Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”
And while this may not be 100% true for every disease in every person, more and more research shows that our gut (digestive system) has a bigger role in many diseases than we used to think. And we're not just talking about heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, IBS, IBD, etc. We're talking about all kinds of issues like allergies, pain, mood disorders, and nutrient deficiencies.
There are a lot of reasons for this. Our gut is the portal to the outside world. It's here where we take in disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. We also take in nutrients (and toxins) through our gut. The nutrients we ingest and absorb are the building blocks of every single part of our body. We're just learning the connections between our gut and other areas of our body, like our brain (have you heard of "the gut-brain axis"). Not just our gut per se; but, its friendly resident microbes too. These guys also have newly discovered roles in our gut health and overall health.
So, let's talk about the roles that our gut and our gut microbes play in our overall health. Then I'll give you tips to improve your gut health naturally.
Our gut’s role in our overall health
Our gut’s main role is as a barrier. To let things in that should get in, and to keep things out that should stay out. Think of “absorption” of nutrients as things we want to let in; and “elimination” of waste as things we want to pass right through and out.
This seemingly simple role is super-complex! And it can break down in so many places.
For one thing, our guts can "leak." Yes, like a long tube with holes in it, it can allow things to get into our bloodstream/bodies that can wreak havoc (bacteria, undigested food, and toxins). You name it, whatever you put into your mouth can be absorbed by your gut and get into your bloodstream, even if it's not supposed to. And when your gut wall gets irritated, it can "leak." When this happens, you get inflammation, which is a starting point for many diseases that don't seem linked to the gut but have a sneaky connection there.
FUN FACT: About 70% of our immune system lives in and around our gut.
A healthy gut is not a leaky gut. It maintains its barrier and shuttles things through to be eliminated. Maintaining a healthy gut barrier is the first pillar of gut health.
The second main part of your gut are the billions of friendly health-promoting microbes. Gut microbes help us digest and absorb nutrients. They fight off disease-causing microbes, make some vitamins for us, and have all kinds of other health benefits, like mental health benefits, reducing inflammation, and stabilizing blood sugar.
So, keeping your gut microbes happy is the second pillar of gut health!
How to improve gut health
There are a lot of natural ways to improve gut health. Let’s start with what to stop. It’s always best to eliminate the cause, so let’s stop giving our guts junk to deal with. How about eliminating added sugars, processed foods, and alcohol? Try that for a few weeks, and you may be amazed at how much better your body (and gut) feels.
You may also want to eliminate other gut irritants. Dairy and grains contain common compounds known to irritate some people’s guts. Sometimes you only need to eliminate them for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference for your health.
By eating nutrient-dense foods, we allow ample macro- and micro-nutrients into our gut to maximize the chance for absorption. These nutrients help our bodies build and repair our gut, and every other body part as well. Some of the most nutrient-dense foods include dark leafy greens, colourful fruits and veggies, liver, and fish.
The second pillar of gut health is our microbes. By ingesting probiotic-rich foods and drinks, we can help to replenish our gut microbes. These are found in fermented foods like kombucha, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Make these a part of your daily diet.
Whole foods are full of gut-friendly fiber. Not eating enough fiber increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Fiber plays lots of roles in our gut, including whisking away some of those pesky bad bacteria and toxins so they can be eliminated. Fiber also helps to feed our friendly resident microbes that help us absorb and digest our food better. What foods have a lot of fiber? Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even cacao.
And don’t forget the uber-important lifestyle factors like getting enough sleep, stressing less, and getting the right amount (and intensity) of exercise for you. It’s easy to forget some of the simple, but key links there are between what we do with our bodies and how well they function.
The function of your gut is key to your overall health. There are two pillars of gut health: maintaining a good barrier and maintaining healthy gut microbes.
The main ways to improve both of these naturally is by eating nutrient-dense whole foods. Foods filled with nutrition, probiotics, and fiber. And eliminating common gut irritants like added sugar, processed foods, and alcohol.
Recipe (Probiotic-rich): Fermented Carrots
1 L warm water
4 tsp salt
4 carrots, medium, peeled, sliced
1 clove garlic, smashed (optional)
Make a brine by dissolving the salt in water.
Place carrots into a clean canning jar, packing them in tight. Make sure to leave about 1 inch of head space at the top.
Fill the jar with brine, making sure to cover the carrots completely. Weigh the carrots down to make sure they don't float (you can use a "fermenting weight").
Close the jar and let it sit at room temperature for 1-4 days. The longer it sits, the more the flavor will develop. Feel free to open and taste.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Use this as a side dish, or even a snack.
I know! Meditation is the secret sauce to take your wellness up to the status of the elite gurus. It’s the “be all, end all” for the health of your entire mind-body-spirit. It’s the absolute must-do that is the only path to beating the infamous health-buster called “stress.”
Don't get me wrong; practicing meditation is an excellent approach to optimizing your health and overall well-being. Meditation is great for relieving and dealing with stress, and all of the issues that come along with it. But it's not the only way to get there.
The whole purpose of meditating is to calm the mind and emotions and relax our physical body too. And there is always more than one way to get there.
Let’s talk about some of the other things to try if meditation is not exactly your thing.
Spending some time every day writing out your thoughts can help to relieve stress. You can use journaling to list the things you're grateful for, this is known as gratitude journaling. You can use it as a "brain dump" to get all of your thoughts and ideas out of your head to soothe your mind. You can use "ever since" journaling to describe your life after you reach your goals.
It’s one thing to read to learn something that you have to learn, or to advance your knowledge. And, you can also read for pure pleasure. To get caught up in a story and just relax.
Adult coloring books are all the rage! Not *that* kind of adult, but coloring pages with lots of detail and tiny areas to color in. Something that can take you hours. You can always opt for something simple, like kids coloring pages too. The idea is the same. Repeated movements and focusing on the art you’re creating can help to clear your mind.
Knitting or crocheting (or other crafts)
Knitting, crocheting or other yarn activities are a great way to de-stress; this is a skill that comes in all levels from beginner to advanced. You can choose a quick little rectangular scarf to make, or a detailed sweater. You can choose the pattern, size, and yarn. Once you get into the flow of these skills, they're great to do when you're feeling stressed. Not only can they relax your mind to focus on your work, but you can end up warming yourself or others with the products you create.
Gently moving your body is another great way to de-stress. Activities that are slower and less intensive are ideal. Things like walking, yoga, stretching, or tai chi can all be great ways to relax your mind and improve your strength and balance at the same time.
Sleep in or take a nap
A common cause of increased stress hormones is lack of sleep. Too little sleep and too much stress go hand-in-hand. So, getting enough good quality sleep is important to help you break free from stress without having to meditate.
Maybe you love getting massages or mani/pedi's? Maybe you love a long bath or lighting candles? Perhaps you can add your favorite relaxing music to the mix for a pampering evening? Spending some time to pamper yourself regularly is great for your mind, body, and spirit.
Spend time in nature
You don’t have to head away for vacation to relax in nature. While a calm beautiful beach or cabin in the woods may be amazing, you don’t have to go that far. Even spending time on the grass at your local park or playground, or walking on a wooded trail in your neighborhood can do the trick.
Make time for people and pets you love
It's so important to spend time with family, friends, and pets whom you love. New research is coming out about the health issues related to loneliness. Reach out and plan to hang out with your besties, or even offer to take your neighbor’s dog for a walk in the park.
Stress reduction is the goal. How you do it, be it meditation or otherwise, is not that important. What’s important is that you find what works for you.
Try journaling, reading, coloring, knitting/crocheting, gentle exercise, sleep, pampering yourself, spending time in nature, and making time for people and pets you love.
Have other great ideas? Let me know what helps you de-stress in the comments below.
Despite the growing trend of healthier and safer food products being introduced into the marketplace, you might be surprised to learn that the consumption of artificial food colors, has been increasing over the years, especially among packaged products marketed to children.
Food colors and dyes have been around since the mid-1800’s and were originally created from coal tar – today, they are typically made from petroleum. (yum!)
Many food manufacturers choose to use artificial dyes vs. natural ones because they create more radiant hues, whereas natural food colors tend to create more of a pastel look.
Artificial food colors are used by food manufacturers in a variety of products, including candy, maraschino cherries, cereal, baked goods, sports drinks, pickles (yes, pickles!), smoked salmon (think pink), and even medications.
The safety of artificial food colors has been very controversial among consumers for some time now, despite several regulatory agencies stating that artificial food colors do not pose significant health risks and are therefore safe to use.
One reason behind the controversy, which has resulted in conflicting opinions regarding their safety, is that some countries have deemed artificial food colors to be safe while some countries have banned them from human consumption.
There have been claims that artificial food colors cause serious side effects in some people, including cancer, allergies, and hyperactivity in children. [1, 2, 3, 4]
The following colors are approved by the FDA for use in food:
Keep in mind that there is no nutritional benefit to using artificial food coloring - not even if it makes it “look” healthier because it looks more fruity!
Should you avoid food coloring and food dyes?On the whole, food dyes are likely not dangerous for most people, but some are more sensitive to them than others - and some children should be especially mindful of their consumption.
Taking steps to avoid processed foods that contain dyes is a good idea for most everyone, and can improve your overall health.
If you are concerned about the safety and health implications of using artificial food coloring, you can easily make your own natural food dyes using fruits and vegetables, right in your own kitchen!
Healthline: Food Dyes - Harmless or Harmful?
* Other relevant studies linked in [1, 2, 3, 4]
Your physical appearance can tell you a lot about your internal health.
Most natural health practitioners include a physical examination since the condition of your hair, skin, and nails can be indicators of underlying health issues, like nutrient deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, and the health of your digestive system.
The growth and maintenance of healthy hair, skin, and nails is dependent on your intake, and absorption of a variety of nutrients, including plenty of vitamins and minerals.
You should regularly check out the appearance and condition of your hair, skin, and nails for clues as to what foods, and therefore what nutrients your diet may be lacking.
Physical signs that you may be lacking something in your diet
FINGERNAILS & TOENAILS
Healthy nails are clear, smooth, and flexible. Like hair, healthy nails should be in a continuous cycle of re-growth.
The following color or texture changes in your nails are common signs of nutrient deficiencies:
WHITE SPOTS – If you notice white spots on your nails, you may not be getting enough zinc in your diet.
Good sources of zinc include:
HORIZONTAL RIDGES along your nails may indicate either a zinc or iron deficiency.
Good sources of iron include:
To enhance your body’s absorption of iron, pair iron-rich foods with a good source of vitamin C, like citrus fruits, strawberries, or bell peppers.
Did you know that the health of your skin is closely tied to the health of your gut and liver function?
These two rather essential organs (your skin & liver) are processing and detoxifying everything – including foods, drinks, supplements, and medicines - pretty much everything you take in from the outside world.
Inflammatory skin conditions, like acne, eczema, and skin rashes are common symptoms of leaky gut syndrome – when the walls of the small intestine become thin and too permeable or “leaky”.
Did you see last week's "Wellness Wednesday" Blog Post on Leaky Gut? You can check that out here if you missed it.
Breakouts and rashes can also be symptoms of a sluggish liver. Your liver’s primary responsibility is detoxification. So a poor diet, medication, and excessive alcohol intake can result in a slow, congested liver that is less efficient at doing its job.
Inflammatory skin conditions can also result from food intolerance and/or allergies. Many people have intolerances to gluten and dairy products. Additionally, excessive intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates can also disrupt normal gut function that often results in skin irritations.
Dry or flaky skin can signal a lack of healthy Omega-3 fats in the diet. (psst, be sure to try out our easy trail mix recipe that can boost skin health!)
Avoiding foods you are intolerant to, adding in more Omega-3-rich foods, and supplementing with probiotics, plus a high quality fish oil may benefit your skin.
Need a great skincare regimen that is affordable and gentle on the environment? Check out my new fav, Willig Beauty, by clicking here!
Healthy hair is soft, elastic, and should also be in a continuous cycle of re-growth. Hair should NOT easily break or fall out.
While no one wants to deal with premature hair loss, that’s exactly what can happen if your diet is lacking certain nutrients and/or you have an undetected health issue.
If you are noticing you’re shedding a few hairs each day though -- RELAX! That’s totally normal as hair follicles move through their growth cycle.
However, excessive shedding that results in noticeable hair thinning and/or changes in hair texture, like dryness or brittleness, can result from:
→ Thyroid hormone imbalance, resulting in hypo or hyperthyroidism
→ Not enough protein – the main building block of new hair growth
→ Not enough omega-3’s – healthy fats help keep hair and scalp conditioned with the production of natural oils
→ Lacking vitamins & minerals
A DIY Trail Mix is an easy way to combine essential nutrients that help promote healthy hair, skin, and nails. Raw nuts and seeds are good sources of Omega-3 fats, as well as key minerals like zinc.
Natural sweet-makers like dark chocolate and raisins are good sources of iron and punch up the flavor & fun of your mix too. Be creative, incorporate more whole and snackable foods into your diet and get to mixing - for your hair, skin & nails’ sake!
Healthline: 9 Tricks for Healthier, Fuller-Looking Hair
CanPrev Blog: What Do My Fingernails Have To Do With My Health?
Study: Frontiers in Microbiology, 2018 - The Gut Microbiome as a Major Regulator of the Gut-Skin Axis
"Leaky gut" is a popular topic in the health and wellness spheres these days. It's been blamed for many symptoms and conditions that seem to be all-too-common. Allergies, intolerances, joint pain, even autoimmune diseases can all be linked back to leaky gut.
But what exactly is leaky gut? What causes it? What kinds of issues are related to it? And most of all, what can you eat for leaky gut?
What is a leaky gut?
Simply put, your “gut” (a.k.a. “intestinal tract”) is a tube that makes up part of your digestive system. It’s not as simple as a hose or pipe; it’s an amazing tube made of live cells tightly bound together. Your gut helps your body absorb fluids and nutrients, digests your food, and houses billions of friendly gut microbes.
It's also selective to what it allows past its barrier. Your intestinal tract purposefully keeps some things from being absorbed, so they pass right on through to the other end to be eliminated as waste. You don't want to absorb many harmful microbes or toxins into your body, right?
FUN FACT: About 70-80% of our immune system is housed around our gut, so it’s ready for foreign invaders.
Absorption of fluids and nutrients happens when they're allowed through this cellular tube into the circulation. And this is great! As long as what's being absorbed are fluids and nutrients. The blood and lymph then carry the nutrients to your liver, and then around to the rest of your body; this is so that all your cells, all the way to your toenails, get the nutrition they need to be healthy and grow.
How does a gut become “leaky?”
The gut can become leaky if the cells get damaged, or if the bonds that hold the cells together get damaged. Leaky gut can be caused or worsened by a number of diet and lifestyle factors. Dietary factors like too much sugar or alcohol or even eating things that you're intolerant to can all contribute to leaky gut.
Lifestyle factors like stress, lack of sleep, infections, and some medications can also be culprits in this area. Sometimes, if the balance of gut microbes inside the gut is thrown off, this can also contribute to a leaky gut.
Any contributing factors that alter the balance in your gut may cause our gut to become "permeable" or leak. At this point incompletely digested nutrients, microbes (infectious or friendly), toxins, or waste products can more easily get into our bodies.
Scientifically speaking, a “leaky gut” is known as “intestinal permeability.” This means that our intestines are permeable and allow things through that they normally would keep out. They “leak.”
As you can imagine, this is not a good thing.
What are the symptoms of a leaky gut?
Because so much of your immune system is around your gut, the immune cells quickly recognize a “foreign invader” and start their response. This is normal and good if the gut is working properly and not allowing too many things to “leak” in.
But when that happens too much, and the immune system starts responding, the notorious inflammation starts. Once the immune system starts responding it can look like allergies, food intolerances, and even autoimmune diseases.
Because the first place affected is the gut, there are a number of symptoms right there. Things such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, constipation or diarrhea. Not to mention that if foods, even healthy foods, aren't properly digested, their nutrients aren't properly absorbed. Poor absorption can lead to lack of essential vitamins and minerals for the optimal health of every cell in your body.
Some of the symptoms can also occur on the skin. Acne, dry skin, itchiness, rashes, eczema, and hives can all be symptoms related to leaky gut. Even rosacea and psoriasis can be linked here due to their autoimmune component.
It’s possible that even some neurological symptoms are linked with leaky gut. For example, brain fog, fatigue, headaches, inability to sleep, and general moodiness can also be related.
Finally, a number of chronic inflammatory diseases are thought to be linked with a leaky gut. Things like Crohn's, colitis, celiac disease, IBS, and MS. Even things like heart disease and stroke are possibilities.
What to eat for leaky gut
The general recommendation is to stop eating inflammatory foods and eat more gut-soothing foods.
Incorporating a gut-soothing diet means cutting out grains, legumes, and dairy. Add to that list, food additives, alcohol, and refined sugars.
In their place, add in more green leafy and cruciferous veggies. These are full of nutrients and contain fiber to help feed your friendly gut microbes. You also want to add more sources of vitamin D which can come from fish and egg yolks, and also from the sun. Eat more probiotic foods like sauerkraut, dairy-free yogurt, and kombucha (fermented tea). Make sure you're getting enough essential omega-3 fats found in seafood and seaweed. Finally, make sure you're getting some coconut oil and bone broth. Coconut oil has special fats called MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides), and bone broth has essential amino acids.
Leaky gut, or "intestinal permeability" can happen when your gut gets damaged due to too much sugar and alcohol, or eating foods you're intolerant to. It can also be from stress, lack of sleep, or imbalance in your friendly gut microbes. The symptoms of leaky gut are vast - spanning from digestive woes to skin conditions, even to autoimmune conditions.
It's important to cut out problem foods and drinks and add in more gut-soothing things like green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, and probiotic foods. It's also important to ensure you're getting enough omega-3 fats, vitamin D, and amino acids.
Constipation is the opposite of diarrhea - it's when stool tends to stick around longer than necessary. Often it's drier, lumpier, and harder than normal, and may be difficult to pass.
Constipation often comes along with abdominal pain and bloating. And can be common in people with certain gut issues, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
About 14-24% of adults experience constipation. Constipation becomes chronic when it happens at least three times per week for three months.
Constipation can be caused by diet or stress, and even changes to our daily routine. Sometimes the culprit is a medical condition or medications. And sometimes there can be a structural problem with the gut. Many times the cause is unknown.
Whether you know why or not, there are some things you can do if you get constipated.
1 - Eat more fiber
You've probably heard to eat more prunes (and figs and dates) if you get constipated.
Why is that?
It comes down to fiber.
Dietary fiber is a type of plant-based carbohydrate that we can’t digest and absorb. Unlike cows, humans don’t have the digestive enzymes to break it down. And that’s a good thing!
Even though we can’t digest it ourselves, fiber is very important for our gut health for two reasons.
First, fiber helps to push things through our system (and out the other end).
Second, fiber is an important food for feeding the friendly microbes in our gut.
There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water to make a gel-like consistency. It can soften and bulk up the stool; this is the kind of fiber that you want to focus on for helping with constipation. Soluble fiber is found in legumes (beans, peas, lentils), fruit (apples, bananas, berries, citrus, pears, etc.), vegetables (broccoli, carrots, spinach, etc.), and grains like oats.
Psyllium is a soluble non-fermenting fiber from corn husks. It’s been shown to help soften stools and produce a laxative effect.
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, holds onto water and can help to push things through the gut and get things moving. It's the kind found in the skins and seeds of fruits and vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, celery, zucchini, as well as the skins of apples, pears, and potatoes.
It’s recommended that adults consume between 20-35 grams of fiber per day.
If you are going to increase your fiber intake, make sure to do it gradually. Radically changing your diet can make things worse!
And, it’s also very important to combine increased fiber intake with my next point to drink more fluids.
NOTE: There is conflicting evidence on how fiber affects constipation. In some cases, less insoluble fiber may be better, especially if you have certain digestive issues. So, make sure you’re monitoring how your diet affects your gut health and act accordingly. And don’t be afraid to see your healthcare provider when necessary.
2 - Drink more fluids
Since constipated stools are hard and dry, drinking more fluids can help keep everything hydrated and moist. This is especially true when trying to maintain a healthy gut every day, rather than when trying to deal with the problem of constipation after it has started.
And it doesn't only have to be water - watery foods like soups, and some fruits and vegetables can also contribute to your fluid intake.
Always ensure you're well hydrated, and drinking according to thirst; this is recommended for gut health as well as overall health.
3 - Probiotics
Probiotics are beneficial microbes that come in fermented foods and supplements. They have a number of effects on gut health and constipation. They affect gut transit time (how fast food goes through us), increase the number of bowel movements per week, and help to soften stools to make them easier to pass.
Probiotic foods (and drinks) include fermented vegetables (like sauerkraut and kimchi), miso, kefir, and kombucha.
More research is needed when it comes to recommending a specific probiotic supplement or strain. If you’re going to take supplements, make sure to read the label to ensure that it’s safe for you. And take it as directed.
4 - Lifestyle
Some studies show a gut benefit from regular exercise.
Ideally, aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes most days.
In terms of stress, when we’re stressed, it often affects our digestive system. The connection between our gut and our brain is so strong, researchers have coined the term “gut-brain axis.”
By better managing stress, we can help to reduce emotional and physical issues (like gut issues) that may result from stress. Try things like meditation, deep breathing, and exercise.
And last but not least - make sure to go when you need to go! Don’t hold it in because that can make things worse.
Optimal digestion is so important for overall health. Constipation is a common problem.
Increasing our fiber and water intake and boosting our friendly gut microbes are key things we can do to help things move along.
And don't forget how lifestyle habits can affect our physical health! Exercise, stress management, and going to the bathroom regularly can also help us maintain great gut health.
Have you found that fiber, water, or probiotics affect your gut health? What about exercise, stress, and regular bathroom trips? I'd love to know in the comments below!
Try out this delicious recipe for Steel Cut Oats with Pears!
We all know the frustration of working hard to maintain a healthy body weight, only to step on the bathroom scale and see the numbers going in the wrong direction - or not quickly enough in the right direction!
Here are 6 truths about those annoyingly normal daily weight fluctuations:
1| Scale weight is not a true measurement of your health. It is simply one of many variables you should be taking into account to determine if you are approaching or maintaining your optimal body weight.
2| When you wake up after fasting - usually for around 12 hours, you're completely dehydrated and at your lowest weight of the day. This is why it’s recommended to weigh yourself first thing in the morning after you’ve voided, and before you eat or drink anything.
3| Speaking of voiding… you can experience daily weight fluctuations of 1-3+ lbs due to waste that could be lingering in your large colon. Who knew poop could be so heavy?
Be sure to keep the bowels moving with plenty of fluids, plant-based fibre and targeted supplementation, if necessary.
4| Your scale doesn't just weigh fat. It weighs muscle, bone, organs, water, and as you just learned - poop!
When you lose weight, it doesn't necessarily mean that you've lost body fat as the average bathroom scale has no way of telling you what bodily tissues you've lost. Weighing “skinny” on the scale does not always translate into healthy off the scale.
FACT: The more muscle you have the more energy your body burns, even when you're just sitting around - due to the fact that it’s a metabolically active tissue. That's one reason why a fit, active person is generally able to eat more than say the chronic dieter who is unknowingly breaking down and losing muscle.
5| Likewise, the scale can't tell if you've gained muscle.
Building muscle makes it possible to drop clothing sizes (and lose inches) without a significant change, if any, in scale weight.
THINK OF IT LIKE THIS: a pound of muscle is like a small, compact brick, whereas a pound of fat is like a bulky, lumpy pillow. So that's why when you gain muscle and lose fat, your figure appears slimmer and more firm - but your scale weight may not change much.
6| For all the ladies out there...it's not you, it's your HORMONES!
Some women can gain up to 10 lbs right before or during their period. No joke. This is because of the natural drop in Progesterone just before your period often causes digestive issues like water retention and constipation. And, let’s not forget how heavy poop can be!
Our bodies also tend to lose Magnesium in the days before menstruation, which drives our Insulin levels up leading to an increase in food cravings - especially for sugar.
Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that keeps blood sugar levels in check but is also considered a fat storage hormone.
THE BOTTOM LINE: these yo-yoing numbers have nothing to do with your long-term progress and they are just part of the overall health optimization journey.
Simply do your best to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle and understand that daily weight fluctuations are completely normal!
“The scale can only give you a numerical reflection of your relationship with gravity. That’s it.
REFERENCES: New Health Guide: Weight Gain During Period
It’s official! Organizations and governments are (finally) declaring a maximum amount of daily sugar intake.
While this is a step forward, there are still a few problems. One - they don’t all agree with each other. And, two, I don’t necessarily agree with them either.
We all know sugar is NOT a health food. It isn’t full of nutrition, and excess consumption is not associated with great health.
The problem is that sugar is everywhere. It’s naturally occurring. It’s also added to just about every processed food there is. And this “added sugar” is a factor in many chronic diseases we see today. Sugar is inflammatory. Too much is associated with weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and cavities. Too much sugar is a huge health risk, no matter how you look at it.
So let’s talk about how much sugar is “too much.”
Added sugar vs. naturally occurring sugar. What do some of the officials say?
Before we talk about the “official” numbers (and why I don’t agree with them), you need to know the difference between “added” sugar and “naturally occurring” sugar.
Fruit and other healthy whole foods contain sugar. They also contain water, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other phytochemicals. They are good for you. Eating fruits and vegetables is a well-proven way to reduce your risks of many chronic diseases.
“Added sugars,” on the other hand, are concerning. In 2013, the American Heart Association calculated that about 25,000 deaths per year were due to sweetened beverages. “Added sugars” are also in baked goods, candies, soups, sauces and other processed foods. You can find sugar on the ingredient list as many names, often ending in “-ose.” These include glucose, fructose, sucrose, etc.
So, "Total sugars" = "Naturally occurring sugars" + "Added sugars."
The "official" change is the new Nutrition Facts tables. You may remember that in Canada and the USA, they declare the amount of sugar, but don't give it a %DV (% daily value); this means, they've never had a "benchmark" maximum daily value to use. They haven't declared how much is too much. Now, both countries are implementing a %DV for sugar.
In Canada, the %DV is based on 100 g/day of total sugar. Unfortunately, this number is large because it includes both naturally occurring and added sugars. The %DV is in-line with the Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation's recommendations of no more than 90 g of total sugars per day.
In 2008, the average daily total sugar intake in the USA was 76.7 grams per day; this is less than these two benchmarks. Yet, it doesn't seem that people are getting healthier. I'd argue that 100 g per day total sugar is still too high.
In the USA, the labels are changing too. They are not declaring "total" sugars but will differentiate between naturally occurring and added sugars. They have decided on a maximum of 50 g of “added” sugars each day. Unfortunately, this is still more than the American Heart Association’s recommended maximum of 24 g/day added sugar for women, and 36 g/day added sugar for men.
What is a better daily sugar goal?
While these official numbers are a step in the right direction, they’re not what I would recommend.
For one thing, I’d ditch as many processed food as possible, regardless of their sugar content. There are a ton of studies that show that processed foods are bad for your health. Period. I wouldn’t recommend eating your “daily value” of sugar from sweetened processed foods. I don’t recommend even 50 g of "added" sugar per day. Get your sugar from whole, unprocessed fruits first.
Second, you don’t even need to max out your daily sugar intake. I promise! Try to reduce your sugar intake below these “official” amounts for an even better goal.
Tips to reduce your sugar intake
Here are some of my most popular recommendations to reduce your sugar intake, so you don't get too much:
Let me know in the comments your favorite tips to reduce your sugar intake!
A little self-criticism is a normal shared human mental pattern, and can even be healthy for the most part. But, we can also just as easily open the door to that overly vocal “negative nelly” voice in our head.
However, if your negative voice is preventing you from doing what you want or need to do in your life, then it has to get booted back out the door. This kind of mental chatter has no right to set up shop in your mind.
Deeply held negative beliefs, especially when they’re firmly rooted in your unconscious, stress you out, damage relationships and can greatly limit your potential for health and happiness.
If you’re sick of having the same old conversation with negative nelly, then be sure to try some of the ideas I’ve outlined in this article on how you can shift away from this damaging mindset, and finally release yourself of these limiting beliefs.
What are limiting beliefs?Limiting beliefs are the little, but persistent voices that convince you that you can’t be or do or have something due to a perceived inadequacy in some area of your life or personality.
Your negative nelly narrative usually goes something like this:
I won’t ever be [this]…
I can’t do [that]...
I don’t have [this]...
I don’t deserve to be/have [this]...
And, one really common one that comes up for many people...
I am not good enough.
Let’s change up the narrative you may have been having with yourself for a very long time!
Overcoming negative self-talk and releasing limiting beliefsYour limiting decisions have shaped everything you do, and they have likely prevented you from seeing opportunities and maybe even discouraged you from trying some things at all.
The good news is that it’s totally possible to permanently change a long-held belief -- even the ones that are lifelong.
You only perceive what you believe, so your beliefs shape the very world you live in.
But, when your limiting beliefs come into question, your whole world can experience a shift for the better.
Here are a few ideas to help you silence your inner critic for good!
When you find yourself feeling “stuck”, or repeatedly spinning your wheels on the same speed bumps that life might be throwing your way, it’s always a great idea to seek out the help and guidance of a life coach, counselor or therapist.
In addition to that, there are several things you can do on your own, in your own time and space...
→ The first step to releasing limiting beliefs is to shift your thinking into AWARENESS
Time to bring those disempowering thoughts out of hiding! Once you do that, know that you have choice.
However, just simply being aware or having knowledge of them is not enough, it’s just the first step. You must understand and truly believe that you have a choice about how to react to stressful situations.
→ Possible thinking, not just positive thinking
Your mind is a powerful thing, and when you fill it with thoughts of what’s possible (not just positive), your mindset will start to shift.
When you believe something IS possible, you will notice options and opportunities coming up for you that would simply not have be noticed if you did not believe it was possible.
With repetition, your positive feelings will intensify, the new neural connections will strengthen, and you’ll start to notice just how awesome this new “win” really feels!
Reminding yourself often of these little wins can further shift your mindset and help you embrace the bright side of your perceived “failures” or shortcomings. It also helps to simply accept that you are perfectly imperfect, just the way you are!
→ If you wouldn’t say it to your friend, don’t say it to yourself
Your limiting beliefs are assumptions you make about reality that often aren’t true. They aren’t helpful, and they certainly don’t serve you or the goals you want to achieve.
Ask yourself: would I say these negative, hurtful and unsupportive words to a friend?
→ Adopting empowering beliefs such as:
“It is not my job to please everyone else.”
“Just be me. There will never be anyone else like me.”
To swap out your limiting belief with a more empowering one, you’ll need to play a little mind game:
Convince yourself that the value you thought you were getting from the former limiting belief isn’t worthwhile, and that your new empowering belief can serve to fill this void.
→ Take some time and space that’s all yours
Ensure that you are creating space in your life for these new empowering beliefs. Take action and get into the habit of using your new beliefs as often as possible until they begin to feel comfortable, familiar and routine to you.
Just remember - you have the ability to harness the power of the possible! Overcoming negative self-talk and releasing yourself of limiting beliefs takes commitment, introspection and a good dose of self-confidence to make the necessary changes stick.
There’s the old saying that we view ourselves through a much harsher lens than the rest of world does. So, let’s try to bring our own lens back into focus.
Health.com: 9 Ways to Silence Your Inner Critic
Thrive Global: What are Limiting Beliefs and What Causes Them?
IQ Matrix: The Complete Guide on How to Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs
If you haven’t heard by now, fat is your friend!
Dietary fat provides energy, supports cell maintenance, enhances nutrient absorption, and is essential for producing some hormones.
Dietary fat got a bad reputation back when, blamed for increasing rates of obesity and heart disease. Now, thanks to science and the increasing popularity of fat-containing diets, like Paleo and Keto, we know fat is an essential nutrient and a critical component of a healthy diet.
However, not all fats are created equal. Some fats come with extra health benefits and some can be harmful to your health and should be avoided all together.
One of the best ways to include healthy fats in your diet is using high quality cooking oils. When it comes to cooking, the type of cooking and amount of heat matter when selecting which oil to cook with.
In general, oils that are highly processed should be avoided. These include vegetable oil blends, like canola, soybean, sunflower, and safflower oils.
These oils undergo chemical and high heat processes during production, which often turns the oils rancid – aka full of oxidation, trans fat, and other inflammatory byproducts that aren’t best for your body.
Oils that have a low smoke point or contain a high percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids, like walnut and flaxseed oil, shouldn’t be used for cooking. That’s because heat damages the flavor and nutrition profile of these oils and causes the formation of unhealthy free radicals.
There are a few tried and true oils that lend flavor and nutrition no matter what cooking method you’re using.
Here are the 4 healthiest oils/fats to cook with:OLIVE OIL
The monounsaturated fats found in olive oil are linked to reduced inflammation, decreased risk of heart disease, improved triglycerides and cholesterol levels, and many of the other health benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet.
Olive oil is best for low-heat cooking, such as a quick sauté or baking at 350 degrees and below. It has a low smoke point, which means high temperatures will cause olive oil to degrade, so it shouldn’t be used in high heat roasting or frying.
Extra virgin olive oil can also be used to “finish” a dish – drizzle on top of salads, soups, pastas, and vegetables.
Rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, avocado oil may also help improve cholesterol levels.
Unlike olive oil, avocado oil has a high smoke point and can be used for frying and roasting. It has a mild flavor that makes it a good choice for us in baked goods as well.
Coconut oil is a solid at room temperature and liquid oil when heated. It has a medium smoke point, making it another good choice for everything from sautés to baking. Coconut oil is a great vegan alternative to butter in baked goods.
There’s some disagreement over the health benefits of coconut oil since it’s high in saturated fat, with 12 grams per tablespoon.
High intakes of saturated fat are linked to increased risk of heart disease, but some experts say the medium-chain fatty acid found in coconut oil are not metabolized or stored the same way as saturated fat from animal products.
We do need some saturated fat in our diets, but too much can be harmful.
The bottom line? Like most things, coconut oil is fine for most people in moderation.
One word of caution - virgin coconut oil will lend a coconut aroma and flavor to whatever you cook in it. Choose refined coconut oil if you’re not a fan of coconut flavor.
GRASS-FED BUTTER OR GHEE
We’re just going to say it – you can’t beat the taste of butter.
Yes, it has saturated fat. And, just like with coconut oil, moderation is key. So is quality.
Choose grass-fed butter and ghee (clarified butter) products for an extra dose of omega-3 fats.
Butter is best used for lower heat cooking and baking. Ghee can be used for higher heat cooking, since the milk solids that are prone to browning and burning have been removed.
Using a variety of oils and fats in your cooking will help you receive the nutritional, flavor, and cooking benefits each has to offer.
Speaking of an offering...try this savory, and crunch-satisfying snack recipe! Who doesn’t LOVE good ‘ol popcorn?!
Healthline: Healthy Cooking Oils — The Ultimate Guide
Time Magazine (online): The 10 Best and Worst Oils for Your Health