Health News

To Salt or Not to Salt?

Ditch the Table Salt

Regular table salt contains 97% salt, but it also has anti-caking agents, MSG, chemical additives and aluminum derivatives. It’s not natural (although it does have iodine), and it has been shown to increase blood pressure and contribute to weight gain.

 

Shake the Sea Salt

There are several good reasons to include unrefined Celtic Sea Salt or pink Himalayan salt, in your diet. It can improve hydration, support kidney function, help cleanse the colon, support brain function and heart health, transport fluids throughout the body, and help improve overall energy levels. Adding 1/4 teaspoon sea salt to your meals is a simple way to boost your health. Sodium and potassium work together throughout your body, so it is important to keep them balanced. In addition to adding sea salt to your diet on a regular basis, be sure to include lots of potassium rich foods such as avocado, spinach, swiss chard, sweet potatoes, lima beans, pinto beans and lentils.

Rich in Trace Minerals
High-quality sea salts typically contain between 60 and 84 different trace minerals (potassium, chloride, magnesium etc.). Our soils are becoming more and more depleted, making it harder to obtain trace minerals from the foods we eat.

Helps Balance Fluids
Sodium is a regulator of water within your body and within your body, water likes to follow salt. This means, if you take in too much salt, water retention will occur. At the same time, the opposite is also true. If you don’t take in enough salt, you won’t be able to retain enough water and you will urinate too frequently. Essentially, a loss in sodium results in a loss in water. Consuming sea salt daily, will help to maintain sufficient sodium levels, which will help balance sodium-potassium ratios. Sodium and potassium are two electrolytes that work together to ensure that there is proper fluid balance in your body’s cells as well as your blood plasma and extracellular fluid.

Excellent Electrolyte Source
The minimal processing of unrefined sea salt enables it to retain much of its natural mineral content. Electrolytes have so many important functions, from regulating your heartbeat to allowing your muscles to contract properly. Enjoying sea salt in moderation can help to prevent an electrolyte imbalance.

Supports Brain, Muscle and Nervous System Function
As a provider of sodium, sea salt is not just good for you, it’s essential for proper brain, muscle and nervous system function. Sodium is required for the transmission of electrical signals in the body. Without this communication system working as it should, the brain, muscles and nervous systems are inclined to suffer. Both too much and too little sodium can cause cellular malfunction. Many people have become “salt-a-phobic.” While it is important to make sure that you do not get too much salt in your diet, it is equally as important to make sure you get enough.

Aids Digestion
Not getting enough salt in your diet can actually negatively impact your digestive health. If you don’t get enough salt in your diet, it can lead to your body not producing enough hydrochloric acid (HCL) in your stomach. If you have low stomach acid, it can seriously throw off your digestive system. Consuming the right amount of sea salt helps your body produce proper amounts of HCL since sea salt provides chloride, which is the building block of stomach acid.

Enhances Nutrient Absorption
Having enough stomach acid also helps our bodies to absorb vitamins and minerals like calcium, zinc, iron, folate and B12. Consuming a high-quality sea salt regularly can help your body absorb more nutrients from the foods that you eat. It’s not only what you eat, but how your body processes what you eat, that gives your body the nutrients it needs on a daily basis.

So go ahead and shake the sea salt.  It’s good for your health!

 

 

Cholesterol, Friend or Foe?

managing-cholesterol

What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a naturally occurring substance made by the liver and required by the body for the proper function of cells, nerves, and hormones. Cholesterol acts as an antioxidant and protects cells from toxins and dehydration. It is a precursor or building material for hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, aldosterone and cortisol. Cholesterol is also a component of bile and precursor for vitamin D.

How is Cholesterol Linked to Cardiovascular Disease?
Cholesterol travels in the lipids (fatty acids) of the blood stream. When lipids build up and clump together, plaque forms in the walls of the arteries. Plaque can decrease the flow of blood to vital areas of the body.  If plaque continues to build long term, it significantly increases the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Help, My Doctor Says I Have High Cholesterol!
Relax and take a deep breath
LDL levels in blood are only about 29% accurate as a predictor of cardiovascular disease (CVD).  From a nutritional perspective, LDL is not the only factor; free radicals are the problem, because they have the ability to damage artery walls. Free radicals can be decreased with antioxidants (vitamins A, C, E, zinc and selenium). When blood tests reveal high cholesterol levels, a doctor will often prescribe a statin drug. As a nutritionist, I ask why is the body producing more cholesterol? What is increasing the demand for cholesterol? If your body is low on vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and essential fatty acids, it may begin producing more cholesterol to “pinch hit” as an antioxidant. Cholesterol can only be excreted if there is enough fiber in the diet. A low fiber diet can lead to high cholesterol levels. A diet high in refined sugar, refined carbs, chemical additives and trans fats from processed foods can lead to high cholesterol.

What Do These Numbers Mean?
Doctors often look at total cholesterol and use 5.2 as the cut off, considering anything above 5.2 as high cholesterol. As a nutritionist, I like to examine LDL, HDL and triglycerides separately.
For LDL (“bad” cholesterol), I like to see 4 mmol/L or less.
For HDL (“good” cholesterol), 2 mmol/L or more is fine. There are no negative health effects of slightly higher levels of HDL, so it is important to consider the values individually.
For Triglycerides, the ideal range for someone 10-39 years is less than 1.2 mmol/L and for someone 40+ years, less than 1.7 mmol/L

What Causes High Cholesterol?
Inflammation is the culprit for most diseases, and sugar and refined carbs promote inflammation throughout the body. Sugar and refined carbs are the main cause of high cholesterol. They drive your liver to create more fat in your blood, a process called lipogenesis.
•excess sugars
•excess refined carbohydrates (white flour, pasta, processed foods, baked goods)
•excess poor quality fats (hydrogenated oil, margarine, vegetable oil, canola oil)
•deficiencies of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids
•low dietary fiber
•need for increased membrane integrity due to:
increased toxins, free radicals (chemicals, pesticides, smoking)
•chronic dehydration
•chronic stress
•low thyroid function
•menopause (causes a temporary elevation)

The Good News
“999 out of 1000 people can control their cholesterol level and cardiovascular health by nutritional means alone.” (Udo Erasmus, author of “Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill”)

Dietary Recommendations

In 1913, a study was done by feeding rabbits a diet high in cholesterol, then autopsying the rabbits and looking at the damage done to the arteries in the animals. All mainstream approaches to cardiovascular disease have hinged on this flawed study. The last time I checked, the typical diet of a rabbit did not contain any trace amounts of cholesterol and their bodies are not meant to process it. Bottom line: Your body needs healthy fats and is meant to process them, so do not avoid eating good quality fats simply because you have high cholesterol.

•Mediterranean diet
•fish – wild caught salmon, tuna, mackerel
•olive oil (use only extra virgin cold pressed organic olive oil in a dark glass bottle to avoid rancidity/free radicals. Buy smaller bottles to ensure freshness)
•coconut oil
•garlic & onions (contain sulfur compounds that help lower cholesterol)
•tomato products (lycopene found in tomatoes can help reduce cholesterol, cooked tomatoes contain even more lycopene than raw)
eliminate sugar!
serum level cholesterol can often be brought back into normal levels simply by complete elimination of sugar
•dairy is pro-inflammatory and ideally should be eliminated or at the least greatly reduced
•avoid low fat yogurt as it is high in sugar and additives
•wheat is also pro-inflammatory which increases the need for antioxidants
•reduce carbohydrates to control blood sugar
nothing white, refined or processed
•high fiber diet
those on a high fiber diet tend to have lower serum cholesterol levels than those who consume mostly refined flour and processed foods
dietary fiber promotes the flow of bile (as does our intake of healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, nuts & seeds) and bile is made from cholesterol
•LOTS of vegetables
•two servings of fruit/day
•alcohol, soda, sugar-sweetened drinks, refined carbs and sugar are the enemy when it comes to cholesterol

A note on eggs: Don’t be afraid to enjoy organic free range eggs. The lecithin found in egg yolks will actually help to dissolve plaque on artery walls. Eggs are one of nature’s most nutrient-dense foods and a relatively inexpensive source of protein. Look for organic, free-range and pasture- raised eggs. These eggs are more nutritious, contain lower amounts of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids and higher amounts of omega-3, vitamins A and E, and beta-carotene, an antioxidant and precursor to vitamin A production. Pasture-raised eggs are the highest quality because the hens are raised on pastureland instead of in confinement, where they are fed primarily grains. The diet of pasture- raised hens is complemented with worms and bugs, which gives their eggs a higher nutrient profile.

Lifestyle Recommendations
Exercise has been shown to reduce elevated cholesterol levels. Cardio workout of any kind (even walking) for 30 minutes at a time, 3 times per week has significant effects on cholesterol.
Decreasing stress levels also helps to lower cholesterol levels.

Lemon Power

lemon-peel-extract

A lot has been written about the many health benefits of starting your day with a glass of warm lemon water.  But have you ever considered adding a whole organic lemon to your morning smoothie?

Did you know that lemon peels actually contain about 5 to 10 times more vitamins than lemon juice? They are an excellent source of fiber, potassium, magnesium, calcium, folate, beta carotene and bioflavonoids. Just be sure to purchase organic lemons. Commercially grown lemons are often waxed to protect them from bruising during shipping. Plant, insect, animal or petroleum-based waxes may be used.

Caution: Lemon peels contain a high amount of oxalates which are naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and humans. For the vast majority of individuals, oxalate-containing foods should not be a health concern. However, high concentrations of oxalates can lead to problems associated with crystallization such as kidney or gallbladder stones. Therefore, if you already suffer from these problems, avoid eating lemon peel.

What about the seeds? Trace amounts of salicylic acid (the main ingredient in aspirin) are found in lemon seeds, so eating a few lemon seeds here and there may give you some ache and pain-relieving benefits. Again, just be sure to purchase organic.

Stop Before You Pop

bagged-popcorn-spilling-out-of-bag

I love popcorn, but you won’t catch me eating microwave popcorn. Microwave popcorn is deliciously dangerous for two main reasons.

  1.  Diacetyl
    That wonderful aroma that hits you when you open a bag of freshly popped microwave popcorn is a chemical called diacetyl. Diacetyl is a synthetic butter flavouring that has doctors concerned. Hundreds of workers at popcorn manufacturing plants have developed a condition called “popcorn lung,” also known by the medical name bronchiolitis obliterans. The condition is caused by inhalation of diacetyl fumes, which cause scarring in the lungs. Sufferers of popcorn lung have difficulty exhaling, and when severe, the condition can be fatal. You may not be a factory worker, but chemicals build up in your lungs and tissues over time. Repeated exposure to harmful chemicals can pose a serious health hazard.

2. Perfluorooctanoic
The second problem with microwave popcorn is perfluorooctanoic or PFOA. The manufacturers of microwave popcorn coat the bags with a chemical that, according to the FDA, breaks down during the cooking process and forms a chemical called perfluorooctanoic or PFOA. The Environmental Protection Agency classifies PFOA as a likely carcinogen and it has been linked to thyroid issues, high cholesterol and bladder cancer.

Solution:  Buy certified organic non-GMO popcorn kernels and make it on the stove top or use a hot air popper. Drizzle on some melted coconut oil and sprinkle with sea salt. You could even add some nutritional yeast for a faux-parmesan taste. Enjoy your healthy snack of popcorn, free from harmful chemicals and health hazards.

Where Does MSG Hide?

Does “NO MSG” really mean MSG-free? A product may be labelled no MSG, but it could in fact contain MSG! Unfortunately, MSG (monosodium glutamate) hides under many different names: autolyzed yeast, calcium caseinate, gelatin, glutamate, glutamic acid, hydrolyzed protein, monopatassium glutamate, monosodium glutamate, sodium caseinate, textured protein, yeast extract and yeast nutrient. Continue reading

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because it is made in the skin during exposure to sunlight. If you live in Ontario (or anywhere above the 37th parallel), it is impossible for your body to make enough vitamin D from mid-September to mid-May.

Vitamin D activates the immune system by “arming” T cells to fight off infections. Continue reading

Fish Facts

Fish can have extremely high levels of chemical residues, as much as 9 million times that of the water in which they live. Mercury and other toxins accumulate in greater concentrations as you go up the food chain. Avoid large fish such as Atlantic Tuna, Orange Roughy, and Chilean Seabass. Pass on any farmed fish. Aquaculture is a dirty industry. Continue reading

Hangover Prevention Tips

Water Rotation

Drink a glass of water between every single drink of alcohol. By drinking one glass of water for every shot, glass or can of alcohol you consume, you will help to prevent starting the new year with a hangover.

Skip the Sugar

Skip the mixed cocktails full of sugar. Sugar is a recipe for blood sugar imbalance, which means headache and upset tummy. Continue reading

What Are Your Nails Telling You?

Nails are hard little shields that protect your fingers and toes from injury and infection. But did you know, that your nails are also a reflection of your health?

Hormonal: While changes in nail appearance such as brittle nails can occur for a variety of reasons, the most likely cause for women of menopausal age is hormone fluctuation, particularly estrogen. Continue reading

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