Coffee sometimes gets a bad rap in the health community, but like most things moderation and simplicity are the keys. If a cup of coffee is kept simple and enjoyed in moderation, it is net positive in the health benefit category. Research reveals that many centenarian communities (those with the largest population of people who live to be 100) drink two to three cups of black coffee each day!
Some things to keep in mind when enjoying your daily brew:
3 Reasons to keep drinking your beloved coffee:
1. It provides antioxidants.
Coffee contains more than 1000 plant derived chemical components. Coffee contains a type of polyphenol called chlorogenic acids, which are esters of quinic and cinnamic acids. Laboratory studies have shown that this compound has potent antioxidant activity. Polyphenols are effective at neutralizing free radicals and prevent some diseases.
2. It improves mood (‘don’t we know it!’).
Coffee doesn’t just get you going in the morning so you feel more productive and alert, it can actually reduce your chances of suffering from depression. Regular coffee intake can increase the sensitivity of serotonin receptors leading to an increased absorption of serotonin and an overall better mood. A study by the ‘Archives of Internal Medicine’ cited that woman who drank 2-3 cups of coffee per day were 15% less likely to suffer from depression in a 10 year period.
3. It can lower inflammation.
Coffee contains important antioxidants that reduce inflammation in your body. In 2006, researchers from the Iowa Women's Health Study found that drinking coffee lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and other inflammatory diseases in post-menopausal women.
What is sulphoraphane?
Sulphoraphane is found in cruciferous vegetables which contain polyphenols, such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, and bok choy. By rupturing the plant cell membrane through chewing or chopping these vegetables release the active form of sulphoraphane, which is beneficial to the body for its’ role in antioxidant production. Sulphoraphane is the most potent naturally occurring compound that activates the pathway NRF2. Basically, it helps to switch on the genes that are meant to be turned on for longevity. The most well know function of the NRF2 pathway is that it turns on anti-inflammatory genes which lower oxidative stress and help to prevent cancer.
NRF2 is a powerful protein that is latent in each cell unless it is activated by a NRF2 activator. Through the study of Nutrigenomics, it has been determined that there are a variety of foods that are powerful at activating the NRF2 pathway, such as those cruciferous vegetables containing sulphoraphane. When NRF2 is activated in the nucleus it turns on the production of antioxidant enzymes such as Catalase, Glutathione, and Superoxide Dismutase, and these antioxidants are powerful enough to neutralize up to one million free radicals per second.
Why is sprouting so beneficial?
Sprouting is such an effective way of obtaining sulphoraphane because sprouts are 100 x’s more potent than mature broccoli. Sprouts are easily added to salads, blended in smoothies and are an excellent and, inexpensive way to get this amazing polyphenol into your daily routine.
10 Benefits of Sulphoraphane:
How to sprout: Step by Step
I recommend getting a sprouting jar, which makes it easier to keep the jar tilted so it is continually draining out the excess water. It makes the process simple and less time consuming: BioSnacky by Vogel
People following a ketogenic eating style report effortless weight loss, reduced appetite, improved mood, lower and more stable blood sugar, fewer cravings, lower blood pressure, clearer thoughts, improved sleep, and reduction in gas and bloating.
Sounds amazing right?!, so I decided to find out more and even try it out for myself.
On a very basic level, a ketogenic eating style is shifting your body away from using glucose as fuel to using to using ketone bodies (beta-hydroxybutyrate acetoacetate) as fuel. How do you do this? By reducing your carbohydrate consumption to less than 5% of your daily calories, and protein to only 20%, and the rest of your calories must come from fat. By eating this way, you can put your body into a state of ‘ketosis’. In ketosis the body takes the high energy fat molecules store in our bodies and converts them to a form that can fuel the heart, muscles, organs, and brain.
I could really go on about what this shift in macro consumption is doing to the various systems in your body, and why it seems to have so many positive health implications, but I want to keep this short. The majority of people who aren’t eating ‘keto’ have very short attention spans.
Here are the main PRO’s and CON’s I found when I ate ‘keto’:
-clearer thoughts and better attention span
-lost weight with ease
-enjoyed my favourite high fat foods without guilt, like chicken wings, coconut, and avocado
-mood was more stable
-never felt hungry and had no cravings
-limited food choices; you need to give up a lot of quick food options
-hard to find good options when eating out
-counting macros is a lot of work
-the ‘keto flu’ is real; I felt really horrible for a few days while adjusting to the high fat eating style
-Be aware*-you will have a reduced tolerance to alcohol; I was not aware of this fact and became very sick after drinking a couple glasses of wine
I think I will go back to this way of eating at times in my life, but it is not something I could adapt to on a permanent basis. Currently, I am travelling in a van for 4 months with my carb-loving boyfriend, so it really doesn’t work for my current lifestyle, but I see the appeal. Once I was past the ‘keto flu’ and limited my alcohol consumption I really felt a lot of benefits by eating ‘keto’, and especially recommend it for those who want better concentration and more stable moods.
If you are serious about going 'keto', find everything you need here:
We all lead busy and distracted lives and our culture eating habits reflect this. We are a nation ‘on the go’ and everything needs to be fast, even our food. The eating habits we have developed since the onset prepared meals, preservatives and fast foods is dramatically impacting our health. We need to get back in the kitchen and make homemade nutritious meals a priority again.
Adopting these three habits can help make eating an experience again:
1. Chew your food:
Statistics show that the average person chews each bit of food 6 times. That is well below the ideal range of 20-30 chew per bite. We are literally inhaling our food and this can interfere with proper digestion and assimilation. Your digestive system handles smaller particles of food that have been broken down by the enzymes in your salivary glands much better. Pay attention next time you are eating and see how many times you chew your food, you will be amazed. Make it a habit to be more cognizant of how much you chew your food for about three weeks, really making the effort to chew at least 20 times and it may become a habit.
2. Sit at a table & try not to eat alone:
Eat your meals at a table, not the couch, not your car, not your desk, not off the kitchen counter or over the stove while you cook. Too many of us are eating breakfast in the car, lunch at our desks while we work and dinner on the couch. If you just make a simple effort to eat your meals at a table, it will profoundly change the experience you have. Eating should be an occasion, you should set time aside for it so you can focus, relax and enjoy. This allows your body to focus on one task at a time which is the process of eating, digesting and assimilating. Eating with others can also enhance the experience of eating and create quality time with family and friends.
3. Prepare your own food:
Statics from Michael Pollan’s show ‘Cooked’ state that our current average meal prep time is 27 minutes, and in 1965 it was 60 minutes. We now spend less than half the time our parents and grandparents spent preparing our meals. I think it could do wonders for people’s health if they prioritized meal preparation over some of the other things that make their lives so ‘busy’. When it comes to meal preparation priority is key, it needs to become important enough for people to set aside the time to do, and often it may still only take 30 minutes, there are many simple wholesome meals. Buy wholesome natural foods (one ingredient foods) and create meals out of them. Avoid prepackaged, and preservative filled items and you will be amazed at how much more satisfying your meals can be. Set aside time for dinner, so you don’t feel rushed, and involve the family. Cooking with your children, partner, parents and friends can be an enjoyable experience. Trying to eat healthy without cooking whole foods yourself is pretty much impossible. If you look at the ingredients label there are unwanted additives in almost everything that is premade. Another statics from Michael Pollan states, as the amount of time we spend cooking goes down, the amount we eat increases and generally you are eating more processed food with added sugar therefore you more likely to gain wait.
We need to put more emphasis on making the act of eating a visual, fragrant and delicious experience again. Get your family and your senses involved and take time to make healthy and nutritious habits.
So, how am I doing on the road to a plant based diet whole foods diet?
In one word; Thriving!
I had no trouble making changes to the way I was eating. I am what Gretchen Rubin (author of Better than Before) would call a Questioner. Basically, that means I tend to question new things insentiently until I get the answers I need to make my decision. Through question and research, I gained the empirical data I needed to make my decision that a plant based whole foods diet would be the best way to fuel my body. I was convinced and adopted the new way of eating overnight and with little difficulty. The answers I found in my search for a simple way to eat nutritiously, is what prompted me to start this blog.
However, I am still working on finding the right balance of plant based whole foods that is most comfortable for my body. When making changes to your diet you need to give your body time to adapt which often means going through a period of discomfort while you figure out what works and what doesn’t. I have noticed I am more bloated than normal. Also, I find I am giving into cravings for sweets more often. Thirdly, my bowel movements have increased (which may be a positive side effect for many, but I was already pleasantly regular prior to starting this new diet). Sorry for the TMI, but it is a valid point to make when looking at dietary changes. I think these issues are the result of incorporating more beans into my meals, mainly chickpeas (because I love them), and because I have added grains back into my diet, which I previously avoided. I feel like the bloating is due to the increase in vegetable and bean fiber, and the additional sugar cravings are due to some of the extra carbohydrates I am consuming.
Trouble digesting Raw Veggies?
With this new way of eating I have noticed that my digestive system is not quite strong enough to handle raw veggies. My digestive system is still healing from the damage of past IBS flare ups, and it is still not functioning at its’ optimal ability. For now, I need to steam my veggies at a minimum. This was recommended to by my Acupuncturist a while back and it has helped so much. I am also a big fan of quick and easy salads, so I add warm rice or quinoa on top of the lettuce. This helps to warm up the salad and makes the mixed greens much easier on my tummy.
Sometimes it does depend which vegetables you are choosing. Cruciferous vegetables tend to be a bit harder to digest; a weak digestive system may struggle with things like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. Vegetables that are easier on your digestive system would be: carrots, zucchini (and other summer squash), butternut squash (and other winter squash), lettuce, spinach, eggplant, cucumbers, and cucumbers. Your digestive system will heal over time as you eliminate the foods that harm and incorporate the foods that heal, so stick to cooked vegetables and ‘safe’ vegetables for the first few months when incorporating this new way of eating. Also, to make cruciferous vegetables more easily digestible Marni Wasserman recommends “putting an acid on (lemon juice, or apple cider vinegar), get them chopped up into small pieces, massage them, put a little sea salt, and olive oil on them (or other omega 3 oil), and let it sit for about 30 minutes” (The Ultimate Health Podcast).
And don’t forget about soups! Soups are a delicious and warm way to eat vegetables. Here is a great idea to turn your vegetable scraps into a vegetable broth: Tasty: How to make vegetable stock from kitchen scraps
I originally intended to go completely vegetarian, but have since decided to make modifications. It’s important to understand that there is not a good diet for everyone. We are all biologically very different, so listen to your body and make choices that give you energy, keep you healthy and make you feel balanced. I still want to avoid meat for ethical and environmental issues, which I will dig into in a future blog. But, I have decided to keep eggs and a bit of fish in my diet for the time being. I feel like those foods help me feel satiated longer and help reduce my intake of sugars.
Not one diet fits all.
Diet in this context does not refer to a short-term calorie restricted way of eating. Whenever I use the word ‘diet’, I am referring to your personal philosophy towards what you choose to put into your body. I believe we all should have one and most of us do, even if we don’t realize it. The choices we make in regards to what foods fuel us, should not simply be left up to whim. We are lucky enough to have choices in regards to what we eat, so when I refer to diet I am referring to the choices we make.
Too often we try to outsource our health to other people, when really all we need to do is listen to our body. Our bodies are miraculous machines and tell us everything we need to know to thrive. The trouble is the body communicates to us through subtle changes in the way we feel, and many of us have trouble interpreting these feelings. Even worse, many of us are so used to feeling uncomfortable, that we start to assume it is normal. Try to be more cognizant of the way different foods, activities, even people make you feel, and stick to the things that make you feel good inside. The trickiest part is figuring out what things to eliminate and what things to add to your healthy lifestyle so be patient and stick with it.
If you want to keep things really simple; start with increasing your intake of vegetables and decreasing your intake of sugar.
As I embark on this wellness journey, I am realizing that balance is of the utmost importance and any kind of ‘addiction’ even ones you may think are healthy, can throw you out of balance. My addiction is chewing gum! I can’t remember when it started, but after every meal I need to pop half a piece into my mouth. Without a second thought I reach for the pack, grab a piece and start chewing, just long enough to remove any taste lingering from my meal.
Listening to, The Ultimate Health podcast the other day, one of the doctor’s mentioned that ‘chewing gum is not a good practice’. It was said in passing and she didn’t go into much detail about it, but it struck me and I decided to dig into the topic deeper. Was I somehow undermining my healthy habits by chewing gum? Let me tell you this subject is a tough one to find any unbiased scientific research on. I am an empiricist and rely mainly on scientific studies and evidence based information to make my decisions, not the first google search by Wrigleys that I come across. So if you want a conclusive yes or no answer to the chewing gum question you may need to look elsewhere, but here is what I found that seemed credible:
It’s my opinion that best practice would be to maintain good oral hygiene, by brushing your teeth, including your tongue for 2 mins twice a day (you’d be surprised how few people actually hit the 2 minute target!), and flossing regularly. Ditch the mouthwash, and use gum sparingly.
One thing is clear though, we need to start chewing our food more! While researching my chewing gum addiction I came across a lot of information about chewing in general. And it shocked me to find out that most of us do not chew our food nearly enough. How to chew our food is not something that is taught to us, and it turns out most of us aren’t doing it that well.
Sometimes, especially when I am really busy or under stress I gormandize my food. I take about 4 bites, trying to eat as quickly as possible because I have better things to do. In these cases I am not enjoying the food, I am simply checking it off my to do list. This is a terrible habit to get into, and can lead to eating more than you intend, because you are not really cognisant of what you are doing at that moment.
Gormandize: (v) to eat greedily and ravenously
Why is chewing your food so important?
Basically, the digestive process begins in your mouth. If you want to digest your food well, and put less burden on your stomach it’s important to properly chew your food. My sister, a highschool biology teacher would probably explain this much better, but here goes.
A simplified explanation of the digestive process of chewing:
So what are some benefits to chewing your food thoroughly?
Michael Pollan puts it best in his novel In Defense of Food, when he writes, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”. It truly is that simple.
Many people today have an unhealthy obsession with food. I am one of those people, which is probably why I decided to spend my Friday night writing this. I have always used the phrase ‘food for fuel’ when choosing what to put into my body. Since age 16 a quick nutrient assessment runs through my head prior to making any decision about what to eat. But, do I really understand what it means to eat healthy?, or like many others, am I still confused with all the contradictory information being published and marketed?
My food decisions have changed drastically over the last 15 years. I went from low fat/no carbs to high ‘good’ fats, and from no meats to lots of lean meat, and circling back to only eggs and the odd bit of fish. Along with all of those changes I jumped on the various diet band wagons to try and keep my weight in check. More recently after a visit to a Naturopath, I eliminated dairy and wheat from my diet to help deal with IBS- that one I have never looked back on. The jury is still out on whether I truly have a wheat sensitivity, but I do know it makes me bloated, so I avoid it. Most people have no problem avoiding foods that makes them feel less than optimal, but the trick is figuring out what those foods are.
What biochemist, Dr. T Colin Campbell, author of The China Study is suggesting is a simple solution to the ever confusing, ever changing issue of- ‘what constitutes a healthy diet?’. As an individual, whose personal philosophy centers around simplicity and minimalism, the whole foods plant based diet sounded like the perfect solution. The China Study is considered the most comprehensive study in nutrition and I was able to get the facts I needed from that book. Many doctors and researchers have been suggesting a plant based diet for years now, and after watching the documentary Food Choices, I was hooked. There was no turning back, I adopted a plant based diet overnight. The main premise to the new diet I adopted is simple: eat foods that are found in nature. This statement eliminates 80% of the products found at the local grocery store and has therefore made the daunting task of grocery shopping for healthy food that much easier!
The facts are in. We have huge control over our health simply by what we eat. We must not think of nutrients as single components, but foods as a whole. No one would disagree with you if you said that vegetables are the most nutrient dense foods, so it makes sense that these should make us the bulk the fuel for your body. We can’t outsmart nature with vitamins and supplements in pill form.
Some of the main concerns people have when told about this simple solution are the following:
A person’s recommend dietary allowance for protein is based on body weight; the formula is: 0.8 x kg of body weight (to find out your weight in kg’s divide pounds by 2.2).
So, for myself for example :125 lbs./2.2 = 56.82kg x 0.8 grams= 45.45 grams
Many people today consume double their daily recommended allowance of protein.
So much money is wasted on nutrient deficient foods. A handful of crackers, or a sugar filled granola bar are providing you with calories, but not much else. Once you replace your meals with heaping plates full of nutrient dense food, you will no longer crave those empty calories, because your body will be full up of everything it needs to fuel your day!
Who doesn’t want to help save the planet and feel better physically while doing it. Some of the benefits from adopting this diet according to Colin Campbell in his book The China Study, are as follows:
I’m only on week three of this new diet, but I will post a follow up to outline my progress in eating a totally plant based diet. Part 2 will focus more on logistics and how I am feeling on this newly adopted way of eating.