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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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    • 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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    • Dec
    • 20
    • 2012

Fight The Flu With Kung Food

Kung Fu Panda

Food has some pretty strong Kung Fu when it comes to fighting the flu. It is my first line defense before, during and after flu season. Basically I eat nutrient rich, illness-fighting foods all year round to protect myself and as a result I rarely ever even catch a cold.

I do have a confession to make at this point: I don’t get the flu shot.

Not before you think I am taking sides regarding vaccinations – I’m not. It is what my personal choice is and therefore is not meant to be a broad statement of policy regarding vaccinations. There are times and populations for whom vaccinations are certainly indicated. Okay, now that that is out of the way, let’s get into the good stuff shall we?

There is a lot you can do in your own kitchens to help fight off disease and build a strong immune system. I am living proof of that. When I was younger I was often sick and was hospitalized on more that one occasion with an upper respiratory tract infection that just wouldn’t quit. As I moved into adulthood and started to give my body the nutrition and raw materials it needed to build me a robust immune system my bouts with illness steadily declined. I am now at a point where, if I do catch something, my turn-around time is measured in hours not days (currently 24 hours or less).

pumpkin-seeds-lg

The scientific field of nutritional immunology is growing by leaps and bounds and scientists in that field are unveiling new evidence of the complex role that nutrition plays in fighting off infectious diseases like influenza. For example, a diet rich in nutrients such as vitamin A, found in colorful fruits and vegetables, and zinc, found in seafood, nuts and pumpkin seeds, can provide the critical ingredients the body needs to fight off disease, heal injuries, and survive illness when it does strike.

The immune system is a very complex dynamic interdependent and intradependent system. Scientists continue to study the interrelationships of those systems and the nutrients that interact with it work together. Frankly, there is still much that we don’t know, but scientists do know that certain vitamins and minerals can improve the body’s ability to fight off infection.

The benefits of good nutrition may have been recognized first by Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician who declared “let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” That is the way I live my own life and I think if you were to adopt any New Year’s resolution that would probably be a good one!

Supplement Savvy
I have always held that you must first get your nutrition from real whole foods. Work diligently to eat a wide variety of vegetables first, then fruit (keeps the insulin load in check) nuts and seeds. However, there are times when life gets in the way and that just isn’t feasible. That is when it is time for an insurance policy.

I, for example, do take some additional zinc, magnesium and B-vitamins. I have suffered from migraines in the past and the magnesium seems to stop them dead in their tracks. Additionally, research has shown that zinc is probably the most valuable additional nutrient you can take and a recent study showed that taking zinc (60mg per day) right at the onset of flu and cold symptoms significantly decreased the time spent under-the-weather.

New-Roots-Magnesium-Bisglycinate

My favorite whole food sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds and my favorite source of magnesium is anything alive and green – like a nice spring salad mix. When I need a little boost I take the supplements to make sure I am getting all I need (if you want to take a magnesium supplement I would recommend magnesium bisglycinate as it is very absorbable by the body).

Antioxidants
Scientists have long known that some vitamins, minerals and other nutrients can play a key role in the immune system by acting as antioxidants. These protect and repair cells from oxidative stress, the damage caused by molecules known as free radicals.

But nutrients work in ways beyond acting as antioxidants. Take for example vitamin A (the precursor, provitamin-A, is found in orange things like sweet potato) can enhance the immune system by stimulating specific proteins necessary for immune function by activating specific genes. It is easy to see that if you have a deficiency in eating orange and red foods you may not be getting enough immune support from vitamin A.

An additional study shows that a deficiency of vitamin B-6, which helps maintain the health of organs that make white blood cells (think immune system cells), can decrease antibody production and suppress the immune response. Some of the highest sources of vitamin B-6 are sunflower seeds and spinach.

All nutritional experts generally agree that the best way to get the right balance of nutrients is a balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds.

Boosting-Immunity

In order to maximally boost your immune system I think it is best to avoid processed foods, to eliminate trans fats and to get whole real food in your diet each and every meal. And remember that during this hectic and fun time of year, if you need a little insurance policy to keep your immune system at its best you can take some supplements, like zinc, for a boost!

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    • Dec
    • 18
    • 2012

Short On Veggies?? Try Juicing!

Juicing is one of the keys to giving you a radiant, energetic life and truly optimal health.

The very first Vitality Plus podcast done with Travis Blum (my wingman) is now live. The subject of our first podcast is the health benefits of juicing fruits and veggies.

Listen to it here:

There are valuable and sensitive micronutrients that are damaged when you heat some vegetable foods.

Cooking and processing veggies can destroy some these micronutrients by altering their shape and chemical composition. Juicing allows you to eat the veggies raw without actually eating them. Not all cooking is bad – but getting raw veggies is of critical import these days!

There are three main reasons why you will want to consider incorporating vegetable juicing into your health program:

Intestinal Health

Most of us have compromised intestines as a result of less than optimal food choices over many years. This limits your body’s ability to absorb all the nutrients from the vegetables. Juicing will help to “pre-digest” them for you so you will receive most of the nutrition rather than having it go down the toilet.

Not Eating Enough

Most folks just are not eating enough veggies. It is a common problem and I even fall prey to it from time to time. Vegetable juicing allows you to accomplish this, as you can eat more vegetables than you would normally. By incorporating the juice into your eating plan you will easily be able to reach this goal.

Bunch-Of-Veggies

More Than Salad

If you eat the vegetables like a salad then you will be having far too many salads. This violates the principle of regular food rotation and increases your chance of developing an allergy to a certain food.

Hardware

If you are new to juicing, it’s best to start out with an inexpensive juicer. The benefit to this is that if you decide you do not want to continue you will not be out a large amount of money. There are some things to watch for, however. Inexpensive centrifugal juicers produce low quality juice and are very loud, which may contribute to hearing loss. They are probably fine for short-term use. I have a twin-gear juicer that is brilliant.

Some Tips

Many of my clients felt they would have a problem with juicing, but they found that it was much better than they thought it would be. This is partly related to the fact that you should only start by juicing vegetables that you enjoy eating non-juiced. The juice should taste pleasant and not make you nauseous. (A key point a good friend learned from juicing too many leeks!)
It is very important to listen to your body when juicing. Your stomach should be very happy all morning long. If it is churning or growling or generally making its presence known, you probably juiced something you should not be eating at this time. Personally, I’ve noticed that I can’t juice large amounts of ginger, but if I spread it out, I do fine.

Breakfast Drink

Vegetable juice is a great breakfast food, However, please remember that vegetable juice and fruit juices are two completely different substances in terms of nutrition. I am confident that large amounts of fruit juices, for the most part, should be avoided. Although vegetable juice is processed, it doesn’t raise insulin levels like fruit juice might.

Eat The Pulp

When you juice, you will produce pulp. What should you do with it? It’s best to mix it in with the juice and consume it. In my experience with clients when they first start juicing, they would juice every day, and their stools would at times become loose. Once they started adding the pulp fiber back into their juice, this problem went away. There is a benefit to eating the fiber, as it serves as fertilizer for the good bacteria in the colon. I cannot stress enough that the pulp is one of the things that feed the good bacteria in your gut.

Eating the pulp increases the time it takes to consume the juice, but it is healthier. One can gradually add the pulp back in over time to get used to it. If you add the entire pulp back in, the mixture becomes almost like a green vegetable porridge that can be eaten with a spoon.

The method I currently use is to drink about 75 percent of the juice and then pour the other 25 percent of the juice back into the pulp. I add some ground seeds like chia or flax into the mixture, stir it up and eat it like porridge.

Try it both ways.

As Always – Eat Healthy. Train Hard. And Juice!

[this article appeared in the weekend edition of the Oxford Review on November 16, 2012]

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