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    • Oct
    • 02
    • 2013

Amazing Plant Food Nutrition Facts

[this article appeared in the Oxford Review September 26th 2013]

I have often said that eating whole real foods are the best and quickest way to vibrant health. Read through this list of nutritious plant foods and think about the ones you might want to add to your life. A warning though – adding some of these can make you way healthier!

Asparagus
asparagus This veggie is very high in glutathione, which is an important anticarcinogen, and antioxidant. It also contains a substance called rutin that protects small blood vessels from rupturing, blocks cancer angiogenesis, and also helps the thyroid uptake and use more iodine. Asparagus is a good source of vitamins A, C and E, B-complex vitamins, potassium and zinc.

Avocado
This is quite an amazing fruit and has more than twice as much potassium as a banana. Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fat, which is easily burned for energy and important for making new cells. For a delicious and creamy salad dressing, mix together avocado and fresh carrot juice with a touch of fresh lemon juice.

Beet Root/Greens
beets Beet greens contain notable amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus. The greens also contain vitamins A, a B-complex and C. The beet roots are very high in betaines which lower homocycsteine levels, and beetroot juice has been shown in multiple studies to lower blood pressure.

Cilantro
There is some clinic evidence that cilantro, along with cranberry extract and d-mannose, may be useful to treat urinary tract infections. As a digestive aid, both the leaves and seeds can relieve intestinal gas, pain and abdominal distention. Cilantro has also been useful for nausea, soothing inflammation, helping with rheumatic pain, headaches, coughs and mental stress. A little know fact is that cilantro is a member of the carrot family.

Dandelion Greens
I have a love-hate relationship with dandelion greens. I love them in my salad, but I am not so found that they have taken up permanent residence in my lawn. That being said it is hard to ignore the incredible breadth of dandelion greens, which not only act as powerful digestive aids, but also in helping cleanse the liver. The list for dandelion’s benefits is long and contains other things like aiding to reverse jaundice, cirrhosis, edema due to high blood pressure, gout, eczema and acne. Dandelion greens are high in vitamin A in the form of an antioxidant carotenoid and vitamin C. And if that wasn’t enough dandelion greens are also brilliant sources of calcium, potassium and inulin, which has been shown to help lower blood sugar in diabetics.

Kale
I have praised the benefits of kale in the past due to its amazing nutrient profile. There are many health experts who call kale the most nutrient-dense food on earth. For starters, Kate contains high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, which protect the eyes from macular degeneration. Kale also contains indole-3-carbinol, which may protect against colon cancer, ease symptoms of menopause. Indole-3-carbinol also has the ability to the block toxic xenoestrogens (“xeno” means foreign) that are creating havoc with the hormones of both genders. As far as vitamins and minerals are concerned, kale is an excellent source of calcium, iron, vitamins A and C, and chlorophyll (which means it is also high in magnesium).

Kohlrabi
kholrabi Kohlrabi, which belongs to the cabbage family, is an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium. Due to being high in fibre Kohlrabi helps to stabilize blood sugar and is thus useful for those with hypoglycemia and diabetes alike. Like other members of the cabbage family, kohlrabi is effective against edema, candida and some viral conditions.

Mustard Greens
There is some compelling evidence that mustard greens have some very potent anticancer potential. They are very high in nutrients and compounds that work against the mechanisms of cancerous cells. Additionally mustard greens are good for colds, arthritis or depression by lowering inflammation and boosting the immune system. If you are buying mustard greens look for the milder kind first, since some mustard green varieties, especially those in Asia, can be as hot as a jalapeno due to their mustard oil content.

Onions
red_onions What would life be like without onions? I love cooking with onions – just not cutting them up. An excellent antioxidant, onions have anti-allergy, antiviral and antihistamine properties. One of the best things about onions is their high level of sulphur compounds, which help the body to create glutathione and detoxify. Another action of the sulphur from onions is to aid in cellular repair be supporting DNA replication. Onions are also a rich source of quercetin, which is a potent antioxidant.

Parsley
Parsley is useful as a digestive aid and helps to purify the blood and stimulate proper bowel function. A little known fact about parsley is that it contains three times as much vitamin C as oranges, and twice as much iron as spinach. Parsley also contains vitamin A and is a good source of copper and manganese. And of all the anti-garlic-breath remedies out there, parsley tops them all. If you love garlic, like I do, keep some parsley close at hand.

Pumpkin Seeds
pumpkin-seeds It is recently come to my attention, through hair analysis, that there are a lot of folks that are zinc deficient. Pumpkin seeds to the rescue! Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc, which is good for the prostate, building the immune system, and battling high levels of copper (which can unbalance hormones). They also contain fatty acids that kill parasites. For maximum nutritional benefits, pumpkin seeds should be eaten raw.

Radishes
Another powerful member of the cabbage family, radishes have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Radishes also contain vitamin C, potassium and other trace minerals and come in many colour varieties including: red, pink, white, gray-black or yellow.

Sweet Potato
SweetPotato If you need some carbs and you are not eating grains (for various reasons) then sweet potatoes are an excellent alternate. Sweet potatoes are a powerful source of carotenoid antioxidants, vitamins A and C, thiamine, and potassium. As with all carbohydrates, if you are trying to lose some weight – go easy. If you have a problem with nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers) you don’t have to worry about sweet potatoes since they are actually a member of the morning glory family.

Tomatoes
Fresh tomatoes The harvest wouldn’t be the same without fresh vine-ripened tomatoes. Rich in lycopene, flavonoids and other phytochemicals, tomatoes have been shown to have potent anticarcinogenic properties. They are also an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A and B-complex vitamins, potassium and phosphorus.

If you take anything away from the article is should be that real whole foods are packed with nutrition. Be very diligent in getting as many into your daily routine as possible. They are an invaluable and necessary part of a long, healthy and happy life!

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    • Aug
    • 19
    • 2013

Supplement Threesome – Vitamin D, Fish Oil and Greens

[this article appeared in the Oxford Review August 15th 2013]

These three supplements (foods) when taken together are an amazing threesome! They work synergistically and provide many brilliant health benefits.

Vitamin D
ddropsIt was my Dutch grandmother that taught me to take cod liver oil every month with an ‘r’ – as in the month has an ‘r’ somewhere in its spelling. Cod liver oil has 400 IUs of vitamin D per serving. Couple that with how much sun we get during the summer months (or those without an ‘r’) and you can begin to understand her logic. May, June, July and August give us the most sun and thus we don’t really need vitamin D if we get outside and get some sun.

Don’t shoot the messenger, but September is fast approaching. September has an ‘r’ and thus it is time to get back on your supplemental vitamin D (or start taking your cod liver oil again).

Vitamin D provides us with a host of health benefits that range from increasing our ability to lose fat, to improving bone density through the action of calcitriol (the activated form on vitamin D). When synthesized by monocyte-macrophages, calcitriol acts locally as a cytokine, defending the body against microbial invaders by stimulating the innate immune system. Even more importantly, it’s been shown that a deficiency in Vitamin D can result in some issues such as impotency, or a drastically increased risk of certain getting cancer.

Health Canada tolerable upper intake recommendation is 4000IU/day for adults and there is usually not a reason to go beyond that dosing. I find, for most folks, 1,000-2000IUs per day adequate. However, in cases where an individual is low in Vitamin D (as determined by a blood test), other dosage modalities may be required.

The best vitamin D to take for absorption is sublingual drops under the tongue.

Fish Oil
fish oilDespite some recent negative press that fish oil has received, it is still a supplement I firmly stand behind (I read the entire study in question and I, along with many others, have serious questions regarding the validity of the data).

This is one supplement that should be a part of almost every person’s diet. It’s been greatly researched, and time and time again it has proven itself to have a myriad of health and fat loss benefits. In fact, fish oil is so versatile that it’s been shown to help with fat loss, brain health, eye sight, skin health, immune function, cancer reduction, improve resistance to cardiovascular disease, as well mood and cognition benefits.

Be sure to purchase high-quality fish oil that is IFOS (International Fish Oil Standards) certified. This guarantees that you are getting a 100% completely clean fish oil free of contaminants, toxins, and heavy metals like mercury. I personally have switched to capsule fish oil. This is because the oil in the capsules is never exposed to oxygen and thus cannot become peroxidized (lipid peroxidation is bad).

If you have any inflammatory issues like arthritis or heart disease you should be taking upwards of 5g per day. For most other folks a dose of 2-3g of the active ingredients (EPA/DHA) is adequate. You should take that every day and you can split it into two servings if you want (breakfast and supper). Always take fish oil with your meals.

Greens
PNGR510TI think it is a given that most folks intake of fruits and vegetables is abysmal. We, as an entire country, just aren’t getting enough of the good green stuff that we need. Leaf green vegetable foods, and other green foods (like broccoli) has prodigious health benefits, which are ignored at your own peril.

One example is the mineral magnesium. This mineral is chronically under consumed in North America and yet is responsible for binding to over 300 different activation binding sites on proteins, boosts our immune system, prevents osteoporosis, aids in fat loss, aids in muscle gain, and deters dementia to name just a few.

One of the secrets of green foods is that they contain chlorophyll (that makes them green and is what helps them convert the suns rays into energy). Chlorophyll’s central mineral is magnesium and it sits right in the middle of the top part of the molecule. If you get a chance to Google it and take a look at the 3D chemical structure it is quite beautiful and kind of looks like a flower actually.

When thinking about our less-than-adequate intake of vegetables we must address the reality that a lack of nutrients (from real food) can lead to increased risk of getting diseases. Getting more nutrients, then, should definitely be on your daily to-do list.

Green superfood supplements are basically a powdered equivalent of around 4-5 servings of vegetables, which can be easily mixed into a protein shake when on the go, and you can get them at almost any health food store. Adding some greens (in the leafy or powdered form) in the morning can give you quite the little extra boost and will help you manage stress better as a result.

Managing stress and keeping levels of vitamins and minerals high is one of the secrets of a healthy and happy body.

As Always – Train hard. Eat your greens. And Smile!

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    • Jul
    • 12
    • 2013

Sometimes You Have to Gain to Lose

Fat Loss: Sometimes You Have To Gain To Lose

The obsession with weight loss continues and I even fall victim to the phraseology sometimes; “I want to lose weight,” I hear my clients say. The problem with phrasing body composition this way is that we are constantly worried about being overweight.

The WHO (World Health Organization) doesn’t really help in that regard either. This is due to their use of the standard Body Mass Index (BMI), which actually has a category called ‘overweight’ (BMI between 25-30).

The issue I take with this is that I am actually overweight; my BMI is over 27. But, when I take my own body composition with my pretty nifty and high-tech Intelamatrix ultrasound machine I find myself at a comfortable 11% body fat. This is totally acceptable number and is not considered overweight at all.

Unfortunately, the Body Mass Index isn’t going anywhere soon (for various reasons like data collection, data crunching, and universal ubiquity), which means that I should explain the term ‘body composition.’

Body Composition
When we personal trainers look at the body composition numbers of clients we are measuring a few different things: 1) fat-free mass, 2) total body water, and 3) fat mass. We calculate your fat mass by taking your current weight and subtracting your fat-free mass (bones, muscle, organs) and your total body water, which gives us your total fat mass.

Fat mass is the amount of total fat that you have on your body. Remember, fat is very important and the percentage of fat on your body should never be zero (else you would be dead quite frankly), but most folks in North America have a little extra (and then some). It is that extra that is driving things like diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hearth health issues, and some cancers.

Losing Weight
Let me be very clear about something – you don’t want to lose weight! What you really want to do is lose fat. Anybody can lose weight – just don’t eat; unfortunately, the weight you lose will be both muscle and fat.

The goal to successful weight loss is to preserve as much muscle as possible, and ideally even gain some, while at the same time losing as much body fat as possible (within a healthy context of course). Your body fat percentage is a key indicator of your success, not the scale. In fact, stay off the scale. Period!

The Muscle Connection
Muscle is vital to your success for losing fat. Muscles have these little fat burning powerhouses called mitochondria, which are cellular power plants that are responsible for the utilization of energy. It is in the mitochondria that fat is metabolized and burned. A good way to think of what mitochondria does is to think of shoveling coal into a steam engine train, but in this case you are shoveling fat into your mitochondrion steam engine!

Get More Mitochondria
The more mitochondria you have, the more the potential to burn fat. How do you get more of these little cellular fat-burning steam engines? Well, you need to give your body a reason to create more of them. The way you do this is by performing high intensity exercise like HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) training and by lifting weights. When you add mitochondria you invariably increase the demand for energy above and beyond what your body is already using (called your Basil Metabolic Rate). Thus, your body is forced to create new mitochondria, and burn more calories from your own fat, in order to be prepared for the next time your muscles make a request for additional extra energy.

The great thing about muscle and mitochondria is that they are active tissue. Unlike fat (which only requires a little energy), they need constant energy to maintain themselves. Thus, your body will be burning fat at all times of the day – even while you’re sleeping. And yes, it is possible to burn fat in your sleep!

Worry Not About Your Weight
Telling people to ignore their weight is a very common theme for me, and for good reason. Too many times successful dieting is sabotaged because of a meaningless number on a scale. A scale does nothing other than measure the force of gravity on your body. Why should this matter at all? It can’t tell you if your clothes fit better, it can’t tell you if your body fat percentage has changed, and it definitely won’t tell you that you’re looking any better. You need progress measuring tools that are going to track fat loss – not weight loss. Body fat calipers, tape measures, ultrasonics (my tech of choice), pictures, clothes fitting better, and other people’s comments are all going to be more useful to you than a scale ever was.

Lose By Gaining
Don’t worry about your weight – even if it goes up. As you begin working out and eating better you will definitely be putting on some muscle and building new mitochondria (fat-burning-furnaces). It is quite common to gain weight even as you lose weight when starting a program. If are using a scale to track your progress, stop, and go buy a tape measure – it is more accurate and helpful anyway!

Remember, if you’re looking better, you’re weight doesn’t matter. The only time it matters is when you tell your weight to someone who doesn’t understand the difference between weight loss and fat loss (and now you have a chance to educate them).

The Key
Preserve, and gaining muscle, while losing fat: that is the ultimate goal and should be your singular focus.

I have found that people tend to sabotage their diets by eating too little food and too few nutrients resulting in muscle loss. Once you start losing muscle, you are fighting an uphill battle to lose fat. This is one of the main reasons why diets fail; that, and food addiction.

To ensure success you must get in enough calories for your body size and activity level. Be sure to make sure those calories are nutrient dense by having them come from fruits, vegetables, meats, legumes, tubers, and other whole foods.

Use intense exercise to give your muscles a reason to maintain themselves and to grow. The trick to this whole idea is to gain weight (muscle weight) and to lose weight (fat weight) at the same time. If you do that you will turn into a fat-burning machine.

Sometimes you have to gain to lose. Keep that in mind on your way to a healthy, fit, and happy body.

As Always – Eat Healthy. Build Muscle. And Smile!

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    • Jul
    • 04
    • 2013

Worry, Inflammation, and Fun Therapy

[this article was also published in the Oxford Review on July 4th, 2013]

worried_sickIf you have ever been worried then you know that sometimes our emotional and mental state can literally affect us physically. Turns out that the colloquial expression, “Worried sick,” actually has some science behind it.

According to a new study, worrying too much about stressful events in our lives can trigger inflammation. The researchers found out that dwelling on negative events increases certain types of inflammation in our bodies. When they studied participants who were asked to ruminate over a personal stressful incident they discovered that their levels of C-reactive protein rose. The interesting thing about this study is that it is the first time that researchers have directly measured the inflammatory response of the body when just thinking about a stressful event.

CRP
CRPC-reactive protein (CRP), as some of you know, is a protein found in the blood whose levels rise in response to inflammation in the body and your doctor will often check for it if you have a heart issue like atherosclerosis.

CRP is primarily produced by the liver as part of the immune system’s initial inflammatory response to a threat and it will rise in response to trauma, injury or an infection in the body. C-reactive protein is widely used as a clinical marker to determine if a patient has an infection, but also if he or she may be at risk for disease later in life like hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and possibly colon cancer.

However, CRP may now be an indication of a stressful life event.

The Science
ohio-universityThe lead researcher of this new study, Dr. Peggy Zoccola (a researcher at Ohio University), asked each of the thirty-four women to give a speech about her candidacy for a job to two interviewers in white laboratory coats, who listened with ‘stone-faced’ expressions.

To determine the stress response the researchers had half of the group contemplate their performance in the public speaking task, while the other half was asked to think about neutral images and activities, such as sailing ships or grocery store trips.

Now for the interesting part – the researchers drew blood samples from each of the participants in both groups. When the blood samples were taken back to the lab they found that when ladies in the study were asked to ruminate on a stressful incident, their levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of tissue inflammation, rose.

What was surprising for me when I looked into this research was that the levels of the CRP inflammatory marker, from the participants asked to think about their performance, continued to rise for at least one hour after the speech. However, during the same one-hour period, the participants asked to think about neutral things, had their CRP levels return to starting levels.

Inflammation
It seems that science is finding that more and more, chronic inflammation is at the root of various disorders, diseases and conditions.

It is clear that the immune system, and therefore inflammation, plays an important role in various cardiovascular disorders such as heart disease, as well as cancer, dementia and autoimmune diseases. Thus, it is vital that we keep inflammation in check.

Fun Therapy
play book stuart brownThere are many ways to keep inflammation under control in our bodies. It is very important that we take time to relax and relieve our stress.

Since I am discussing the inflammatory response associated with worry, I am going to suggest you do something that is the complete opposite of worry. Children act as the example here because they do something that we adults often don’t: we forget to play.

Getting out and just having fun, while the world happens without us, seems like a foreign concept to most adults (yes, I am guilty as charged here). If you are interested in why play-time for adults is so important I would recommend a book, by Dr. Stuart Brown, aptly entitled “Play.”

The idea of the book is that adults who play will lower their stress, open their minds, and invigorate their soul. If you would like to get a sneak peek at the ideas in the book do a Google search for Dr. Brown’s TED-Talk “Play is More Than Fun.”


When talking about inflammation and worry I could give you a list of supplements to take to lower that inflammation: things like fish oil, curcumin, and a low-sugar diet really do play (not pun intended of course) an important role. But, that wouldn’t help your mind and its focus on the stress in your life. What you need to do is aim for the root of the problem and that is to put life-stress in its place and have a little fun now and again. It is okay to be serious and adult-like, but too much of that and you lose your ability to think clearly, maintain a positive outlook, and feel content. In fact, when inflammation goes up in your body (from worry or otherwise) you become less effective overall – less able to fight off infection and less able to avoid chronic diseases, and much less happy from day-to-day.

go-playKnowing that just dwelling on stressful events can weaken your immune system and make you ill, can you see a reason to have some real fun? This weekend go do some enjoyable activities that you have been putting off for far too long. Throw a ball around, go to the beach, do some yoga, hang out with friends, crochet, read a book, act silly or go for a long nature walk. Whatever it is just have fun doing it.

It has been said that stress is the root cause of all illness and I believe there is some truth to that.

Isn’t it time you had some fun therapy? Go out and play!

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    • Apr
    • 18
    • 2013

3 Reasons To Love Vitamin K2

Most people have heard of Vitamin K. However, few people realize that Vitamin K is actually a group of fat-soluble vitamins called naphthoquinones.

These naphthoquinones are divided into three groups and known affectionately as K1, K2 and K3.

K1 and K3

Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) generally comes from plants and is highest in dark leafy green veggies (kale, spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens, parsley, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus and avocado). Vitamin K1 plays a primary role in blood coagulation

Vitamin K3 (menadione) is a synthetic version of the vitamin and is generally considered unsafe and unnecessary for general use.

Vitamin K2

Menaquinone (the scientific name for those that, like me, geek-out on this stuff) has received a lot of press in the medical world recently as it has been discovered to be tightly tied to things like bone health and arterial plaque.

K2 is in part the product of a fermentation process carried out by our intestinal bacteria (one of the reasons probiotic foods and supplements are so important) when we eat dark leafy greens. This is due to a natural conversion of K1 to K2 by the body. However, this process only happens at a rate of 10:1 and since most folks don’t eat enough of the green leafy foods we are left with a big K2 deficiency in Canada.

There are other trace sources of K2 like meats and dairy products (particularly grass-fed pasture-raised animals – especially butter and organ meats). However, they pale in comparison to the much touted mega-source of K2 called natto, which is a traditional fermented Japanese dish consisting of sticky soy beans that offers a powerful nutritional punch but a rather limited flavor appeal to those born outside Japan.

Natto is commonly eaten at breakfast in Japan. In contrast we eat sugar laden breakfast foods and we wonder why they are healthier (and don’t even get me started on their high levels of omega-3 consumption, veggie intake and almost wheat-free diet).

The recent body of research on Vitamin K2 underscores the idea that K1 and K2 should be appreciated as separate nutrients with distinct physiological actions and benefits. As I mentioned before, K1 is known for its key role in directing blood clotting in the body and has also shown anti-inflammatory properties.

Bone Health

K2 on the other hand appears to be especially key in maintaining bone mineralization and limiting the formation and lifespan of osteoclasts, which are cells that break down bone. Researchers are increasingly optimistic about K2′s potential for those with or at risk for osteoporosis.

Again I look to the Japanese who have some of the lowest rates of osteoporosis in the world despite consuming less calcium than those of us here in the West.

Heart Health

One of the problems with heart disease in that free calcium attaches to plaque in the arteries (arterial calcification) making it almost impossible to get rid of. Actually there is compelling evidence that suggests that large supplemental calcium intake is associated with an increase in heart disease.

What if I told you that Vitamin K2′s ability to assist in bone formation helps reduce your chances of heart disease? Well it does!

Vitamin K2 tells the free calcium in the body to go to the bone for storage right? There is a growing understanding that shows that K2 may aid cardiovascular health by helping to prevent, and actually even reverse arterial calcification, which is a known contributor to cardiovascular disease.

Thanks to K2 the free calcium now gets stored in bone instead of causing arterial calcification. And that is good news!

But wait there’s more!

Wrinkles

It has long been recognized that Japanese woman have skin that ages very gracefully.

Is it genetics? Maybe.

There is new research (originally presented in Boston by the Endocrine Society in 2011) to suggest that adequate dietary vitamin K2 prevents calcification of our skin’s elastin, which is a protein that gives skin the ability to spring back. This smooths out lines and helps to stop wrinkles.

As it turns out Vitamin K2 is necessary for activation of matrix proteins that act to inhibit calcium from being deposited in elastin fibers of our skin. This inhibition keeps these fibers from hardening and causing wrinkles.

On top of all that Vitamin K2 is also necessary for the proper functioning of vitamin A- and D- dependent proteins.

Sources

I am so impressed K2 that I am now taking a Vitamin K2 supplement. If you live in Woodstock you can purchase it at the “InsideU” health food store which is located at 682 Peel St (to shop online click here).

You can get K2 supplementally in capsule form and it is fairly inexpensive.

If you are looking for a supplement that will target bone health, heart health and skin health all at the same time – then K2 is for you!

I am also planning to make my own natto since it is hard to find outside of Japan. I plan on getting a natto starter kit and fermenting some at home. Yum!

For the maximum Vitamin K2 experience you need to eat your green leafies, and eat natto. If you can’t find, or make, natto then you might what to consider supplementing since it is inexpensive.

Until next time – Eat Healthy. Train Hard. And Smile

[appeared in the Oxford Review April 18th, 2013]

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