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.

Can You ‘Spot Reduce’ When Trying to Lose Weight?

When people ask me what body shape I have, I always say ‘big’ but in all honesty, I have to admit I am apple shaped like the rest of my family.  There are basically four different body shapes (apple, pear, rectangle and inverted triangle) but we are going to focus on apple and pear shapes.  Apple-shaped people carry most of their fat around the abdomen and for some time have been thought to be more at risk for conditions such as heart disease and diabetes than the pear-shaped person because their fat is stored around all of the organs.  Pear-shaped people carry their extra weight in the hips, buttocks, and thighs.  Is your shape hereditary?  The answer is ‘yes’, genetics is the most important determinant for where fat is stored.  Chances are high that your body shape is similar to one of your parents.  Gender and age are also part of the equation where men tend to carry more weight around their midsection and women tend to have more fat around the hips and thighs.  Hereditary factors may play a role in your total body weight not only due to genes but also eating habits.  If your parents are overweight and have an unhealthy diet, chances are you were fed an unhealthy diet growing up which is why you may be overweight as well.  We all know some people who have a tiny upper body, small waist and then bulge at the bottom, or the person who has the ‘pregnant’ belly and skinny little legs and no bum.  I have had people ask me numerous times if they can ‘spot reduce’ meaning can they lose weight JUST in their hips and thighs or wherever…  I’ve heard many women who are pear-shaped and are trying to lose weight in their lower body only to find that their boobs and waist get smaller which is the last place they needed to lose weight.

So, can you ‘spot reduce’?  The theory of spot reduction, or losing weight in a targeted area only, has been promoted in the health and fitness world for some time but there’s really not a lot of evidence to support it.  An example of spot reducing is doing sit-ups in an effort to reduce your belly weight.  To know if spot reducing is possible, one must understand how fat loss works.  The fat in your cells is found in the form of triglycerides which can be broken down later for the body to use for energy.  Before they can be burned for energy, they must be broken down into smaller fats called free fatty acids and glycerol.  Once they are broken down, they enter the bloodstream and then, during exercise, they can be used for fuel.  It is important to note that the ‘fuel’ you are burning come from the whole body, not specifically from the area that is being exercised.  Having said that, if you are doing sit-ups to burn belly fat, you are not just burning fat from the belly however, you are strengthening the muscles of the abdomen but you just can’t see it due to the fat on top of the abdomen.  My husband says he has a washboard stomach but there’s a load of laundry in the washer (ha ha).  So, whether you are apple-shaped or pear-shaped, you cannot lose weight only in a specific desired area of the body.  When you lose weight, chances are you will likely be the same shape, only smaller.

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.

Have You Heard of the Keto Flu?

The Keto flu is the symptoms of withdrawing from carbs and a natural reaction to entering ketosis.  Your body goes through changes when it switches from burning glucose to burning fat.  These withdrawal symptoms include dizziness, drowsiness, muscle aches, nausea, diarrhea or constipation, brain fog, sugar cravings and irritability.

All of these symptoms are a completely natural reaction to the changes your body is facing.  Keto flu symptoms usually occur within the first day or two of starting a ketogenic diet, and the severity and length of symptoms vary per person. Some people may have no symptoms at all, while others could experience several for up to a week or two.  Either way, the symptoms shouldn’t last more than a couple weeks and should go away once your body is adapted to burning fat for fuel.

Can I Avoid the Keto Flu?

You can avoid the keto flu by doing a few things.

  • Stay hydrated: Carbs usually help your body hold water so when you are not eating carbs, you lose water. Also, since you will be losing a lot of fat, the cells in your body will start replacing that fat with water, which is another reason why drinking a lot of water is extremely important.
  • Replenish electrolytes: An electrolyte (magnesium, potassium & sodium) imbalance can cause flu like symptoms. You can avoid this simply by taking a daily multi vitamin and mineral supplement
  • Eat more fats: MCT oil is the best fat to get more of in your daily diet.  You can pour it over your steamed veggies, make a vinaigrette dressing, add it to your shakes or simply take a shot of it with every meal.  Start off with a smaller amount of MCT oil as too much at once will give you gas and diarrhea
  • Exercise more and meditate
  • Get plenty of rest and sleep

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