may get the ‘sugar crash’ which makes you feel jittery and anxious.  Studies show that a high sugar intake is linked to a greater risk of depression.  Sugar also causes inflammation in the body which is NOT a good thing!  I could go on…

Conclusion?  Canada’s Food Guide is predominantly sugar in one form or another.  Think about it…half of your ‘plate is fruits and vegetables (sugar), one quarter of the ‘plate’ is grains (sugar) and the other quarter of the ‘plate’ is protein which they recommend plant-based proteins (sugar again).  I would like to know what they based their changes on for the new ‘plate’ over their ‘rainbow’ guide (which wasn’t any better).  According to The University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine “Canada’s Food Guide needs a facelift.  The blueprint that informs our relationship with food fails to help people make the heathiest choices.  In the midst of an obesity crisis that threatens our health and our health care system, this document is obesogenic.  We need to do better.”  I agree.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this…

Happy Valentine’s Day! Bring on the Chocolate! Wait…is chocolate ok?

Valentine’s Day allows you permission to eat chocolate right?  Right!  And, chocolate is actually good for you, depending what type of chocolate you’re eating so, you can eat it guilt free.  Whew…  Chocolate got a bad rap due to it’s high calorie and fat content and its link to obesity, diabetes, acne and heart disease but recent studies show that chocolate actually has many health benefits.  This is due to cocoa, the key ingredient in chocolate.  Cacao contains biologically active ‘phenolic’ compounds, giving it a very high antioxidant profile.  Chocolate’s antioxidant potential may have a range of health benefits. The higher the cocoa content, (as in dark chocolate) the more benefits there are. Dark chocolate may also contain less fat and sugar, but it is important to check the label.  Look for dark chocolate with no less than 70% cacao but getting closer to 90% is even better.  Cacao can have a strong bitter taste so the higher the cacao content the more bitter it may be.  OR…you can make your own chocolate!  I have posted my chocolate recipe before but since it is Valentine’s Day, I thought I would post it again.  This is the yummiest, healthiest chocolate you could possibly eat and there are so many variations in making it to suite your taste buds.  So here is the basic recipe and some great ways to spice it up!  Go ahead and enjoy your chocolate, without the guilt!

KETO CHOCOLATE RECIPE:  

1 cup cacao powder

½ cup melted coconut oil

(This is the basic recipe but if you add the powders and other ingredients you will need to add more coconut oil)

½ cup powdered peanut butter

3 heaping Tbls greens powder (to make it even healthier)

3 Tbls phytoberry (this is what I use to sweeten it, if you don’t use this you can add stevia or xylitol or anything to taste)

½ cup Hemp seeds

Crushed nuts of your choice

½ tsp Cinnamon

½ tsp Cayenne (I add a bit more as it gives it a nice kick)

1/2 tsp salt (optional)

You can basically add anything you want….like fruit but it makes it chewy.

Melt the coconut oil, add the cacao powder and mix all ingredients together.

I put them in ice cube trays but you can pour it on wax or parchment paper on a cookie sheet

Freeze until firm and store in fridge or freezer as the coconut oil will melt if you don’t.

Thought:  Since it is Valentine’s day you can use a cookie cutter in the shape of a heart or buy a heart shaped ice cube tray and pour the chocolate in them to have heart shaped chocolates.

Top 10 Things to Keep in Mind When Grocery Shopping on a Keto and Low Carb Diet

Buying “Fake” food is a big no-no when grocery shopping.  I’m sure you’ve heard that you should stick to the parameter of the store.  It is in the center shelves that carry the pre-packaged foods.  Real food has only one ingredient.  Examples are eggs, fruits, vegetables, meat, butter, cheese and oils.  Heavily processed foods are fake foods, heavily processed.  These are the foods that are typically full of sugar, starch and bad fats and should be avoided at all costs.  To avoid these fake foods, know some of the rules:

  1. Don’t buy foods that say anything like cereal, cake, cookie, bread, cracker or chips, even if it touts they are low carb as they are often full of fake ingredients like starch, artificial sweeteners and unknown additives.
  2. Not all packaged foods are fake but how do you know? Look for products with the fewest ingredients such as coleslaw, eggs, cheese, nut butters etc.  Even though they are packaged, they are healthy and safe.
  3. Be sure to check the NET carb amounts. Remember:  Take total carbs and subtract the fiber (and sugar alcohols if there is any).  If total carbs is 10, and fiber is 7 then the NET carb count is 3.  This is the amount of carbs that have a glycemic response.  Fiber has no glycemic response so you subtract it.  Be careful with the serving size when reading labels.  If you are calculating the NET carbs on a prepackaged item, look for the serving size.  One item which looks like it is one serving can actually be for 2-4 servings so you need to calculate NET carbs PER SERVING.
  4. Buy low carb vegetables, not the starchy ones. The rule of thumb is to stick to vegetables that grow above ground and avoid ones that grow below ground.  Stick to green leafy vegetables, asparagus, avocado and zucchini.  Other good choices are broccoli, cauliflower, green beans and brussels sprouts but these vegetables when eaten in excess can take you out of ketosis so be careful.  Avoid vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, onions and beet root.
  5. Buy less fruit, if any. Fruit is very high in carbs and will take you out of ketosis very quickly so there are really no fruits good for a keto diet.  If you MUST eat fruit stick to raspberries and blackberries.  Lemons and limes in small amounts in your water are fine too.
  6. Buy fewer nuts. Nuts are keto friendly in small amounts but the problem is that it is too easy to overeat them which can take you out of ketosis.
  7. Be careful with yogurt. Most yogurts, even Greek yogurt are high in carbs and will take you out of ketosis.
  8. Avoid anything that contains fructose, corn syrup and sugar…any kind of sugar. Anything that ends with “ose” is sugar such as fructose, glucose, lactose etc.  Avoid sugars such as syrup, malt or cane sugar, honey, dried fruit and fruit juice concentrates.
  9. Avoid grains. Most of the starch in our diets come from grains.  Wheat and corn are the main ones, but any kind of grain (and flours) add loads of carbs in our diet.  Avoid rice and all bread products.
  10. Eat good fats abundantly but avoid bad fats at all costs.  These would include hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats (trans fats), margarine, shortening and processed vegetable oils such as corn, canola, cottonseed, safflower and soybean oils.

20 Ways to Get More Fat in Your Keto Diet

If you’re on the keto diet (not just low carb), you have to eat a lot of good fats.  Whenever I talk to people about this diet they are concerned with the amount of fat you have to eat, however keep in mind that the fats you’re eating are healthy fats AND because you are starving your body of carbs, the fats you eat will be burned for energy and you will be producing ketones.  I find it a little hard to get enough fats in my diet, so I listed 20 ways to get more fats in your daily diet.  Here they are:

  1. Cook your foods in fats like butter or coconut oil.
  2. Top your meals with oils such as olive oil, coconut oil or MCT oil
  3. Add shredded cheddar cheese or other full fat cheese to your meals
  4. Add butter or coconut oil to your steamed veggies
  5. Eat fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel or herring
  6. Add Béarnaise sauce or Hollandaise sauce to meats or eggs
  7. Snack on a handful of macadamia nuts (or pecans and brazil) Be careful of other nuts which are higher in fat
  8. Snack on olives
  9. Snack on pork rinds
  10. Have an avocado with your meals
  11. If you like chocolate, make your own with cocao powder and coconut oil (my recipe for chocolate is in one of my earlier blogs)
  12. Make fat bombs (recipe in my earlier blog)
  13. Make sugar free desserts with cream cheese. There are many recipes for keto desserts on the internet
  14. Make a veggie dip with full fat sour cream and full fat mayo
  15. Have bacon and eggs for breakfast (without the toast) or a cheese omelette with bacon
  16. Add bacon to your salads and other dishes
  17. Add butter, cream or coconut oil to coffee
  18. Make high fat smoothies with cream or coconut milk and add MCT oil
  19. Use coconut milk as often as possible in your dishes
  20. Have a tablespoon of MCT oil with each meal

Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself

There is a low carb and gluten free alternative to pretty much every food you want, even junk food!  I have made low carb mashed potatoes, rice and pizza with cauliflower and my husband and family loves them all.  I have hamburgers made with almond flour and I even bring my own buns to a restaurant when I feel like a hamburger with a bun and not just lettuce.  I have the most moist banana bread and cheesecake or cookies, all low carb and gluten free.  My point is, don’t give up your favorite foods.  Take some time one day per week (or less) and make those buns or bread you want, pizza and whatever you crave.  It’s just a matter of not being lazy and preparing foods ahead of time.  You can do it!  I have posted all of my recipes on my blog so just scroll down to find them.  One of my favorite places to get recipes is on divalicious.com but there are so many sites that post recipes that are keto friendly and gluten free.