This past weekend, I had the opportunity to speak again at the CanFit World Fitness Expo. In my third consecutive year presenting at one of my favorite fitness, health and nutrition oriented expo it was incredible to see familiar faces as well as new additions and innovations in the industry.
For my nutritional seminars, I discussed Superfoods for Athletic Performance as well as how to Fuel and Refuel your workouts to promote optimal performance and improve recovery from physical activity and exercise. Food and nutrition can be such powerful and influential tools in optimizing or hindering our the way we feel, the way we perform, and the way we cope with the stresses we place upon our bodies.
Research has proven that particular foods have powerful nutritional benefits that can help us to make the most of our workouts, improve our ability to progress and maximize our potential in competitive and non-competitive physical activity.
Here are some incredible superfoods to amp up your workout!
Check out my recipe page for some incredible ways to use these foods and incorporate them into your weekly meal prep!
When we talk about food cravings, it is first important to differentiate whether what you are experiencing is a craving or hunger as although they both elicit a desire or need for food, they are not the same.
Hunger is a biological function of the body’s need for food – essentially a survival mechanism
Cravings are eating triggers controlled by our brain and usually an attempt to satisfy a need – body communicating with you.
- Are usually for specific foods
- May be stronger when you're dieting
- Can occur even after you've recently eaten
- Pass with time
- Isn't just for one specific food
- Usually occurs when you haven't eaten for a few hours & results in stomach pangs, headache, weakness
- Doesn't pass with time
- Can be satisfied by a healthy snack or meal
So why do we get food cravings?
Leptin is a hormone that controls our appetite and tells you when you’re full. Since it is produced in fat cells, high body fat as well as eating a high sugar/highly processed diet can cause surges of the hormone to be release and dull our ability to perceive real appetite. That means it can trick your brain into feeling hungry even when you’re not.
Low levels of Serotonin
Serotonin is a “feel-good” neurotransmitter directly linked to mood, appetite and digestion. Eating carbs and sugar increases a quick release of serotonin making us “feel good” temporarily (which is why those cookies, or donuts make us feel so good before we feel so bad).
Endorphins and Food Addiction
When we are nervous or anxious, endorphins make us feel calm and relaxed. Sugar & salt increases the production of endorphins in your body allowing us to get a sense of stress relief which is why we usually experience food cravings when stressed or use food to un-plug.
Poor Gut Health/Leaky Gut
Low serotonin levels are linked to cravings in efforts to improve our mood. Since our serotonin is primarily made in the gut, to maintain serotonin levels, your gut must be able to absorb nutrients from food and pump out serotonin. This process is greatly dependent on healthy levels and the proper balance of good bacteria.
STRESS. Sadness, boredom, stress, poor self-esteem, negative body image can prompt cravings. Food cravings arise to satisfy emotional needs, such as calming stress and reducing anxiety. Cravings kick into high gear when we're stressed or anxious.
Cravings could mean that you're missing a very specific nutrient in your diet.
Certain nutrient deficiencies manifest as specific food cravings in an attempt to obtain that nutrient as quickly as possible.
Here are a list of common cravings and what they could indicate:
CURB YOUR CRAVINGS FOR GOOD
1. Find other ways to unplug and de-stress.
Deep breathing, exercise, journaling, distraction, take a bubble bath, call a friend.
2. Fix your gut!
Take a cycle of probiotics (and increase fermented foods like miso, sauerkraut, yogurt/kefir), cut back sugar, consider a digestive enzyme with meals to enhance nutrient absorption.
3. Address nutritional deficiencies
If there is something you continuously crave, I.E. CHOCOLATE it may be your body’s way of trying to get that nutrient quickly and let you know you may be deficient in something (i.e. magnesium - raw cacao is one of the highest natural sources of magnesium).
→ Finding healthy food with high content of magnesium and adding them to your diet, can get rid of your chocolate & sweet food cravings.
4. Eat a small portion of your craving
It's better to eat a small portion then eating multiple things in efforts to curb your craving and ending up eating double the calories anyways!
5. Eat healthier alternatives
If you make lower-calorie healthier versions of your ‘treats’ that taste just as good, you can satisfy craving without sabotaging your diet.
replace oil in brownies with apple sauce or mashed banana for a lower fat version
replace sugar with a natural zero calorie sugar alternative (i.e. stevia)
add protein powder to cookies for a lower carb muscle building nutrient boost
replace chips with roast chickpeas or sub 1/2 for chopped celery so you get double as full on the fiber for half the calories!
By: Stephanie Di Grazia, R.H.N, B.A
Our gut health and digestion are an extremely important part of our overall health and sense of well-being. It is only through proper nutrition and digestion that we are able to properly fuel our bodies and minds. However, in addition to providing us with nutrients, our gut and brain share a very complex and strong relationship. For this reason, our gut is often referred to as our ‘second brain’.
Studies have shown that intestinal and bowel disorders are often correlated with poor mood, anxiety and depression. This is, in part, because our gut and digestive tract contain more than 70% of our immune cells, 400x more serotonin (our ‘feel-good’ chemical) than our brain, and 500x more melatonin than our brain (necessary for proper sleep patterns)1.
This correlation is mainly due to two factors. Firstly, when intestinal and bowel disorders are present, we are unable to absorb important nutrients for brain health. Without ‘brain nutrients’ like zinc, omega 3, and vitamin B, our brain does not have the tools needed for proper or optimal functioning. Of even greater interest, is the effect of a phenomenon called “Leaky Gut Syndrome”.
First off – what is leaky gut?
Your gut lining works like a barrier to keep larger particles like toxins, microbes, and undigested food particles from ‘leaking’ out of your digestive tract. When some of these undigested proteins, irritants, or toxic waste leak from the inside of your intestinal wall into your bloodstream, it creates an inflammatory immune reaction. This leads to symptoms in many areas of the body - including the brain - where it can cause migraines, anxiety, or depression.
Our fast paced lifestyles and the increase in processed and packaged foods filled with gluten, dairy, soy, and corn are major contributors to leaky gut. These foods are highly inflammatory for the majority of people and often inflame our guts, which can then inflame our brains and lead to mood and mind disorders. High sugar consumption, pesticides, environmental chemicals, antibiotics, and stress also contribute to inflammation, disrupt our cells and trigger intestinal permeability. Moreover, not only do these factors affect our ability to properly digest and absorb nutrients, they can lead to vitamin deficiencies that decrease our ability to sustain optimal cognitive and mental function.
In the brain, this inflammation provokes anxiety promoting chemicals and hinders serotonin and melatonin production. This in turn produces symptoms that mimic “depressive” symptoms such as lethargy, insomnia, decreased desire for social activity, lowered libido, poor learning skills, and weight changes. Psychiatric research has also observed that patients with higher levels of inflammation are less likely to respond to antidepressants, but more likely to improve with the introduction of anti-inflammatories 2, 3, 4.
What are some signs of leaky gut?
1. Food Sensitivities – If we are unable to break down the proteins in foods we may be sensitive to proteins like gluten (in wheat), casein (milk), and whey (dairy), they will wreak havoc on our gut. Repeated exposure to these foods creates permeability of our intestines, and subsequently these proteins leak out into the bloodstream along with other toxins. As a defense response, our immune system starts to release antibodies and produce an inflammatory response, in turn, making our bodies more susceptible to antigens, diseases, and imbalances in our body systems.
2. Malabsorption – Nutrient deficiencies result from leaky gut due to our inability to absorb vitamins and minerals because of poor intestinal function and increased permeability. This includes critical vitamins and minerals like B12, magnesium, and zinc that are critical for mood and brain health.
3. Mood Issues – Studies have repeatedly shown a correlation between leaky gut and various neurocognitive disorders. For example, the inflammatory response characteristic of intestinal permeability triggers the release of cytokines and other chemicals that cross the blood-brain barrier and trigger depression, irritability and migraines5.
In taking a natural approach to combating leaky gut and improving your mental well-being there are several lifestyle and dietary measures that can make drastic improvements.
So what are some steps you can take towards healing your gut and brain?
1. Exercise: Exercise helps to control stress hormones, calms the nervous system, and builds muscle to support insulin sensitivity. It also releases endorphins and gets our bowels moving.
2. Diet: Seek food sensitivity testing or try an elimination diet to identify any possible intolerances that may be contributing to ‘Leaky Gut’. Avoiding dairy and gluten are a good place to begin, followed by other major allergens such as soy, peanuts, shellfish, eggs and citrus. Also focus on anti-inflammatory foods like wild fish, green vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, and ensure you’re getting plenty of fiber.
3. Supplements: Natural supplements can also be beneficial to help to lower inflammation and heal a leaky gut.
Fish oil: At least 1000-1500 mg EPA/DHA for anti-inflammatory and mood-boosting effects
Probiotics: Nourishing the gut with probiotics can help to heal the mucosal membrane, decrease feelings of anxiety and positively affect emotional processing. Studies have shown that individuals taking probiotics exhibited less anxiety, similar to what has been observed in some people taking antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication6.
Curcumin (turmeric): Powerful natural anti-inflammatory that helps decrease inflammation and oxidative stress in the gut.
L-Glutamine: Fuel to rebuild digestive tract cells and helps with intestinal repair.
4.Meditation / Relaxation: Help to increase parasympathetic response and support circulation to the GI tract and promote proper absorption of nutrients.
By considering the mind-gut connection and understanding the role of inflammation and immunity in our mental well-being we can consider an alternative model or solution to our battles with mental health. Through understanding the role of food and stressors on our gut health and how they can be at the core of our depression and anxiety and directly impact mood, energy, and wellness, we can take steps to heal our guts and heal our minds.
2 Inflammation and its discontents: the role of cytokines in the pathophysiology of major depression. Miller et al Biol Psychiatry. 2009 May 1; 65(9): 732–741.
3 Cytokines and cognition – The case for a head to toe inflammatory paradigm. Wilson et al. JAGS 50:2041–2056, 2002.
4 A randomized controlled trial of the tumor necrosis factor antagonist infliximab for treatment-resistant depression: the role of baseline inflammatory biomarkers. JAMA Psychiatry 70:31–41.
Over the past few months I've been working on an exciting new project alongside some of the best holistic experts out there. Our hard work has finally come to a close to present to you a digital E-book and Webinar compilation project!
SixtyMag represents the collaboration of 22 of the World’s Top Preventative Health Experts. It was created to give you the tools to help you prevent illness and disease and help you adopt the Sound Lifestyle Practices to do so.
Some topics will include:
Depression and Mental Health
Physical Fitness and Longevity
Very soon we will be releasing our e-book and over 20+ hours of audio/video that will give you everything you need to know in order to change your lifestyle for the better.
In addition we'll include Several Hundred Dollars worth of FREE BONUSES!
So grateful to have the opportunity to spread the knowledge and good health to as many as possible.
Coming MARCH 5!
Will be available on Amazon.ca
In addition to diligent training and commitment, nutrition is a major contributor to athletic performance. Depending on the intensity and type of sport or athletic craft you engage in, there are certain foods that must be considered due to their ability to enhance or hinder your performance.
Similar to a car, we can only run on the fuel we put in our body. We depend on fundamental nutrients to create the building blocks of our muscles and to allow various physiological processes to occur.
If you missed my lecture at the Whole Life Expo last weekend, or just wanted a recap, I outlined some of the key macro nutrients and foods along with their targets (after all in addition to eating the right foods, you have to make sure you're eating the right AMOUNTS of foods) to promote optimal performance and recovery as well as some critical nutrients to be aware of that are at risk of becoming depleted with increased physical activity.
By: Stephanie Di Grazia, RHN
When making any drastic changes to your diet it is crucial that you consider how embracing a new dietary regimen may affect your health. Adopting a vegan diet has the potential of allowing us to enjoy several health benefits when done correctly. In transitioning to a new diet we must ensure we are obtaining all the critical nutrients necessary to maintain strength and good health.
Research has indicated there are several benefits of introducing a vegan diet. Some of these benefits may include:
.However, although there is the potential for several health benefits, if done incorrectly, a vegan diet may negatively impact your health due to a few key reasons. Here is why some vegans do not “thrive”:
1. Not Enough Calories – since plant based foods tend to be lower in calories you must ensure you are consuming enough calories to maintain your body weight and include nutrient and calorie dense foods such as nuts, seeds, and cold pressed oils in your diet.
2. Junk-Food Vegan – just because a food is vegan does not necessarily mean it is healthy! For example, refined sugar, fries, and chips are all technically considered vegan but have a very poor nutritional profile.
3. Social Isolation Syndrome – some vegans fear and avoid engaging in social events and functions due to their dietary restrictions. Fortunately many restaurants are very accommodating to vegetarian/vegan diets and there are many delicious vegan friendly restaurants to enjoy so you can still have the ability to partake in social events.
4. Under Supplemented – in eliminating animal products and by-products, it is critical that you find new plant based sources of these nutrients and/or ensure you are supplementing with certain key nutrients you may be consuming less of such as protein and iron.
5. Beat By Cravings – having a difficult time giving up animal derived foods we are accustomed to eating and enjoy and caving into our cravings due to not knowing vegan friendly versions such as decadent and delicious coconut milk ice cream or cashew cheese.
6. Not Knowing How to Substitute – not knowing how to substitute our sources of protein, favorite foods, dairy, etc. or how to utilize new ingredients that we can adopt into our diets.
In addition, there are some critical nutrients to consider and ensure you are getting through dietary sources or are supplementing your diet with. The following are a few of these nutrients and some vegan sources through which you can obtain them:
Vegan Sources: Vitamin B-12–fortified foods i.e. fortified soy and rice beverages, certain breakfast cereals, meat substitutes, B-12–fortified nutritional yeast, protein bars and powders, vitamin B-12 supplements or injections
Vegan Sources: Calcium-fortified plant foods and beverages, green leafy vegetables (i.e. collard and kale), turnips, tofu, tahini, beans, figs, broccoli, hummus, and molasses
Vegan Sources: Vitamin D fortified beverages, Vitamin D fortified breakfast cereals, SUNLIGHT!
A daily supplement of vitamin D is advisable especially in winter months.
Vegan Sources: Blackstrap molasses, tomato paste, spirulina, spinach, quinoa, dark chocolate, cashews, peanuts, almonds, seeds, lentils, and soybeans
Omega Fatty Acids
Vegan sources: Flax seed oil & ground flax seeds, hemp seed oil & hemp hearts, chia seeds, avocado, walnut oil & walnuts, soybeans, tofu, tempeh, seaweed and algae
Vegan sources: Tempeh, Lentils, Edamame, Adzuki Beans, Navy Beans, Kidney Beans, Pinto Beans, Chickpeas, Lima Beans, Black Eyed Peas, Tofu, Veggie burgers, Protein Powder, Protein Bars, Peanuts, Almonds, Cashews, Brazil Nuts, Meat Subs, Seitan, Buckwheat, Amaranth, Quinoa, Bulgur, Oats, Millet, Barley, Brown Rice, Hemp seeds, Chia seeds, Flax seeds, Sunflower seeds, Pumpkin seeds, Spinach, Collard, Broccoli, Mushrooms, Brussel sprouts, Artichokes, Green Peas, Potatoes, Almond Butter, Tahini, Peanut butter, Cashew Butter, Hummus, Nutritional Yeast, Spirulina
It is also important to ensure you are eating a variety of plant based protein sources to ensure you are getting a full spectrum of amino acids since plant food like grains, beans and nuts are lower in at least 1 amino acid making them incomplete. You can also combine different protein sources in a meal since complementary proteins, when taken together, provide all essential amino acids, this may be accomplished through combining grains + beans, beans + nuts, and grains + nuts.
By taking these requirements into consideration it is possible to maintain strength and good health and thrive on a vegan diet. You can enjoy delicious food and maintain good health without meat and dairy.
By: Stephanie Di Grazia, RHN
Becoming a successful athlete requires time, commitment and practice. However, in spite of diligence in training, several other factors come into play that extend beyond time spent on the field, court or ring. One of these major factors is diet, which can significantly impact how well an athlete performs. Improper diet and nutrients can impair even the most tenacious and conditioned of athletes. To maximize athletic or fitness performance your body requires support through proper nutrition and hydration. Ensuring adequate caloric intake and the right balance of macronutrients is crucial for sufficient fuel, building and repairing muscle fibers broken down during training, and to ensure balance of biochemical reactions in the body to keep you performing at peak levels.
In addition to macronutrient consideration, certain foods are particularly beneficial to athletes as they contain micronutrients that boost endurance and strength, improve muscle function, aid in recovery, and reduce inflammation and oxidative stress post training.
Including these foods can help you to become a better athlete, or achieve a better work out, by optimizing your body’s capabilities so that you can challenge your limits and help you to outperform your opponents.
Do I have your attention?
Through adopting a natural approach to nutrition, you have access to the building blocks needed to fuel your workouts and successfully recover. The formula is simple: Eat well, perform well, and recover well.
These super foods in particular make a great addition to any athlete or fitness enthusiast’s diet:
Pomegranates contain nitrates to boost blood flow and deliver more oxygen to muscle tissue. This allows for the body to use oxygen more efficiently and accomplish more work before reaching physical exhaustion (1,2). Pomegranates are also high in polyphenols and have been shown to reduce muscle soreness and inflammation (3).
Gram for gram spirulina is an incredibly abundant source of beta-carotene, calcium, and protein (4, 5). This makes it a nutrient dense powerhouse to promote energy, endurance, and vitality and allows for improved training and agility. It is also very rich in bio-available iron which becomes more difficult to maintain when you are physically active (4, 5). As a result, spirulina helps to prevent symptoms of iron deficiency and helps to replenish hemoglobin levels. Furthermore, spirulina is high in tyrosine which releases dopamine to improve mental focus.
Beetroot juice has been shown to trim minutes off run time and trigger the release of nitric oxide which helps to increase cardiovascular endurance and regulate blood flow (6, 7, 8). This is particularly useful for sports and exercise that require stamina such as marathon runners. Beets also improve tolerance against high-intensity training and improve blood flow to muscles (6, 7, 8).
Bananas are loaded with easily digested carbohydrates, making them a great source of energy for athletes. They not only provide you with a quick boost of fuel but help to maintain blood sugar levels and balance fluids. Bananas are also packed with potassium which helps to maintain nerve and muscle function.
Honey is loaded with vitamins and minerals and has been shown to boost athletic performance, increase speed and energy, and sustain blood sugar for over 2 hours (9). Honey is also extremely anti-inflammatory and can help to combat post work out inflammation and oxidative damage (9).
Cherries are one of the most antioxidant rich fruits available and provide several health benefits ranging from reduction in belly fat to lowered risk of stroke. Cherries or pure tart cherry juice can significantly reduce inflammation and speed exercise recovery, as well as combat oxidative stress post work out. Studies have also shown that marathon runners who drank tart cherry juice in training pre-race experienced faster recovery of muscles and strength, and also reported significantly less muscle pain and symptoms of muscle damage (10, 11).
Sometimes referred to as nature’s ‘sports drink’, coconut water is a good source of electrolytes like sodium, magnesium, calcium and potassium. This makes it a perfect low calorie option and alternative to sports drinks to re-hydrate during long workouts and restore minerals lost through excessive sweating.
Dates and other dried fruits
Rich in carbohydrates, natural sugars, and potassium, dried fruits like dates and raisins can provide a natural burst of energy and help to control heart rate when taken right before training. Dried fruits have been shown to be as effective as and less costly than energy gels and drinks (12).
Coconut oil is a medium chain triglyceride, which is easily digested by the body and used directly for energy. This helps to supercharge brain function, raises metabolic rates and helps to burn more fat while maintaining muscle mass (13,14). Furthermore, coconut oil is an excellent source of anti-inflammatory omega 3 (13, 14). Coconut oil can give a much needed boost of energy when taken before a work out and reduce stress in the nervous system and brain.
Always strive for progress, and discover the strengths you never knew you had.
1. Trombold, J. R., Reinfeld, A. S., Casler, J. R., & Coyle, E. F. (2011). The effect of pomegranate juice supplementation on strength and soreness after eccentric exercise. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 25(7), 1782-1788.
2. Roelofs, E. J., Hirsch, K. R., Trexler, E. T., Mock, M. G., & Smith-Ryan, A. E. (2015). The effects of pomegranate extract on anaerobic exercise performance & cardiovascular responses. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(Suppl 1), P56.
3. Swamy, M. S. L., Naveen, S., Singsit, D., Naika, M., & Khanum, F. (2011). Anti-fatigue effects of polyphenols extracted from pomegranate peel. Int. J. Integr. Biol, 11, 69-72.
4. Dr. Cath. (2014). Spirulina Nutrition: Athletes’ Best Kept Secret. Spirulina Academy. Retrieved August 23, 2016, from http://spirulinaacademy.com/spirulina-nutrition-athletes-secret/
5. Spirulina for Athletes. Synergy Natural. Retrieved August 23, 2016, from https://www.synergynatural.com/ask-a-naturopath/health-articles/spirulina-for-athletes.html
6. Murphy, M., Eliot, K., Heuertz, R. M., & Weiss, E. (2012). Whole beetroot consumption acutely improves running performance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 112(4), 548-552.
7. Muggeridge, D. J., Howe, C. C., Spendiff, O., Pedlar, C., James, P. E., & Easton, C. (2014). A single dose of beetroot juice enhances cycling performance in simulated altitude. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc, 46(1), 143-150.
8. Fitzgerald, M. (2014). Beetroot Juice: The Drink Of Champions. Retrieved August 23, 2016, from http://running.competitor.com/2014/06/nutrition/got-beetroot-juice_17653
9. Franzen, H. (2001). Honey Heightens Athletic Performance. Scientific American. Retrieved August 19. 2016, from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/honey-heightens-athletic/
10. Kuehl KS, Chestnutt J, Elliot DL, Lilley C. Efficacy of tart cherry juice in reducing muscle pain after strenuous exercise. American College of Sports Medicine. 851. May, 2009.
11. Connolly DA, McHugh MP, Padilla-Zakour OI, Carlson L, Sayers SP. Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage. Br J Sports Med 2006: 40(8): 679–683.
12. Frazier, M., & Ruscigno, R. (2013). No Meat Athlete: Run on Plants and Discover Your Fittest, Fastest, Happiest Self. Beverly, MA: Fair Winds Press
13. St-Onge, M.P., & Jones, P. (2002). Physiological Effects of Medium-Chain Triglycerides: Potential Agents in the Prevention of Obesity. The American Society for Nutritional Sciences. vol. 132 no. 3 329-332.
14. Dalgleish, J. (2014). Coconut: What are the benefits for an endurance athlete? Endurance Sports Nutritionist. Retrieve August 17, 2016, from http://www.endurancesportsnutritionist.co.uk/blog/coconut-what-are-the-benefits-for-an-endurance-athlete/
As a very social person, I love to meet people, interact, and enjoy a night out at least once in a while.
Unfortunately a vegan lifestyle choice in combination with several food intolerances "let's go out to eat" illicits more stress and planning then excitement at times. The places generally chosen for a night out are not exactly 'vegan friendly' most of the time. Sometimes I accept it and go with the flow, just for the sake of enjoying good company as I bitterly look over the menu wondering how and why there is wheat, meat and dairy in EVERYTHING, and why no one has ever heard of a protein that's not chicken, salmon, or steak. I look at my $15 mixed green salad and think to myself "I could have made something so much better myself at home".
Luckily many restaurants now are attempting to provide more allergen-free and vegan/vegetarian menu items, and many new hot spots are popping up all over T.O that are vegan but can definitely appeal to the non-vegans in your life.
Let's take a look at some of the menu options and restaurants for every situation:
For the nights out with friends that don't want to even hear of a place that doesn't serve booze, burgers and/or steak:
Joey's (Multiple locations around the GTA)
The 500 salad without chicken. The 500 salad packs in organic quinoa, tons of raw veggies, watermelon radish, almonds, mint, parsley, avocado and wheat berries (I omitted these as I'm also gluten free). It is actually full of flavor and packed with nutrients. Would definitely order this again and not be disappointed.
BareBurger (Dundas St West)
Not only is their food absolutely delicious but it is also organic, antibiotic, hormone and preservative free, and they also have amazing vegan and vegetarian options. They cater to every kind of diet and allergy (hello delicious collard wrap or G/F bun for us with a gluten allergy). They also have delicious and unique side dishes like carrot wasabi coleslaw, gigantic onion rings with a variety of dips and spreads, and ice cream sammies made with organic ice cream. I've taken several friends & family members who all gave a major thumbs up.
Other ideas: Thai restaurants (order the vegetarian or tofu dishes), Sushi (vegetable rolls, edamame, miso soup), Tabule Restaurant.
For hitting the food court at lunch time and looking around to see nothing but burgers, fried noodles and pizza OR needing a quick and easy lunch when out:
Chipotle Mexican Grill (Multiple locations around the GTA)
Order a salad or burrito bowl with black beans, pinto beans and/or sofritas (aka tofu). Load up with roasted veggies, fresh pico de gallo and you can smack a heaping spoonful of delicious guacamole if you so choose.
Freshii (Multiple locations around the GTA)
What I love about Freshii is that you can customize your meal to fit satisfy and craving or flavor profile you desire that day. Wholesome & nutritious options, wide variety, fresh juices, and both meat and non-meat options so if you're dining with a non-veg companion, they won't raise the eyebrow at you.
Other places to try: Urban Herbivore, Bolt Fresh Bar, Kupfert and Kim
For the friends that are willing to try a vegan restaurant with you (Warning: they may be converted to adopting a more plant based diet)
Fresh Restaurants (Multiple locations around the GTA)
Easily in my top 3 favorite restaurants in Toronto, even the most carnivorous of people can enjoy this. The food is satiating and delicious, the variety is quite extensive, and I have yet to find a person who was disappointed after dining there (unless it was a service issue, they do get quite busy especially at peak dining hours!) They have anything from onion rings, poutine, burgers, salads, tacos, bowls, cakes, cookies, shakes, and all things delicious. The best part is, it's highly nutritious so you can enjoy these items without the guilt.
Other restaurants to try : Hogtown Vegan, Tabule Restaurant
For the more intense, but delicious vegan experience. Highly nutrient dense, mostly raw fare.
Rawlicious (Multiple locations around the GTA)
One of my favorite raw vegan restaurants in Toronto, several locations have popped up around the GTA. Some of my favorite menu items include the Nori Rolls (starter) served with coconut aminos, Raw Pad Thai (main), and I'm not even embarrassed to admit I've tried a solid 80% of their dessert menu. Their walnut brownies, salted caramel squares, vegan cheesecake, cinnamon snowballs, and macaroons will not disappoint you.
Thrive Organic Kitchen (Etobicoke Lakeshore Area)
Another one of my favorite raw restaurants, Thrive offers delicious salads, bowls, raw pizzas, burgers and wraps. They also have all day breakfasts available and a selection of fresh juices, smoothies and superfood shots. The dishes are colorful and packed with plant based goodness.
Raw Aura (Port Credit/Mississauga Lakeshore)
I loved the vibe in here. Rustic wooden slabbed tables (although a bit narrow and small to eat with a big group) and a very relaxed ambiance. Organic, raw food that is easy to digest and packed with enzymes they often have daily specials that are not seen on the menu. They have beautifully presented dishes like the beet ravioli, their Miso Me Please was surprisingly filling and satisfying, and they have a variety of zoodle bowls available. Their desserts were creamy, dreamy, and delicious. Bonus that it is in a beautiful area where you can enjoy a walk along the lake before or after your meal.
Other restaurants to try: Live, Hibiscus, Cruda Cafe
Wherever you end up, bon appetit!
With the winter season coming in full effect some might say catching a flu or cold is inevitable. We wake up anticipating a burning throat, watery eyes and blocked sinuses. Especially following a day of your co-worker ever so graciously coughing into your cubicle or your 5 year old innocently sneezing directly into your face. Unless you plan on hibernating or avoiding all contact with society, you are likely to be exposed to a variety of the years’ active and eager viruses.
Luckily there are several defensive measures you can take to boost your immune system as well as measures you can take to speed your recovery and lessen the severity of your symptoms.
Probiotics – 70% of our body’s immunity is in our gut, good gut health = improved immunity
Vitamin A, C, E, D – antioxidants, immune system boosters
Echinacea – immune enhancer and defender, increases white blood cells
Zinc – increases white blood cells and interferes with viruses’ ability to reproduce, shortens during of colds, reduces severity of symptoms
Natural Anti-Bacterials and Anti-Virals
Oil of Oregano – antimicrobial herb to help to kill off the bacteria and viruses, topically and orally as effective as prescription anti-fungal drugs
Goldenseal – ‘the herbal antibiotic’ with anti-bacterial properties, considered a natural antibiotic and is often paired with Echinacea to promote a strong immune system
Ginger – powerful root that is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, eliminates congestion, combats chills
Baptisia – member of the wild indigo family that clears infections of the mouth and throat with a potent concentration of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components. Eliminates dangerous pathogens and bacteria. Also can alleviate symptoms of discomfort.
Yarrow – a member of the sunflower family used for fever; induces sweating to ‘break’ fevers and colds, shortens duration of cold and flu and improves relaxation during illness.
Elderberry (cold/flu) – boosts immune system; rich in tannins, vitamin C and other anti-oxidants; and reduces length and severity of symptoms
Boneset (bone aches) – treats flu, cold, fever and rheumatism; relieves congestion; and aids with bone pain caused by influenza
Magnesium – helps to break down mucus and congestion; as Epsom salt topically as a detoxifier and sleep aid
What you do and do not eat can also impact your susceptibility to illness as well as your ability to recover quickly. When things go viral and you’re feeling ‘under the weather’ you want to
Load up on:
Garlic - (antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties) garlic is most effective when raw and can be helpful in people with low resistance to infections
Onions – helps to cure coughs, fevers and flu; also a natural anti-histamine
Ginger – grated, as a tea, or as a powder this is a antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-congestion superstar
Protein - strength and repair, repair, repair!
Honey – antibacterial and soothing for inflamed membranes; eases cough
Caffeine, sugar and alcohol - paralyzes our immune and causes inflammation!
Dairy – very mucus forming and congesting!
Stay hydrated, and stay well!
When you’re depressed, you cope with sugar. When life calls for a celebrate, you celebrate with dessert (aka sugar). Sugar has become the quick fix to deal with all of our feelings and problems. This is because sugar stimulates the "feel-good" chemicals serotonin and dopamine in our brain. The problem is that sugar is highly addictive, as dramatic falls or spikes in our blood sugar affect the part of our brain controlling impulse. This leads to impulsive binging, irritability, and cravings for unhealthy sugary foods.
Research has shown that sugar is an addictive toxin. Today, the average sugar intake in North America is roughly 22-24 teaspoons per day, which is four times the amount that the World Health Organization suggests is healthy. This excess sugar contributes to a laundry list of health conditions including diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.
One of the most noticeable and rapid effects of sugar is weight gain. When we eat refined sugar, our bodies break it down into glucose and fructose. Fructose not only activates processes in your body that make you store fat, but the high supply of glucose exceeds our energy demand, which again becomes stored as fat by the liver.
Why do we crave sugar?
Sugar addictions can be triggered by several underlying causes and can signify the presence of an existing health problem or condition. Some of these potential underlying causes include:
Adrenal overload or tiredness – Because your body can convert sugar into energy so quickly, eating sugar gives your body a fast and temporary boost of energy. Often when we crave sweets we really just need fuel.
Hormones – Women experiencing menopause as well as those who experience PMS, often crave sweets before menstruation. This is because hormonal fluctuations can trigger strong cravings for quick energy provided by sweets.
Depression and anxiety – Many people seek sugary foods when they experience certain emotions and develop an emotional connection with sweets. Sugar makes you ‘feel good’ temporarily before it causes you to crash, and consequently crave more.
Candida – Candida is a yeast that grows in your intestines due to an imbalance in gut flora. Candida feeds off sugar which causes you to crave refined carbohydrates and refined sugars. This in turn causes ‘bad’ bacteria overgrowth which causes several digestive problems.
Taste – The simple fact is sugar tastes good. People enjoy eating it because the truth is, it’s delicious.
So how do you kick refined sugar to the curb?