Functional Foods

Article by Ashley Finkel, Nutrition Student and Intern at Open Space Clinic.

Functional foods are modified foods or food ingredients that provide health benefits beyond the traditional nutrients it contains. Although foods can provide macronutrients like carbs, fats, protein as well as vitamins and minerals; some foods also contain other compounds that can provide additional health benefits. Most functional foods are used to lend protection against certain diseases—but only when eaten regularly and in specific amounts. 

 

Let’s look at some specific functional foods and what they do! 

Fatty Fish 

Fatty Fish, like salmon, sardines, trout or herring are considered to be functional foods. These fish are functional in particular due to their low mercury content and higher omega-3 fatty acid content. Omega-3 fatty acids are the “special ingredient” here. This is because they are known to reduce blood pressure in those with higher blood pressure and they can help raise your “Good” HDL cholesterol (YES, there is a good cholesterol!). Omega-3s are also very important to consume during pregnancy and childhood. They are crucial for brain growth and development of infants. It is currently recommended to have fatty fish 2-3 times per week. 

Yogurt 

Yogurt is known for being a great source of calcium; but did you know it also contains probiotics and sometimes even prebiotics? Let’s differentiate the two. Probiotics are a type of “friendly” bacteria found in foods. They are microorganisms that are beneficial to gut health and our microbiome. Prebiotics are food components, such as fibers, that are not digested and are instead used as food for the previously mentioned friendly gut bacteria. Together, probiotics and prebiotics encourage a healthy gut. All yogurts contain probiotics and some contain added prebiotics. If not, add some berries to your yogurt to promote optimal digestive health!  

Tomatoes 

Tomatoes are rich in different minerals and vitamins; but the “special ingredient” here is the powerful antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene is a compound found in tomatoes that has a very strong link to prostate cancer risk reduction. Since it is an antioxidant, it helps prevent cell damage. Whether it be fresh tomatoes, tomato paste or a tomato sauce, everyone, especially men over 50, should try to include more of it in their diet to keep cells healthy and to help prevent prostate cancer. 

Garlic 

Along with many vitamins and minerals, garlic contains organosulfur compounds (Eg. Allicin). Studies have shown promising evidence that these compounds can help to lower total and “Bad” LDL cholesterol. Studies also show that garlic may play a role in reducing blood pressure. Although the studies are not conclusive, we do know that garlic is safe and quite tasty when cooked right! Try to include garlic into your recipes regularly; it may not be a cure-all but it certainly provides many important nutrients and compounds to your diet. 

As you can see, foods can provide so much more than calories and carbs. Every bite of food you take, brings along so many special nutrients and compounds that help feed your body and keep it running smoothly. 

 

 

References 

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/17-health-benefits-of-omega-3

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22113870/

https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/healthy-eating/functional-foods

https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/135/5/1226/4663991

https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/garlic


Going Vegan? Here’s some things to think about.

 

Article by Ashley Finkel, Nutrition Student and Intern at Open Space Clinic.

Concern for the environment is rising and this is causing a shift in the way we eat. There has been a huge growth in veganism and vegetarianism which has so many benefits for the individual but also for the planet. There are many ways to follow a vegan lifestyle and the definition of the word can vary from person to person. While vegetarians will not consume any animal flesh, they may or may not still consume eggs, dairy cheese, dairy milk and other animal-based products. Vegans, on the other hand, will typically cut out all animal and animal derived foods from the diet. There also exists a form of flexible veganism where one will consume a majorly plant-based diet but allow themselves some animal derived foods on occasion. 

When we cut all animal products out of our diet, we need to think about the nutrients that we may be cutting out as well. 

Vitamin D 

Many of us know that we can get vitamin D from the sun. However, when living in a province like Quebec, it can be very difficult to get adequate Vitamin D from October to May. So, it is very important to get it from your diet. Most food sources of vitamin D come from animals. So, to avoid deficiency when going vegan, it is important to look for food items fortified with vitamin D. Fortified orange juice, soy milk or breakfast cereals can be great options. You can also speak to a healthcare professional about vitamin D supplements. 

Long chain Omega-3 Fatty acids 

Long chain Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats, meaning your body cannot produce them and you must get them from your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are very important for the health of your body and brain. Again, most sources of omega-3 fatty acids are animal derived; however, some seeds such as chia seeds, flaxseeds and hemp seeds can provide omega-3 fatty acids to the diet. 

Vitamin B12 

Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the health of your blood, nerve cells and DNA. Lack of Vitamin B12 can have serious health consequences on the body. Shitake mushrooms and nutritional yeast are great vegan sources of B12. You can also look for fortified breakfast cereals. Just like Vitamin D, there are vitamin B12 supplements available—speak to your healthcare provider to determine if that is a better option for you. 

Iron 

Iron is a mineral that is vital to the growth and development of our bodies. There are two types of iron: heme iron (coming from animal sources) and non-heme iron (coming from non-animal sources). Luckily, non-heme iron can be easily consumed in the diet; it is found in most legumes, nuts, seeds as well as raisins, figs, molasses and dried apricots. It is important to note that non-heme iron may not be as well absorbed in the body as heme iron. Vitamin C can increase iron absorption in the body. So, include some sources of vitamin C such as peppers, broccoli or oranges to increase that iron absorption! 

Calcium 

Calcium has so many important roles in the body. From building and maintaining our skeleton to blood pressure regulation, calcium helps keep our bodies strong and healthy. Everyone knows that we can get our daily intake of calcium from milk; but what if you’re vegan? Calcium can also be found in many vegan-friendly foods. Soy foods, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds and green leafy vegetables can also be sources of calcium for someone following a vegan diet. 

Takeaway

All that being said, veganism and plant-based diets in general can be a great way to support the health of the environment and the health of your body. One 16-week study showed major decreases in weight, fat mass and visceral fat in the vegan participant group. As well, plants provide antioxidants, prebiotics, and fiber to the diet. These compounds and nutrients can support a healthy gut by balancing the gut bacteria; a healthy gut is the first step towards a healthy body! 

It is important to carefully plan your diet to ensure that you are getting all the nutrients you need to avoid any nutritional deficiencies. All of the nutrients we need to keep us healthy are available from vegan sources—you just have to learn where to look!  

References 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6478664/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-d-101

https://www.vegansociety.com/resources/nutrition-and-health/nutrients/iron

https://www.healthline.com/health/vitamin-b12-foods-for-vegetarians

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-plant-sources-of-omega-3s

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/omega-3-guide#faq

https://www.healthline.com/health/vegan-vitamin-d#vegan-sources

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-a-16-week-vegan-diet-can-improve-your-gut-microbes#You-are-what-you-eat

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6478664/


Can exercising help you lose weight?

Article by Ashley Finkel, Nutrition Student and Intern at Open Space Clinic.

This topic is often very controversial. Some believe that exercise plays a vital role in weight loss, while others believe that exercise is insignificant on its own.

There is one thing we do know for sure: exercise offers so many health benefits. Exercise can do wonders for the body; regular physical activity can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and even some cancers. It has also shown to help reduce stress and anxiety in healthy adults. After hearing all that, who wouldn’t want to exercise? 

Now that we know how effective physical activity is in preventing major chronic disease and mental illness, let’s move on to the question you have all been waiting for: does exercise help you lose weight? To answer this question, let’s look at the evidence.

Fat Loss vs Muscle Loss 

When you reduce the number of calories you eat without increasing your physical activity, you lose fat, but you lose muscle as well. When you include exercise in your weight loss plan, it can reduce the amount of muscle you lose. Retaining muscle will work in opposition with fat loss and avoid the drop in your metabolic rate that you experience when you lose weight. Therefore, it will be easier to keep off the weight, which is what we’re all hoping for! 

Cardio 

Whether it’s the treadmill, the spin bike or a simple walk to the park, we’re all familiar with the famous cardio workout, also known as aerobic exercise. Cardio has been very successful in helping people burn calories; however, it plays little role in affecting muscle mass. A study done in 2012 demonstrated that aerobic exercise alone, without any calorie restriction, was extremely effective in increasing weight loss for overweight and obese men and women. Many other studies have been done as well to show the beneficial outcomes of cardio; loss of liver fat, loss of visceral fat (belly fat) and so much more. 

Resistance Training 

Think weightlifting or body weight training—these are examples of resistance training. Resistance training can increase the strength and/or endurance of your muscles as well as burn calories. Increasing the amount of muscle you have, can increase your metabolism, which allow s you to burn more calories continuously—even when you’re taking a rest on the couch. What you can take from this is: cardio is important, but resistance training can be just as, if not more important! Both types of exercise can help you lose weight, but resistance training can help you keep off the weight, which is the hardest part of weight loss!

Does Exercise Help You Lose Weight? 

The truth is: different methods work for different people. While most individuals find exercise to be very effective in weight loss, some find that they don’t lose any weight. Maybe changing your diet will be more effective for you! Most of the evidence shows that a strategy including both a healthy diet and exercise is the most effective way to lose weight and keep it off. In the end, consistency is key. Try to stay motivated and stick to a plan that works for you!  

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References

Beavers, K. M., Beavers, D. P., Nesbit, B. A., Ambrosius, W. T., Marsh, A. P., Nicklas, B. J., &

Rejeski, W. J. (2014). Effect of an 18-month physical activity and weight loss intervention on body composition in overweight and obese older adults. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)22(2), 325–331. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.20607

Behrens, G., Jochem, C., Schmid, D., Keimling, M., Ricci, C., & Leitzmann, M. F. (2015).

Physical activity and risk of pancreatic cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis. European journal of epidemiology30(4), 279–298. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10654-015-0014-9

Bouchard, C., Blair, S. N., & Katzmarzyk, P. T. (2015). Less Sitting, More Physical Activity,

or Higher Fitness?. Mayo Clinic proceedings90(11), 1533–1540. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2015.08.005

Carter, M. I., & Hinton, P. S. (2014). Physical activity and bone health. Missouri

 medicine111(1), 59–64.

Chaston, T. B., Dixon, J. B., & O'Brien, P. E. (2007). Changes in fat-free mass during

significant weight loss: a systematic review. International journal of obesity (2005)31(5), 743–750. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0803483

Donnelly, J. E., Honas, J. J., Smith, B. K., Mayo, M. S., Gibson, C. A., Sullivan, D. K., Lee, J.,

Herrmann, S. D., Lambourne, K., & Washburn, R. A. (2013). Aerobic exercise alone results in clinically significant weight loss for men and women: midwest exercise trial 2. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)21(3), E219–E228. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.20145

Garrow, J. S., & Summerbell, C. D. (1995). Meta-analysis: effect of exercise, with or

without dieting, on the body composition of overweight subjects. European journal of clinical nutrition49(1), 1–10.

Goedecke, J. H., & Micklesfield, L. K. (2014). The effect of exercise on obesity, body fat

distribution and risk for type 2 diabetes. Medicine and sport science60, 82–93. https://doi.org/10.1159/000357338

Heymsfield, S. B., Gonzalez, M. C., Shen, W., Redman, L., & Thomas, D. (2014). Weight

loss composition is one-fourth fat-free mass: a critical review and critique of this widely cited rule. Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity15(4), 310–321. https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.12143

Hunter, G. R., Byrne, N. M., Sirikul, B., Fernández, J. R., Zuckerman, P. A., Darnell, B. E., &

Gower, B. A. (2008). Resistance training conserves fat-free mass and resting energy expenditure following weight loss. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)16(5), 1045–1051. https://doi.org/10.1038/oby.2008.38

Ismail, I., Keating, S. E., Baker, M. K., & Johnson, N. A. (2012). A systematic review and

meta-analysis of the effect of aerobic vs. resistance exercise training on visceral fat. Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity13(1), 68–91. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00931.x

Keating, S. E., Hackett, D. A., Parker, H. M., O'Connor, H. T., Gerofi, J. A., Sainsbury, A., 

Baker, M. K., Chuter, V. H., Caterson, I. D., George, J., & Johnson, N. A. (2015). Effect of aerobic exercise training dose on liver fat and visceral adiposity. Journal of hepatology63(1), 174–182. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhep.2015.02.022

Lavie, C. J., Arena, R., Swift, D. L., Johannsen, N. M., Sui, X., Lee, D. C., Earnest, C. P.,

Church, T. S., O'Keefe, J. H., Milani, R. V., & Blair, S. N. (2015). Exercise and the cardiovascular system: clinical science and cardiovascular outcomes. Circulation research117(2), 207–219. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.117.305205

Pan, S. Y., & DesMeules, M. (2009). Energy intake, physical activity, energy balance, and

cancer: epidemiologic evidence. Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.)472, 191–215. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-60327-492-0_8

Stiegler, P., & Cunliffe, A. (2006). The role of diet and exercise for the maintenance of

fat-free mass and resting metabolic rate during weight loss. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.)36(3), 239–262. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200636030-00005

Wang, C. W., Chan, C. H., Ho, R. T., Chan, J. S., Ng, S. M., & Chan, C. L. (2014). Managing

stress and anxiety through qigong exercise in healthy adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. BMC complementary and alternative medicine14, 8. https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6882-14-8

Westcott W. L. (2012). Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on

health. Current sports medicine reports11(4), 209–216. https://doi.org/10.1249/JSR.0b013e31825dabb8

Williamson, D. L., & Kirwan, J. P. (1997). A single bout of concentric resistance exercise

increases basal metabolic rate 48 hours after exercise in healthy 59-77-year-old men. The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences52(6), M352–M355. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/52a.6.m352

Wilson, M. G., Ellison, G. M., & Cable, N. T. (2015). Basic science behind the

cardiovascular benefits of exercise. Heart (British Cardiac Society)101(10), 758–765. https://doi.org/10.1136/heartjnl-2014-306596


Collagen supplements: truth or trend?

Article by Ashley Finkel, Nutrition Student and Intern at Open Space Clinic.

What is Collagen? 

Collagen is a protein that is essential to the health and function of connective tissues and ligaments in our bodies. It is the primary structural protein in the body and it is found in our muscles, bones, tendons and more. For this reason, collagen supplements are believed to improve the health of these areas. 

Our bodies create collagen naturally. We make collagen, or any protein, by breaking down the protein we eat into amino acids, which are the building blocks from which our bodies can form new proteins. 

Collagen Supplements 

Collagen has recently become a trending topic. Many individuals claim that collagen powders and capsules have a plethora of benefits ranging from improved skin, bone and joint health to improved gut health. Let’s compare the research to the theory and find out if these claims hold true! 

Skin health 

Some studies show that oral supplementation of collagen leads to improved wrinkle depth, hydration and elasticity of the skin. One study also showed that oral supplementation of collagen can improve the effects of skin aging. 

Joint health 

Studies show that a daily intake of collagen can relieve joint pain and discomfort. One study even explored the effect of collagen supplementation on cases of osteoarthritis; this study found promising evidence that collagen peptides help the body to repair cartilage tissue and therefore relieved the discomfort that patients were experiencing. 

Gut health 

There does not appear to be much scientific research done to test if collagen has any effect on gut health. Most of the claims you see are supported by anecdotal evidence only. 

The Theory 

Now that we explored the scientific evidence, let’s investigate the scientific theory of the matter. 

Once you eat any protein, your body breaks it down into individual amino acids. Then, your body can use the amino acids to build collagen or any other protein in the body. It is important to note that just because the amino acids came from a collagen supplement, it doesn’t mean your body will use them to create collagen in the body. Your body will use the amino acids to make whatever proteins are needed in the body at that moment. Eating more foods rich in the proteins that help build collagen, such as meat, fish, dairy products, soy products and beans, will enhance collagen production in the body. As well, eating more vitamin C-rich foods can be beneficial, since vitamin C is important for collagen production.

To sum it up, there have been plenty of studies done to test the effectiveness of collagen supplementation. While we’re still not sure about its effectiveness, there is one thing we do know: collagen supplementation is safe and does not produce any negative, unwanted side-effects. It is important to note that although there is some promising evidence supporting these claims, there is much more research to be done! 

 

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References

Asserin, J., Lati, E., Shioya, T., & Prawitt, J. (2015). The effect of oral collagen peptide supplementation on skin moisture and the dermal collagen network: evidence from an ex vivo model and randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials. Journal of cosmetic dermatology14(4), 291–301. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.12174

Choi Bs, D. F. A. (2019, January 11). Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications. JDDonline - Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. https://jddonline.com/articles/dermatology/S1545961619P0009X

Choi, F. D., Sung, C. T., Juhasz, M. L., & Mesinkovsk, N. A. (2019). Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications. Journal of drugs in dermatology : JDD18(1), 9–16.

De Santis, A. (2021, March 24). Will Collagen Supplementation Improve Your Skin? Andy The RD. https://andytherd.com/2019/01/07/will-collagen-supplementation-improve-your-skin/

Kumar, S., Sugihara, F., Suzuki, K., Inoue, N., & Venkateswarathirukumara, S. (2014). A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised, clinical study on the effectiveness of collagen peptide on osteoarthritis. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 95(4), 702–707. https://doi.org/10.1002/jsfa.6752

Magee, H., R. D. (2020). Collagen Supplements: Real or Hype? Hannah Magee RD. http://hannahmageerd.com/collagen-supplements-real-or-hype/

Oesser, S., Schulze, C., Zdzieblik, D., & König, D. (2016). Efficacy of specific bioactive collagen peptides in the treatment of joint pain. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, 24, S189. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joca.2016.01.370

Proksch, E., Segger, D., Degwert, J., Schunck, M., Zague, V., & Oesser, S. (2014). Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Skin pharmacology and physiology27(1), 47–55. https://doi.org/10.1159/000351376

Sibilla, S., & Borumand, M. (2015). Effects of a nutritional supplement containing collagen peptides on skin elasticity, hydration and wrinkles. Journal of Medical Nutrition and Nutraceuticals, 4(1), 47. https://doi.org/10.4103/2278-019x.146161

Singh, M., M. D. (2020). Bovine Collagen: Everything You Need To Know About The Gut-Healing, Skin-Clearing Protein. Mindbodygreen. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/bovine-collagen-the-benefits-side-effects-of-this-popular-protein

T, W., L, L., N, C., P, C., K, T., & A, G. (2017). Efficacy of Oral Collagen in Joint Pain - Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Journal of Arthritis, 06(02). https://doi.org/10.4172/2167-7921.1000233


Do adaptogens help relieve stress?

Article by Ashley Finkel, Nutrition Student and Intern at Open Space Clinic.

Everyone experiences stress!

While short bouts of stress can be manageable, continuous stress can be hard on our bodies, both physically and mentally. Adding adaptogens to your diet is just one way to manage stress.

What are adaptogens?

Adaptogens are a group of plants that can help our bodies cope with stress. Adaptogens can be herbs, fungi or roots; and they work with our bodies to regulate our stress response systems. Adaptogens have been newly growing in popularity; however, they actually have a long history of health benefits. For centuries, Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine have been using adaptogens to battle fatigue, increase energy levels and reduce stress levels.

Some common Adaptogens

Rhodiola rosea

Schisandra chinensis

Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng)

Let’s learn about them! 

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola is an herb that has been proven to help the body cope with its stress response. In addition, it has shown to improve cognitive function and mental performance in individuals experiencing fatigue. One study found that Rhodiola can even help to reduce symptoms of depression.

Rhodiola can be taken as a capsule supplement; however, in my opinion, brewing it and ingesting as tea is best!

Schisandra Chinesis 

Studies show that Schisandra has stress-reducing properties; it has a specific, beneficial effect in reducing stress symptoms under fatigue. There is also strong evidence that it can increase endurance and mental performance in individuals experiencing fatigue and weakness.

Schisandra is available as a supplement; but it can also be purchased as dried whole berries or as a juice.

Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian Ginseng) 

Siberian Ginseng is a very popular choice among the common adaptogens. It has been proven to increase endurance and improve mental performance in fatigued individuals— similar to Schisandra. As well, many patients with stress-induced depression experienced an overall mood improvement and a better night sleep as a result of taking Siberian ginseng.

Siberian Ginseng root is available in supplement format; however, again, my personal favourite is Siberian Ginseng tea.

The Takeaway

All of these adaptogens have been proven to have beneficial effects on our bodies stress response systems. They also respectively have a long list of benefits for our bodies ranging from mood improvement to improved cognitive function. However, it is important to note that there is no “magic remedy” to stress. Stress is different for every individual and while adaptogens might work for some people, it may not work for everyone.

Please remember that it is always advised to speak with your healthcare professional before taking any adaptogens!

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References 

Anghelescu, I. G., Edwards, D., Seifritz, E., & Kasper, S. (2018). Stress management and the role of Rhodiola rosea: a

review. International journal of psychiatry in clinical practice22(4), 242–252. https://doi.org/10.1080/13651501.2017.1417442

Cropley, M., Banks, A. P., & Boyle, J. (2015). The Effects of Rhodiola rosea L. Extract on Anxiety, Stress, Cognition and Other

 Mood Symptoms. Phytotherapy research : PTR29(12), 1934–1939. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.5486

Lekomtseva, Y., Zhukova, I., & Wacker, A. (2017). Rhodiola rosea in Subjects with Prolonged or Chronic Fatigue Symptoms:

Results of an Open-Label Clinical Trial. Complementary medicine research24(1), 46–52. https://doi.org/10.1159/000457918

Olsson, E. M., von Schéele, B., & Panossian, A. G. (2009). A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study

of the standardised extract shr-5 of the roots of Rhodiola rosea in the treatment of subjects with stress-related fatigue. Planta medica75(2), 105–112. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0028-1088346

Panossian, A., & Wikman, G. (2010). Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms 

Associated with Their Stress-Protective Activity. Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland)3(1), 188–224. https://doi.org/10.3390/ph3010188


Carbohydrates are only as complicated as you let them be

Carbohydrates are only as complicated as you let them be

The carbohydrate. An unsuspecting, cyclic molecule consisting of six carbons. Each of these carbohydrates have a water molecule attached to them, thus the name, carbohydrates.

Unfortunately, carbs are heavily demonized by many. But why so?

It’s true that carbohydrates are found in sweet, sugary desserts but they are also found in whole grain pasta, sweet potatoes, legumes and your favourite fruits.  To understand the confusion around carbohydrates, let’s break them down into simple and complex.

Complex carbohydrates are actually kinda simple

A food being high in carbohydrates is not always equatable to being high in sugar. Carbohydrates is the umbrella terms for all the different hydrated carbons .

Complex carbohydrates include whole grains like oats, wheat and rye and fruits & vegetables like bananas, broccoli, apples and carrots.

When we digest a complex carbohydrate, it will take longer to release the individual molecules of sugars. Fibres are a type of carbohydrate that is non-digestible, and is found in high amounts in complex carbohydrates.

These fibres (or carbohydrates) can serve as food for our gut micro-biome, increasing the amount of residing good bacteria. They can also decrease blood sugar and blood cholesterol, which is associated with reduced risk of heart disease.

Simple carbohydrates are actually kinda complex

In contrast, simple carbohydrates like candies, pop, chips, white bread, crackers and cookies don’t contain any fiber. While these foods are good for the soul, they don’t come with the health benefits of complex carbohydrates. The carbohydrates are almost immediately broken down into molecules of sugar by the enzymes in our saliva, and enter our blood stream.

But - “simple” carbohydrates are not always equatable with “bad”. Why? Because nutrition isn’t black and white.

Simple carbohydrates are not a waste of calories, as they provide 4 calories per gram meaning they provide your body with energy. Energy, believe it or not, can actually be useful.

For example, simple carbohydrates in the form of white bread, rice and pasta are crucial for athletes to fuel their muscles prior to exercise. Complex carbs won’t do the job as they take too long to digest and can sometimes cause gas and bloating before exercise.

For those living with type I or II diabetes, simple carbohydrates are life saving. If blood sugar goes too low, a serving of simple carbohydrates absorbs fast (within 15 minutes) into the blood stream to normalize blood sugar levels.

So - what does this mean for you?

Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits and vegetables have more health benefits than not. Try to aim to have at least 30-40 grams of fiber per day from these foods.

Simple carbohydrates, like sweets and white rice, breads and pastas also have their place. They can spark joy, increase energy or save a life. Don’t demonize them, but don’t over-consume them if you don’t have to.

 


What we know about gut health

What we know and don't know about "gut health"

Our gut microbiome and the science is complicated, but here are some steps you can take based on what we know

Digestive health, or “gut” health is a major nutrition buzzword as of late. Beyond just those living with irritable bowel diseases, such as crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, everyone is getting into gut health to reap the perceived rewards of a healthy and balanced gut.

While it is undeniable that a healthy functioning organ as important as the digestive system is crucial to human health, is “gut health” and it’s available supplements worth the hype?

Let’s dive into what we know and what we don’t know, so you can know what you are getting into before hearing about the next gut health craze.

Short-version: This is what we know about gut health 💥

  • Our gut can be influenced by the food we eat by increase bacterial diversity. More good bacteria can reduce inflammation and less bad bacteria might keep weight stable.
  • Prebiotic fibers are special types of fibers that are used as food by the good bacteria in our gut. While they might reduce inflammation, there is not much evidence for improving any digestive symptoms. 

 

  • Simple lifestyle strategies like regular exercise and stress management are equally important for digestive health. Exercise like walking or jogging literally moves our intestines to help us go regularly, and stress management can improve digestive symptoms.

Long-version: This is what we know about gut health 💥

  1. Our gut microbiome can be influenced by food

Our gut microbiome responds rapidly to changes in diet. For example, consuming a plant-based diet can increase the amount of bifidobacteria and lactobacillus, beneficial bacteria that may reduce inflammation and increase diversity of microbes in our gut. 

Increased bacterial diversity is important, as good bacteria may out-compete bad bacteria in the gut. For example, scientists suspect that bacteria belonging to the firmicutes phylum could extract up to 150 calories of energy from the digestion process, which could lead to weight-gain. 

  1. Some types of fibers can help encourage the growth of good gut bacteria 

Fibers are types of carbohydrates that give structure to plants. Fibers cannot be digested by humans, and instead of being absorbed into the bloodstream will travel down into your large intestines.

In the large intestine, certain types of prebiotic fibers like inulin, lactulose and beta-glucan will serve as food for the healthy bacteria in your gut. Through fermentation, the healthy bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids which may reduce inflammation but research finds that it does not improve digestive symptoms

  1. Regular exercise and stress management is important for overall health, and gut health 

Exercise like walking and jogging moves your intestines, and can help reduce constipation and help you go regularly.

For long-term health, exercise is also important. For example, a recent prospective study of over 40,000 individuals found that aerobic exercise reduces the risk of cancer in the digestive system. While this is not a cause-and-effect relationship, it could be another reason to get moving each day.

Stress can also impact the digestive system. Whether through physical or mental stress, your body activates it’s sympathetic nervous system or “fight-or-flight” mode.

Digestion is slowed down as your body conserves energy to fight off the stressor. In our current lifestyle that breeds chronic stress, the state of “fight-or-flight” can always be turned on, resulting in digestive symptoms as less digestive juices are secreted and muscular contractions are reduced.

Written by : Kristen Sunstrum, RD


Wait...Snacking isn't bad ?

Wait .. isn’t snacking “bad”?

Nope. Snacks can get a bad rap from the ultra-processed “snack foods” found in convenience stores and grocery shelves - but consuming snacks can be part of a healthy, normal diet 💪

For example, snacks can:

  • Fulfill your protein needs, especially if you are following an exercise routine or living an active lifestyle
  • Decrease cravings and ravenous hunger, resulting in more balanced meal intakes later in the day 
  • Increase intake of fiber, vegetables & fruits, to help stabilize blood sugar & energy levels while meeting your micronutrient targets
  • Improve quality of life, by allowing yourself to eat the occasional indulgent snack with your family and friends

But … doesn’t snacking spike insulin levels, leading to weight gain?

Insulin is the hormone that helps our body utilize and store energy from food. The hormone rises in response to intake of carbohydrates (sugar) and amino acids (protein).

A big myth that surrounds insulin and weight-gain is that any rise in insulin is equitable to a gain in fat mass, otherwise known as the carbohydrate-insulin model of obesity

The truth is that for healthy people¹, eating normal portions of protein and carbohydrates will not drive weight-gain. Why? Because it’s physiologically impossible, as only an excess of nutrients will become transformed into fat for storage.

When consumed in normal amounts, the insulin won’t drive weight-gain, but rather:

  • Stimulate muscle-protein synthesis for the protein you just consumed (a.k.a muscle gains 💪)
  • Stock muscle and liver glycogen, fuelling your muscles and preparing your body for stable blood sugar levels over the next several hours 💫
  • Produce satiety and fullness hormones, helping you feel full and satisfied 🙌

Now that the snack fears are over, let’s get into the building of a perfect snack.

Step #1: Protein

Protein is an essential macronutrient that helps build muscle & is the building block for nearly all body functions (enzymes, hormones, nails, skin, hair). 

A snack with protein helps meet your protein needs throughout the day and can also make you feel fuller & more satisfied 💥. 

Aim to have at least 5 grams of protein per snack, such as:

  • 1 egg (6 grams of protein)
  • 1.5 tablespoon peanut butter (5 grams of protein)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (5 grams of protein)
  • 1/4 cup of hummus (5 grams of protein)
  • 1/4 cup of skyr icelandic yogurt (5-7 grams of protein)
  • 1/4 cup of ricotta cheese (5-7 grams of protein)
  • 3/4 cup of soy milk (6 grams of protein)

Step #2: Fiber

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that humans can’t digest. Some types of prebiotic fibres are digested by the bacteria in your gut microbiome while other fibers reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels 📉. 

Aim to have at least 2-3 grams of fiber per snack, such as:

  • 1 whole fruit (banana, apple, pear) or 1/2 cup berries (3 grams fiber)
  • 1/2 cup cruciferous vegetables (kale, broccoli, cauliflower) (2-3 grams of fiber)
  • 1 slice of whole-wheat bread (3 grams fiber)
  • 1/4 cup of avocado (3 grams of fiber)
  • 1/4 cup of homemade granola (2-3 grams of fiber)

Step #3: Fat

Healthy fats such as omega-3s are essential, and help reduce inflammation and increase HDL or “good” cholesterol. Fat is also extremely satiating, helping you feel full and satisfied 💫

If your protein or fiber source already contained a source of fat (avocado, nuts, seeds, whole-fat yogurt) you can skip this step. If not, add a small serving of healthy fat to each snack, such as:

  • 1 tablespoon of chia seeds 
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped walnuts 
  • 2 teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 tablespoons of mashed avocado 

Putting it all together… 

Now that we have our three nutrients (protein + fiber + fat) we have the building block for a perfect snack with staying power. Try mixing and matching these together, such as:

  • 1 egg with avocado on whole-wheat toast
  • Banana peanut-butter smoothie with soy milk
  • Yogurt parfait with berries and granola
  • Sliced veggies & hummus or guacamole 
  • Ricotta cheese on whole-wheat toast with tomatoes & walnuts 

What’s your favourite protein + fiber + fat snack? Let us know in the comments 👇

 


Why is Gen-Z obssesed with chlorophyll?

 

“It makes my cells so stoked” says one creator on Tik Tok, enthusiastically showcasing her morning routine of putting 6 drops of a dark, green liquid into a tall glass of water.

Another creator reports that “this stuff is great for digestion, inflammation and overall immunity” as she swirls the dark green, opaque drink with a metal reusable straw.

This mesmerizing, dark green drink has liquid chlorophyll in it — and is the subject of the latest trend amongst Gen Z on TikTok.

What is chlorophyll?

Chlorophyll is the pigment that makes plants green and helps the plant perform photosynthesis, or the process of turning sunlight into sugar for plant energy.

As humans, we don’t rely on photosynthesis for energy, but rather food. That being said, chlorophyll is not an essential nutrient for human health.

It is impossible to be deficient in chlorophyll as our body does not have a need for it in the first place. In fact, our body doesn’t even have a receptor for chlorophyll.

Even if we needed it in small amounts, it is likely we already get enough chlorophyll from fruits and vegetables as it is the most abundant plant pigment on earth.

Chlorophyll is not an essential nutrient for human health

 

Does liquid chlorophyll get rid of acne?

Acne is caused by an overgrowth of certain types of bacteria on the skin. There is evidence to suggest that chlorophyll has anti-bacterial properties, so it could potentially improve acne.

However, the chlorophyll used in this study was in gel form and applied directly onto the skin. In the form of a liquid supplement, any potential anti-bacterial properties of chlorophyll will be destroyed by the stomach acid during digestion.

Is liquid chlorophyll good for weight-loss?

The only “evidence” that exists for chlorophyll and weight-loss exists on Tik Tok — and anecdotes aren’t evidence.

The only imaginable connection I can make here is the link between a diet high in vegetables and fruits (where green vegetables contain chlorophyll) and weight-loss.

 

Can liquid chlorophyll enhance energy levels?

The structure of chlorophyl is similar to hemoglobin, or the protein in our red blood cells that helps deliver oxygen to our cells. Problems with hemoglobin can lead to low energy levels in humans.

However, the atom in the centre of the chlorophyll compound is magnesium, while the atom in the centre of hemoglobin is iron.

While low levels of iron, such as those with iron-deficient anemia will see a boost in energy levels from iron, the same thing can’t be said for the magnesium found in chlorophyll.

Can liquid chlorophyll reduce body odour?

A small study published over 40 years ago suggests that chlorophyll given to nursing home residents improved overall body odour, but not much research has been published since.

Body odour happens when bacteria mixes with sweat, which is why soap is effective in removing the bacteria. One study published in 1957 showed that chlorophyll has anti-bacterial properties, but similar to acne any anti-bacterial properties will be lost once the chlorophyll is digested by the stomach acid.

The bottom line

The evidence is ✨ extremely limited ✨

The only “evidence” we really have exists on 20 second Tik Tok videos. If you are seeing health benefits, its more likely due to increased water consumption or the placebo effect rather than liquid chlorophyll itself.

Eating your greens is more important than a supplement

Green vegetables are rich in chlorophyll as it is what makes the colour possible in the first place. Beyond chlorophyll, vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, water and fiber that will likely reap more health benefits than a concentrated supplement with little evidence.

 

Enjoy liquid chlorophyll if it helps you drink more water

If liquid chlorophyll encourages you to drink more water, then by all mean swirl away (just don’t exceed the maximum dosing as indicated by the manufacturer) as there doesn’t seem to be any evidence to avoid the supplements — it might just drain your pocket.


Our relationship with food

Food is such an essential part of our lives – it fuels us, it can bring us joy, it can bring us sadness, it can bring us excitement, and it can bring us frustration. What seems like such a simple aspect of human life, is actually something that many have a complicated relationship with, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are 4 ways to start making peace and forming a better relationship with food.  

 

LISTEN TO YOUR HUNGER CUES 

Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. It’s something that seems intuitive, for example looking at babies and toddlers, who will cry when they’re hungry and just stop eating when they’re full. However this “intuitive sense” gets overridden as we live life and are influenced by other factors, eventually losing this ability. Food can often be consumed because it’s a meal time, as a coping mechanism, or simply boredom. By taking a moment and really listening to your body, you’ll be able to have a better understanding of it’s needs, and learn how and when to better fuel it. 

 

LOOK AT FOOD WITH A NEUTRAL PAIR OF LENS

Society has made us believe that foods should be put into categories – “good” foods and “bad” foods. But who’s to say what these definitions of good and bad are? If something is sugary but brings us joy, is that automatically deemed a bad food? My answer to this question is always NO. Different foods serve us different purposes. A strawberry-jam filled donut may not have the same nutritional content as a quinoa tofu power bowl, though both equally delicious, can have very different purposes. That power bowl can be fulfilling our nutritional needs, and a donut can be filling that heart hunger, that craving – and that is okay. One is not better than the other, one is not worst than the other, they are neutral, and the moment we accept that is the moment we release the control food has over us. 

 

EAT YOUR CRAVINGS 

Clients are often in awe when I tell them this – “but won’t I eat too much?” “are you sure?” “I don’t understand”. But yes, you heard me right; if you’re craving a triple chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream, allow yourself to eat it! Diet culture and society has engrained that in order to succeed and achieve our goals, you must restrict yourself and deny the urge to give into cravings. However, this does the exact opposite of what you want – rather putting yourself in a vicious circle of restricting, then overeating or binging on that craving and feeling guilty, and then restricting again. Rather, if you just allowed yourself to eat that brownie and ice cream and allowed yourself to enjoy it, you would feel better and continue on with your day. You’d be surprised that when you listen to your body and eat what you crave, that it finds a way to balance out all your needs. 

CONNECT WITH YOUR FOOD 

Given our current fast-paced lifestyles, eating is often a secondary thought as we’re in the middle of a Zoom meeting, catching up on our Instagram feed, or in the middle of a Netflix episode. Eating with these other distractions prevents us from really connecting with our food and truly enjoying all that it has to offer. When was the last time that you ate without any distractions – no phone, no TV, no laptop, no book? I challenge you to try one meal with just you and your food, crazy, I know, but it’s worthwhile I promise. I want you to notice the textures, the taste, the appearance, the aromas, and really taste every bite. If we really love food that much, why not give ourselves the time and space to enjoy it? 

WHAT TO TAKEAWAY 

Many of us have complex relationships with food, and we each have a different, unique and personalized experience with it. Ultimately, we want to make peace with food and have it as a relationship that can contribute positively to your health and well-being. Getting it to this state can be journey, but you don’t have to do it alone – there are many qualified registered dietitians out there that can help guide you through these hurdles. It may be daunting, but even this self-reflection is one step closer to a better relationship with food.