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Friday
Feb202015

Setting Goals for Success!

I’m sure if we look back, many of us can think of ample times when we decided to do something different to improve our lives.  As we begin, we are excited and motivated - we may tell people about our new goals, we may purchase all of the necessary tools to help us succeed (thinking that it will make us more successful) and we genuinely want to strive for excellence in every regard.

 Unfortunately for most people, this excitement and motivation ends all too quickly and we are left frustrated with ourselves.  The main reason this happens is because we don’t set reasonable and attainable goals.  We have an end goal, but we lack the clarity of how to reach that goal which ultimately is the reason for failure.   

“I want to lose weight.”

“I want to eat healthier.”

“I want to keep my house cleaner.” 

All of these are great ideas, but rather than giving ourselves these broad, sweeping ideas, we are much successful when we focus on achievable, step by step goals to help us reach those end desires.  We do not need to fix all of our bad habits at once, but rather, we need to take small steps to get there.  We often gradually fall into bad habits, so we can’t just assume that we can change all of our habits overnight and easily stick with it. 

For example:

“I want to lose weight.”  

  1.  I will exercise 30 minutes per day, 3x per week (There are 7 days in a week - it’s very attainable to say you will exercise less than half of the week).  Once you have achieved this goal, if you want to step it up, you may gradually increase your exercise to 4x and 5x per week.  Or, you may recognize that 3x a week is attainable and therefore you will stick with this.
  2.  I will make an egg casserole on Sundays so that I have breakfast for every day of the week. (This is very different from “I will no longer skip breakfast” - that’s a sweeping, potentially unattainable statement if you are not making goals for how to do this).  Once you have achieved this goal, you may make another goal such as making a large salad on Sundays so that you have a healthy lunch every day. 

“I want to eat healthier.”

  1.   I will not buy chips.  (rather than “I will cut back on junk food” which is a sweeping statement).  Once you have achieved this goal, you may continue to “I will not buy candy/chocolate/sugar” etc.
  2.  I will eat one serving of vegetables with each meal. (Rather than “I will eat more vegetables).  Once you have achieved this goal, you might say that you will have one serving of vegetables with each snack too.  Or perhaps two servings of vegetables with each meal. 

“I want to keep my house cleaner.”

  1. “I will put my clothes away at night.” (Rather than, I will keep my bedroom clean.”) 
  2. “I will sweep the floors on Saturday mornings.”  From this, you might sweep them twice a week.  Or sweep the floors and vacuum the carpets.

If you make achievable goals that you slowly increase, you will see much greater results and therefore have much greater success in your life.  This will stop you from feeling so frustrated with yourself when you set out to do something but “fall off the wagon” some short amount of time after.  When you achieve your goals, you feel much more positive and self-confident which will help you to continue to become the best version you can be of yourself.

Set yourself up for success - it’s the only way to win!!!


Thursday
Jan302014

Coconut Oil Craze

For years coconut oil received a bad reputation because it is primarily a saturated fat and saturated fats were seen as “bad.” However, the truth is that the only “bad” fat for our bodies is trans-fat which is primarily found in deep friend foods and chemically altered fats such as margarine.  In order to be healthy, we need an adequate balance of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fats.  And guess what? Coconut oil is one of the healthiest sources of saturated fat we can consume.

One of the main reasons coconut oil is so healthy is because of it’s high MCT (medium chain triglyceride) count.  A high quality coconut oil will contain approximately 66% MCTs (virgin, cold pressed).  MCTs work directly in your cells to give you energy – they aren’t stored as fat!  In fact, a study in 2009 showed that women who consumed two tablespoons of this healthy fat, had a reduction in abdominal fat (and if you’re a woman, you know how hard this type of fat can be to lose).  Coconut oil has even been used as a cure for dementia and Alzheimer’s as it supplies energy to the brain.  In addition to these benefits, thyroid function and blood sugar stability have been reported with coconut oil use.  It’s high content of lauric acid also helps combat any pathogens in the body including viruses, fungii, and yeasts.  Lastly, it benefits your skin and hair when applied topically.  There really is no reason not to use this life-giving oil!

Coconut oil can be used in many ways.  I love using it as a stirfry oil over medium heat, in smoothies, or in baking (in place of butter).  If you’ve never used coconut oil before, try adding a little to your smoothie, oatmeal or even a little on a spoon to experience the flavour for yourself!  Below is my favourite coconut oil recipe – dark chocolate truffles!  Did you know unprocessed cacao is also extremely good for you?  We will save the hows and whys for another post, but in the meantime, enjoy this easy, decadent, and healthy treat that’s sure to impress a crowd!

RAW CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

1/2 cup coconut oil
1 cup unprocessed cacao powder
1/4 cup agave nectar or maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt
optional: shredded coconut, dried cranberries, almond slivers, goji berries etc. – be creative!

Simple Instructions:

Melt the coconut oil slowly at a very low temperature .
Add the cacao powder, sweetener, salt, and vanilla.  Mix well with a whisk.

Add in other desired ingredients.

Drop into little ice cube trays, mini muffin cups, or into a square container and put in the fridge for 15 minutes until they have set.

Lick the spoon and enjoy!

Note: At room temperature, coconut oil begins to melt so these are best served cool.


Saturday
Dec012012

Vitamin D3 Please!

Vitamin D deficiency is a common problem we face in Canada and unfortunately, very few are aware of the risks and the widespread problem of this deficiency.

Although it has certainly been proven that North Americans are deficient in Vitamin D, the level of deficiency is debated because there are varying opinions on what an optimal level of Vitamin D in the blood should be.  However, even with this debate, it is accepted that between 66-85% of North Americans are deficient.  It is especially important to note that one study showed that of the group that actually had sufficient Vitamin D, during the winter months their supplies were less than half, throwing them into deficiency.

An optimal vitamin D level is currently considered to be between 50-70 nnmol/L, while levels between 70-100 nmol/L would help fight diseases such as cancer and heart disease.  However, there is a growing consensus that even higher levels are desirable for overall health.  Note that nobody in the most comprehensive survey ever done in Canada had levels that were considered toxic (above 375 nmol/L).  

Although we call it a vitamin, D mostly functions as a type of hormone that our body can manufacture with the help of the sun.  It exists within our body in a few different forms.  It can function as a vitamin but the liver and kidney will convert it to it’s active hormone form.  Vitamin D is also responsible for multiple gene-regulatory functions and its major function is to maintain blood calcium and phosophorus levels as well as the maintenance of strong bones.  However, Vitamin D actually has many different functions in the body and is necessary for each organ to function properly.

So what can happen if we are deficient in Vitamin D?  Too many things - Vitamin D deficiency has now been shown to play a major role in cancer, autoimmune disorders, heart and cardiovascular disease, arthritis, depression/SAD (ever wonder why the “winter blues” come?), infertility/PMS, osteoporosis, and both types of diabetes.  Vitamin D deficiency will affect all thirty six organs.   

It is interesting to not that Vitamin D levels are low in people with the four most common cancers: breast, prostate, colon, and skin cancer.  In addition, there is clear evidence to show that your risk of dying from cancer becomes higher the further away from the equator you live - indicating a correlations to the amount of sunshine you may get every year.  One of the top vitamin D researchers in the world, Dr. William Grant noted that the cancer rate in Iceland is 90 per 100,000 people while in the tropics, it’s only 25 per 100,000 people.  He also notes that the majority of cancer deaths in the United Sates are from Vitamin D-sensitive cancers.

There are several different reasons for the Vitamin D deficiency epidemic in our continent, but it mostly boils down to the fact that the power of the sun just doesn’t reach us enough months of the year.  Even if we try to get outside in the winter months, we do not have enough skin exposed to be able to absorb it and the sun is so far away, that we really aren’t able to obtain much Vitamin D from it.  Another problem is that in the summer, when we actually can obtain sufficient D from the sun, we are so scared of cancer that many of us use sunscreens that are likely blocking our ability to manufacture they very vitamin that we need to fight cancer!  Anything above SPF8 will block Vitamin D.  It fascinating to know that chronic long term exposure to the sun like a farmer or lifeguard has been shown to be protective but short stints of intermittent, intense, infrequent burning followed by no sun is damaging to our body and can cause cancer.  In general, you should aim for at least 20 minutes daily in the sun with 40% of your skin exposed but again, the amount your body would manufacture would depend on how close to the equator you live. 

Vitamin D is especially important during the winter to keep the immune system strong.  It’s no coincidence that cold and flu season begin when our Vitamin D levels begin to decline.  Vitamin D stimulates your white blood cells to make a substance called cathelicidin which is a substance that attacks a wide variety of pathogens including fungi, viruses, bacteria and even tuberculosis - think of it as a natural broad spectrum antibiotic that continually fights whatever your body may encounter.  Furthermore, there have been at least five studies published that prove that the higher your vitamin D levels, the lower your risk of contracting colds, flus and other respiratory tract infections. 

Because of the climate we live in, it is essential to supplement with vitamin D during the winter months.  We simply cannot get nearly enough vitamin D from dietary sources nd there is no way to get it from the sun during our short, cold, and often grey days.  Vitamin D is able to store in our blood for a few weeks and in our fat for a few months but after that, levels will drop, often to a deficient level.  One study showed that the late winter average of vitamin D levels in the United Sates was only about 15-18 ng/ml which is seriously deficient state.

If you are curious about your personal Vitamin D levels, it is easy to get a blood test.  However, based on the research shown, it’s pretty clear that we are all deficient so many people just assume deficiency.  If you did want to track your progress or check your levels in the future after supplementing, you want to request a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D test from your doctor.  Note that you may have to pay out of pocket for this test.

Although there are still varied opinions about the optimal vitamin D dosage, current research is showing that at minimum, an adult needs 5,000 IU (recent studies are even suggestion 8,000 - 10,000 IU), to bring blood levels up to where they need to be for the winter. Children should take approximately 35 IU per pound and children aged 5-10 should take around 3,000 IU daily.  Note that you should always be taking D3 which is the natural form, and never D2 which is the synthetic form (associated with a risk of toxicity).

Supplementing with Vitamin D is a must.  Do not compromise your body’s health and make sure to keep up on your Vitamin D during the winter!  

 Sources used:

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2002/02/23/vitamin-d-part-five.aspx

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/statscan-finds-widespread-vitamin-d-deficiency-in-canadians/article596998/

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/03/28/Four-Times-the-Recommended-Vitamin-D-Dose-Needed-for-Winter.aspx

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2008/10/21/vitamin-d-is-a-better-way.aspx

Friday
Nov162012

Movember Madness

Movember is already in full swing.  It’s that time of the year when we laugh and cringe or ooh and aah at the different shapes and sizes of mustaches grown by the men in our lives. And it’s definitely that time of year when I am truly thankful that my husband cannot grow a mustache (shh, you didn’t hear it from me)!!! This trendy activity has certainly gained a lot of popularity over the years for good reason--it’s a fun way to remember that we live in a world where cancer is a big problem and for men, prostate cancer is an ever-growing concern.  However, within all the fun and games, is any knowledge getting through?  Although November is Men’s Health Awareness month, simple awareness isn’t enough. We need action for true prevention of this disease. 

More than ever, research is showing that diet plays a key role in prostate cancer prevention and management.  This refers to not only what we should be eating, but what we shouldn’t be eating.  There are many foods that cause inflammation and oxidization of the cells, two key factors that contribute to the development and progression of prostate (and other) cancer.  These are typically what we know as “junk food” and while we all know we should not be eating this sort of food, few people realize the true risks associated with eating processed foods, soda (diet and regular), deep fried foods, chips, and sugary foods.  Sugar alone is a prime energy source for cancer.  Couple this with other processed foods, fast foods, and junk foods and you’ve got a disease waiting to happen!

In addition to the harm that “junk food” does to our cells, these foods cause extra body fat which promotes insulin resistance.  This in turn reduces levels of Insulin Growth Factor binding proteins that should prevent prostate cancer cells from dying and when it’s reduced, it can actually help cancer cells grow.  Diet and exercise directly affect this because when we are eating healthy foods, maintaining healthy portions, keeping junk food out of our diet, and exercising regularly, then we can maintain a healthy muscle mass and a low body fat.

For prostate cancer prevention, there are not only foods we should stay away from, but there are also foods we should strive to eat.  Below are some foods that are scientifically proven to help prevent prostate cancer (and other cancers).   If you make an effort to get at least 3 of these foods/food groups in your daily diet, it is your first line of defense against chronic disease.  As you read about the foods below, note that the healthier your cell membrane is, the stronger your defense system is against disease.  When the cellular walls are damaged, they become thin and can even break and at that point, they are extremely susceptible to toxins.  When they are strong, they hold all of the important nutrients in and keep toxins out.  It is important to keep a strong cellular wall for optimum health. 

Lycopene.  This antioxidant blocks the action of free radicals that damage cells.  Lycopene can be found in tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon, apricots, guava, and papaya.  Enjoy whole fruits or use pasta sauce/salsa on your meats, omelettes and stirfry! (note: lycopene from tomatoes is better absorbed when the tomatoes are cooked and when there is a small amount of healthy fats in the meal).

Turmeric.  This anti-inflammatory spice prevents cancer and can also be used when cancer is present to prevent cancer metastasis (the spread of growth from one organ to another).  Add turmeric to smoothies or any meal you make, or take a concentrated supplement to make sure to be getting this spice in your diet each and every day.

Cruciferous vegetables. Although the list is more extensive, the most common cruciferous vegetables in the North American diet are: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, Kale, collard greens, and arugulaThese are commonly referred to as the “anti-cancer” vegetables because they reduce cell damage mainly by accelerating cellular repair.  My favourite ways to consume cruciferous veggies are: 1. Roasting cauliflower and broccoli with some coconut oil and curry powder (curry powder contains turmeric!), 2. Baking/dehydrating kale into kale chips, 3. Pureeing these vegetables into a creamy soup, 4. Making a healthy cabbage salad/coleslaw.

Pomegranate. pomegranate contains antioxidants called “elligitannins” that interfere with an enzyme (CYP1B1) that is often present under cancerous conditions.  Avoid commercial pomegranate juice as its often has added sugars or concentrated sugars.  Instead, enjoy munching on the seeds, or juice it yourself!

Green Tea. Green tea contains numerous antioxidant polyphenols, the most abundant of which is called “Epigallocatechin gallate” or ECG.  This antioxidant has been proven to suppress cancer growth and increase cancer cell death.  Make an effort to get it at least one cup of green tea a day.  If you do not care for the earthy flavour of this tea, try squeezing some fresh lemon into it and enjoy it hot or cold!

Don't let your mustache grow in vein this year!  Instead, put to practice and spread the knowledge of how we can help prevent prostate and other cancers!

Sources used:

http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/dietandnutrition/lycopene

http://www.naturalnews.com/027435_cancer_Prostate_pomegranate.html

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/251461.php

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/prostatesupplements/healthprofessional/page2

http://www.pcf.org/atf/cf/%7B7c77d6a2-5859-4d60-af47-132fd0f85892%7D/NUTRITION_EXERCISE_GUIDE.PDF

Wednesday
Oct312012

Ignorance is bliss. Knowledge is power.

"Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance." -Confucius

Welcome to my blog.  In a trendy world of blogging, I was prompted to start this blog because I felt the need, more than ever, to spread awareness of what we put into our bodies and how it’s affecting us.  The first urge to start a blog came several months ago when a generous host made me a strawberry daiquiri topped with “whipped cream.”  “What is this on top of the drink?” I asked.  It may have sounded like a silly question, but the white topping actually resembled the taste of whipped marshmallows but had the texture of whipped cream.  The host excitedly responded “it’s a can of no-name whipped cream.  It’s my favourite!  I love it and use it all the time.”  Curious, and true to form, I read the back of the can to see the ingredients for myself.  To confirm my suspicions, this can of “whipped cream” had absolutely no dairy in it at all!!!  Instead, it was full of hydrogenated oils, corn syrup, artificial flavours, preservatives and chemicals.  It’s a wonder it didn’t actually taste like whipped cream!

It was at this moment that I realized that many of us have one of two problems: either we have absolutely no idea how much we are poisoning our body with the food we eat, or we just do not care about how we are poisoning our body.  However, one day all of this non-organic food we are eating will catch up with us and we will have some serious damage control to do.  Damage control that will affect most aspects of our lives. 

So why not start this damage control now?  Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to our bodies.  Our health is all we have.  Think about your most favourite things in the world.  Think about your family, friends, hobbies, job etc. - without health, we cannot enjoy any one of those.  We simply cannot put a price on our health and our modern day food supply is quickly putting our health into serious debt.

Whether we are unknowingly consuming chemicals, preservatives or foods that are slowly making us sick, or whether we know something is “bad” for us, but continue to consume it anyway, we are all losing.  How about the aspartame in your yogurt and diet drinks that actually poisons your system by turning into formaldehyde and has been linked to brain tumours, nervous system disorders, leukemia, and lymphoma.  Or how about the genetically modified foods (the most common ones being corn, canola oil, soybeans, sugar) that our government claims are safe, yet studies done on rats show organ damage, increased tumours, and premature death.  Did you know that GMO corn works by causing the insects’ stomach to literally split open and poison the blood with bacteria when it eats the GMO food?  You can come to your own conclusions about what this may or may not be doing to a human’s digestive system.

So what would you rather?  To become sick in 5, 10, maybe 20 years and say “I should have...” or “I wish somebody told me...” or would you rather make gradual changes and keep yourself and others around you healthy and feeling great?  The more consumers refuse to buy, the less companies will be able to sell.  Imagine nobody ever bought anything with aspartame in it?  Companies would very quickly catch on and stop making products with aspartame and then nobody in the world would ever be poisoned by it again.  The same would hold true for buying non GMO food, or one step further, 100% organic food.  We are the consumers and we have the power. We just need to start using it.

Sources:

http://www.naturalnews.com/037772_aspartame_leukemia_lymphoma.html

http://www.natural-health-guide.com/genetically-modified-food.html

http://www.ca.uky.edu/entomology/entfacts/ef130.asp

http://dherbs.com/articles/aspartame-50.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2205509/Cancer-row-GM-foods-French-study-claims-did-THIS-rats--cause-organ-damage-early-death-humans.html