Grain Free, Dairy Free Easy Blender Pumpkin Spice Muffin Recipe (with Sugar-free option)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup nut butter
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (try making your own!)
  • 2 tablespoons of raw honey (or other sweeteners such as maple syrup, stevia, etc.)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor. You can also use a stick blender if you have one.
  3. Blend until well mixed.
  4. Pour batter into a greased muffin tin. You can also use a mini muffin tin to make 24 mini muffins.
  5. Add additional toppings of your choice to each muffin and lightly stir into each cup
  6. Cook time: 15 minutes for full size muffins and 10 minutes for mini muffins.
  7. Reheat in a toaster oven for about 4 minutes at 350 degrees F, or eat at room temperature.

15 Household Spots You Should Be Cleaning

There are about 150 different species of bacteria found on the average human hand – some harmless, some beneficial and some capable of causing serious illness. Germs get spread every time you touch something.  On average, about three hundred different surfaces get touched every thirty minutes.  Regular household germs are thought to be responsible for causing over 65 percent of colds, 50 percent of diarrhea and 50-80 percent of food-borne illness.  Frequent hand washing is probably one of the simplest and most effective strategies for keeping household germs at bay.  Another is ensuring germ hotspots get cleaned regularly – here are fifteen household sources that are easily overlooked.

    1. Toothbrush

      According to researchers at the University of Manchester in England, your toothbrush is home to more than 100 million bacteria including E. coli and staphylococci (Staph) bacteria, including fecal germs. Every time you flush, bacteria are released into the air and can travel up to five feet away. The fix: Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or more frequently if bristles are frayed, if you experience illness or your immune system is weakened.  For an electric toothbrush, replace the head as frequently as you would a regular disposable brush. Children’s toothbrushes may need to be replaced more often than adult brushes. If possible, store your toothbrush in the medicine cabinet (it still needs to be upright) or at least as far away from the toilet as possible.  Allow your toothbrush dry between uses (some people have a different morning and a bedtime brush).  Close the toilet lid when you flush.  Avoid using toothbrush protectors as they can harbour bacteria.

    2.  Toothbrush holder

      Given its location in the bathroom (and close to the toilet), it comes as no surprise that the toothbrush holder also showed high levels of bacteria (27% coliform, 14% staph, 64% had mold/yeast contamination).The fix: Either wash manually in hot soapy water or in the dishwasher twice per week. Better yet, get rid of it and store your toothbrushes (upright) in a covered part of the bathroom (like the medicine cabinet).

    3. Bath Mat

      Bath mats sit on the bathroom floor (one of the most contaminated parts of the bathroom) and provide a moist dark environment where mold spores, bacteria and fungus can thrive and survive for weeks.  The fix: Launder mats once per week on the highest heat and with bleach (follow manufacturer’s instructions).  Launder separately from bedding or other clothes.

    4. Hand towels

      Towels are such great bacteria traps because every time you use a towel, you transfer your natural skin bacteria, and any other germs you’re carrying, onto their surface. Towels are made to absorb water, which is great for drying your skin, but not so great when it comes to discouraging bacterial growth.  Face, hand and bath towels spread bacteria and viruses among family members who use the same towels.  To add insult to injury, most people don’t wash their hands properly – so you end up rubbing bacteria into an ideal growing environment. In one study, nearly 90% of bathroom towels were contaminated with coliform bacteria and about 14% carried E. coli. The fix:  Use your own individual towel (for face, hand and bath).  Wash all towels after two days of use, in hot water and bleach for best results.

    5. Loofah

      Like a kitchen sponge (full of holes and crevices), your loofah is a prime place for germs to accumulate.  It picks up germs from your body, plus anything it might contact from shower surfaces.  Using a germ-ridden loofah sponge can also contribute to acne.  The fix:  It is probably better not to use one at all, and swap it out for a washcloth instead.  But if you must, rinse them with super hot water at the end of a shower, allow them to dry between uses and always, always replace them every three months.

    6. Tub & Shower

      Your bathtub may have 100 times more bacteria than the trash can, according to an in-home bacteria study conducted by the Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community. The fix: Disinfect tubs and showers twice per week to get rid of dead skin cells left in the tub that can carry germs too.

    7. Sponge

      Your kitchen sponge is ironically the germiest item in your home.    In a recent study, 77 percent harbored coliform bacteria, and another 86 percent contained yeast and mold and another 18 percent contained staph bacteria. Bacteria flourish in moist environments offered by kitchen sponges and rags.  Using a dirty sponge or rag to wipe kitchen counters only transfers bacteria from one place to another.  The fix: Sponges should be replaced frequently, ideally weekly. Use a clean rag every day or two.  Dry sponges and rags between uses (ensure they are free of organic debris before drying). Kitchen rags and towels should be laundered in hot water with bleach for best results.

    8. Coffee Maker

      Fifty percent of reservoirs swabbed for the study had mold and yeast, and nine percent had coliform bacteria.  The fix: A simple way to disinfect it while also removing mineral buildup? Fill the water chamber with half vinegar/half water, then “brew” a pot halfway. Turn the pot off and let it sit for 30 minutes before finishing the brew. Run a clear water mixture through next (do this step twice) and you’ll have a clean coffee pot ready to brew delicious coffee.

    9. Oven handles/light switches/microwave screens

      Since a lot goes into cooking a meal/food preparation- handling uncooked meats and unwashed produce, cutting boards, opening cabinets/refrigerator/oven/microwave, it is easy to see how germs could be transferred from one surface to another.  The fix: Disinfect frequently used kitchen surfaces, especially before and after meal preparation   Keep a spray bottle of diluted vinegar and clean rags on the counter for easy access.

    10. Kitchen faucet

      After you handle raw meat in the kitchen, naturally you turn on the tap to wash your hands, and may not realize the transfer of bacteria that are left on the faucet (this also holds true for bathroom faucets)  More than half of faucets in American homes are covered in bacteria.The fix: Disinfect all surfaces regularly using hot water and soap or a diluted solution of chlorine bleach and water.

    11. Dishwasher

      Dishwasher detergents are designed to clean your dishes, but are not effective in keeping the insides of the dishwasher sanitized.  Food particles, soap scum and grease cling together and create an ideal breeding ground for various microorganisms.  In one study, 62% of the dishwashers tested positive for fungi, 56% of which were black yeasts. The fix:  Regularly run your dishwasher empty with a cup of vinegar and a cup of baking soda, and don’t forget to clean out the trap regularly.

    12. Remote

      The TV remote – gets dropped on the floor, coughed on, sneezed at and handled by every household member.  A remote control’s surface were found to be one of the germiest surfaces in the household (consider this when travelling in hotel rooms too). Almost half of remotes tested were contaminated with cold viruses.  The fix:  Clean the remote regularly using a microfiber cloth, a solution of 50/50 rubbing alcohol/water, a toothbrush to clean with and a cotton swab.  Buy a remote with a flat design for easier cleaning.  When travelling (remotes to be shown second only to a bathroom counter in the average hotel room for bacterial counts), don’t use the remote and use the TV on/off button instead.

    13. Makeup and makeup Brushes

      With every touch, you transfer all of the microorganisms from your skin into your product.  Same holds true for any brush or applicator.  So over time, your makeup becomes a ripe source of  microbial contamination, which gets spread around with every time you doll yourself up. 60% of women rarely wash their makeup brushes, if at all.  One survey revealed that 39% of women wash their brushes less than once a month and 22% admit to never washing them.

      The fix:  Clean your makeup (think pressed powders, foundation, metal tools and makeup bag liniing) with a small spray bottle filled with isopropyl alcohol (allow to dry before using) on a weekly basis.  Use alcohol wipes for items like lipstick, concealer, eye and lip liners and metal tools.  Wash makeup brushes and sponges brushes in warm soapy water on a regular basis. Discard and regularly replace expired products (every three months for mascara, every six months for liquid liners and foundations and every year for gloss, creams).

    14. Purse/Backpack/Computer Bag

      One study of office workers found that women’s purses were one of top three dirtiest things they touched throughout the day, with E. Coli on 25 percent of purses tested.  This holds true for any type of bag that is being used on a daily basis.  The fix: Don’t rest it on the bathroom floor, use the hooks provided in public restrooms whenever possible.  Clean the bottoms of all bags regularly with a disinfectant wipe (vinegar and water will suffice) every few days.  Purchase bags with a non-permeable fabric on the bottom for more effective cleaning.

    15. Keyboard/Tablet/Smartphone

      For most people, the cellphone is probably the one items that gets touched the most.  One study found one in six phones was shown to be contaminated with fecal matter (we have our own unwashed hands to blame).  The fix:  Power down the device once per week (more during cold and flu season) and wipe with a disinfectant cloth.

5 Steps to Kick the Habit

I started drinking coffee in my mid-20s and have been trying to quit since (now more than 20 years later).  It is easy to tell yourself, or a little bit can’t hurt, but before you know it, an innocent one cup a day habit can easily turn into 4 or even 8 cups/day.  Whether it is coffee, certain foods (think sugar), social media, cigarettes or alcohol, everyone has a tendency to addiction.  The good news is that we now have a better understanding of the underlying brain chemistry that makes us susceptible.  Following these five strategies will help rebalance your brain, and make it that much easier to overcome addiction.

Simple Gluten-free, Dairy-free Bread

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole tahini butter (from ground sesame)
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon Himalayan Pink Salt

Directions:

  1.  Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix together tahini and eggs until very smooth
  3. Add in apple cider vinegar, baking soda and salt
  4. Transfer batter to pan greased with coconut oil
  5. Bake at 350° for 35 – 45 minutes depending on your oven.
  6. Enjoy!

 

5 Ways to Boost your Brainpower

It was once thought that brain decline happened due to brain cell (neuron) death or cease of function.  Recent research now shows that the neurotransmitter dopamine can trigger the formation of new neurons in adult brains. Not only do neurons regenerate, they are also able to reorganize themselves and form new neural connections (called neuroplasticity).  With our current knowledge, not only can we slow down cognitive decline,  but we can prevent it outright.  Try the following dietary and lifestyle tweaks to boost your brainpower, prolong your mental health and ultimately,  make yourself smarter.

1. Exercise

The brain is only 2% of our body mass but it consumes 20% of our oxygen and nutrients.Aerobic exercise improves blood flow and increases oxygen levels, which increase neuron growth. Exercise also increases the volume of white and grey matter in the brain. A minimum of 30 minutes three times a week is recommended.

2. Eat dark chocolate and other brain foods.

The brain is comprised of 70% fat. Healthy fats like avocados, coconut oil, MCT oil, fatty fish (like salmon and tuna) and/or supplement with a high quality fish oil. Foods like cocoa, blueberries, red wine and grapes contain compounds that have been shown to be beneficial for brain health.  The polyphenols in green tea have been shown to improve memory.  Egg yolks are a rich source of choline which is needed to make one of your brain’s main neurotransmitters.  Eating for best brain health also includes eating balanced meals (meals that include roughly equal amounts of protein, carbohydrate and fats – this is especially important at breakfast).  Avoid food additives like aspartame and food dyes, which have been shown to damage neurons.  Eliminate, or ideally, avoid consuming sugar due to its affect on blood sugars which is a known risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s (some researchers now call it Type III Diabetes).  

2. Sleep.

Sleep is needed not only to regenerate cells, but also helps strength synaptic connections. How many of us wake from a good night’s sleep with a new solution to an old problem?  That is because sleep allows your brain to analyze problems from a different perspective.  Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep for adults and 8.5 – 9.25 hours for teens.

3. Try something new.

Challenge your mind by continuing to learn.  Activities that use both sides of your brain – like learning a new language, painting, dancing or playing an instrument are all particularly beneficial for brain growth.  Listening to music and reading fiction are also proven ways to enhance cognitive function.  Travel and engaging in social activity have also proved beneficial.  Doing puzzles like crosswords and Sudoku are also useful in keeping your neurons active.  Using the internet has also been shown to activate regions of the decision-making and complex reasoning parts of your brain, making it a much better choice than passively watching TV.

5. Fast

According to the Society for Neuroscience, there are many benefits to calorie restriction/intermittent fasting, such as increased synaptic plasticity,  neuron growth, decreased risk of neurodegenerative diseases, and improved cognitive function.  Some popular methods of intermittent fasting include fasting for 24 hours (only drink water) once per week, the 16:2 model in which eating is restricted to an 8 window every day (thereby “fasting” for 16 hours/day), or restricting your calories to 500 (for a woman) – 600 (for a man) calories per day 1-2x/week with five days of regular dietary intake.

With knowledge comes power, so I hope these tips inspire you to make changes that will improve not only your mental health, but ultimately your overall health, for years to come.  Hopefully, this article has already left you just a little bit smarter.

 

How to Be Sun Savvy

Summer’s here!  What feels better than a bright sunny day?  However, don’t forget the sun is still a force to be reckoned with, and as with many things, moderation is key.

Here is the what you need to know about keeping you and your family healthy for all of your summertime fun:

1. Skin cancer is not prevented by using sunscreen.

Despite increased use of sunscreen, the rate of melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – have tripled over the past 35 years.  Most scientists and public health agencies  have found very little evidence that sunscreen prevents most types of skin cancer.  What sunscreens do, when used correctly, is help prevent sunburn – a major risk factor for melanoma.  Sunscreen is only one measure, of several, needed for optimal sun protection.

Action plan: Prioritize other measures of self-protection, including:

  • wearing lightweight long-sleeved clothing to protect your skin from the sun’s rays
  • moderating your time spent outdoors mid-day, when the sun’s rays are the most direct and the hottest, which is good for vitamin D production, but also the time when you are most vulnerable to sun damage
  • doing outdoor activities in the shade
  • considering the UV index when making your plans
  • wearing sunglasses protect your eyes

2. Beware products with a high SPF rating.

Products with high SPF numbers pose many problems.  The formulations are usually slanted in favour of only protecting against UVB radiation, without offering balanced protection against  the skin damage that is caused by UVA radiation.  There is a high degree of discrepancy in the range of SPF offered by any products depending on testing methods and amount of product used, which worsens as SPF numbers increase.  Consumers also get lulled into a false sense of  security when using high SPF products and tend to use too little and too infrequently to obtain the sun protection required for their exposure.  At present, the FDA is considering banning the sale of sunscreens with SPF values greater than 50+, calling higher SPF values “inherently misleading.”  Australia, Europe, Japan and Canada already cap their labels at a maximum of “50+”.

Action plan: Choose products with an SPF between 30-50 and don’t forget to liberally reapply often based on your exposure/needs. Skip the spray-on sunscreens, since they evaporate too quickly to be consistently effective.

3. A common vitamin A sunscreen additive can actually speed development of skin cancer.

The sunscreen industry adds a form of vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) to 16 percent of beach and sport sunscreens, 14 percent of moisturizers with SPF and 10 percent of lip products.  An excess of preformed vitamin A has been known to cause cause a number of health problems, including liver damage, brittle nails, hair loss, osteoporosis and hip fractures in older adults.  Though normally added to products for its antioxidant qualities, studies indicate that retinyl palmitate may trigger development of skin tumors and lesions when used on skin in the presence of sunlight.

Action plan: Avoid sunscreens and other cosmetic products containing vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, retinol, retinyl acetate, retinyl linoleate, and retinoic acid.

4. Improve your UVA protection by going European.

European sunscreen makers can formulate their products with any of seven chemicals that filter UVA rays, compared to their American counterparts that use only three.  Therefore, American made products do not offer the same protection for UVA rays.

Action plan: Choose a sunscreen with a wide range of UVA and UVB protection.

5. SPF measures protection from sunburn, but not all types of sun damage.

Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can generate free radicals, accelerate aging, cause sunburn and may cause skin cancer.  Sunscreen does mitigate some of this damage, but it is mostly effective in preventing sunburn, reflected by its SPF.

Action plan: Be careful about how much sun exposure you get, regardless of sunscreen use.

6. Be wary of sunscreen ingredients.

Sunscreens are either “chemical” sunscreens, which have inferior stability, penetrate the skin and often contain hormone disruptors, and “natural” sunscreens, made from zinc and titanium, that may contain nanoparticles to prevent you from looking like Casper the Ghost on the beach.  Since it only takes seventeen seconds for any substance you put on your skin to be absorbed into the bloodstream, be discerning about what kinds of sunscreens you are using for you and your loved ones.

Action plan: Use mineral-only products (offerings have doubled since 2007)  which offer protection against both UVA and UVB,  generally don’t contain harmful additives. Not sure?  Click here to check out your favourite brand’s rating.

7. You need sun exposure to make vitamin D.

Vitamin D, technically a hormone, strengthens bones and the immune system and reduces risks of breast, colon, kidney and ovarian cancers and perhaps other disorders. It is estimated that about a quarter of North Americans have borderline low levels of this important nutrient.  Persons with darker skin, breast-fed infants and the elderly are more prone to having less than optimal levels for good health.

Action plan: Check your blood levels for your vitamin D status and supplement accordingly.

Follow these guidelines for a safe and enjoyable season.  Happy summer!

 

 

10 Health Myths Debunked

10 health myths debunked

Amidst all of the marketing and hype and information overload, it can be difficult to really know what to believe.  If you regularly consume these “healthy” choices, you just might want to reconsider…

1. Fruit Juice

Juice seems like it should be healthy, right?  In reality, it is concentrated sugar.  It takes 2-4 oranges to make one cup of juice.  It is unlikely that you would eat that much fruit in one sitting, yet it is not uncommon for someone to consume multiple servings of juice in one day.  Since you are drinking and not chewing, it is difficult for your system to register the caloric (and sugar) intake.  Fruit contains fructose, a special type of sugar, that bypasses the liver and goes straight into your bloodstream, which makes it very easy to overconsume.  Opt instead for whole fruits, since the fiber found in fruit slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream and limit yourself to one to two pieces per day for optimal health.  Your best beverage options continue to be water or herbal tea.

2. Foods Labelled “Low Fat” or “Fat Free”

Most low fat/fat-free foods have had the fat replaced by sugar and/or chemicals to compensate for the change in flavor that fat provides.  Sometimes, this change doesn’t even mean the product is lower in calories!  Not only does your body need healthy fat, fat is what helps satisfy your appetite.  Every year, the food industry tries to dupe us into believing eating fat makes you fat, when in reality, we continue to eat our “low-fat” and carb-rich diets and get heavier every year. If you are going to eat store bought mayonnaise, buy the best (& healthiest) one you can afford and enjoy it.

3. Antibacterial Soap

Antibacterial soap contains triclosan, a known hormone disruptor that contributes to antibiotic resistance.   Opt instead for regular soap and water, as it is equally effective in washing away bacteria as antibacterial soap.

4. Bottled Water

Plastic water bottles are simply not sustainable. It is estimated that it takes 450 years on average for the earth to digest a single plastic water bottle.  Add to that the chemicals that leach into the water as it gets packaged and transported (even if it is not BPA) before consumption.  And to top it all off, bottled water itself has fewer, if any, regulations that ensure it is healthy drinking water.  Some brands are nothing more than tap water that has been filtered and repackaged for you.  From both a health and financial standpoint, you are better off carrying a reusable glass or stainless steel bottle for when you are out and getting a good quality filter (I like Santevia) for the tap water you have at home.

5. Frozen Yogurt

We think of yogurt as a health food.  Even the non-frozen variety is often candified, unless you choose plain quality yogurt.  What people don’t realize is that frozen yogurt often contains more sugar than ice cream.  If you are buying it from a frozen yogurt boutique, that means you are likely indulging in bigger portions with added toppings (usually candy or chocolate) that increase the sugar content even more. Not all yogurts contain probiotics and even when they do, it is not usually in an amount that makes any noticeable impact on your health.

6. Scented Candles/Air Fresheners/Incense

Scented candles and air fresheners are a quick and enjoyable way to either mask unpleasant odors or create ambience.  The scents in these products are created by hazardous substances such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), allergens, and phthalates, which have been shown to cause hormone imbalance, respiratory difficulties such as allergies and asthma, and even DNA damage.

Most candles are made from paraffin wax, which emit toxic toluene and benzene when burned (both known carcinogens).  When lit, scented candles also give off formaldehyde and contribute to indoor air pollution (the air inside your home is 10X more polluted than the air outside).  Their wicks are often contain heavy metals like lead which also get airborne when burned.

A better choice is to buy candles made from soy wax or beeswax (which help to improve indoor air quality) and/or an essential oil diffuser.   Other ways to improve your air indoors is to get a good quality air filter (I like IQair), have indoor houseplants (your best choices are weeping fig, Boston fern, peace lily and English ivy) and use salt lamps regularly.       

7. Sushi

Generally, sushi is considered a healthier eating option. The reality is, depending on the sushi you choose, eating two sushi rolls is like having six slices of white bread!  Sushi rice is so tasty because it has added sugar.  A better choice is to have sashimi (or at least sushi made with brown rice instead of white) with reduced sodium soy sauce and skip the tempura or rolls made with heavy sauces.  Don’t indulge too often though, as tuna tends to be high in mercury.  Salmon and shrimp are better options.

8. Protein/Meal Replacement Bars

A protein bar or meal replacement bar will never outperform an actual meal or snack.  Sometimes it is convenient to have something you can have on the go.  But not all bars are created equal.  Be careful to look at the ingredient list, the number of ingredients, the added sugars and the overall calorie count. Choose a bar with a small list of ingredients that you can identify, with low sugar content and depending on whether you need it as a snack or as a meal, calories that range from 200-400.  Otherwise, you might up with something that is no better for you than a candy bar.

9. Smoothies

Smoothies from a juice bar or a restaurant are usually loaded with fruit with additional sugar added and can end up as calorie (and sugar) bombs.  Make them at home instead, being careful to use an unsweetened base milk or water, low glycemic index fruit (like berries), an added serving or two of health promoting leafy vegetables, some healthy fat (like avocado, nut butter or seeds) and protein for a balanced meal.

10. Honey/Maple Syrup

People seem to think that if they make treats with honey or maple syrup, somehow that has made them sugar-free, which of course, is not the case.  Treats are treats and while it is certainly better for you to have ones that are homemade with quality ingredients and less processed types of sugar, sugar is still sugar.  If you really want to make a serious impact on your health, you could omit eating baked goods/desserts completely, and opt instead for fruit to satisfy sweet cravings.  Barring that, don’t kid yourself into believing that if it is made with honey or maple syrup, that a muffin is suddenly transformed into a health food, because, well, it is still a muffin.

6 Easy Ways to Spring Clean Your Eating Habits

easy ways to spring clean your diet

In the book “In Defense of Food,” author Michael Pollan writes:

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

How simple life would be if we could all consistently follow that ridiculously simple advice.  As the bounty of nature recedes over the frozen winter horizon, for many of us, so does our commitment to eating well.  If you are anything like me, it is easy to allow comfort food, chocolate and red wine to creep in on more than an occasional basis to take the edge off winter.

Thankfully, the return of spring naturally catalyzes a desire to lighten up and refresh.  When it comes to eating right, being consistent about making better choices, however small, add up.  Follow these tips (the more the better) to add some spring to your step:

  1. Hydrate.  Most of us are chronically dehydrated.  This spring, ditch the warming coffees and hot chocolates (and the extra liquid calories) in favour of good quality drinking water (I like filtered, alkalized, room temperature best)  to support elimination and metabolism. Make sure to drink half your body weight (eg. a 160 lb person would need 80 oz or 10 glasses/day) daily for best benefits.  A great way to start your day is to drink warm water with fresh lemon squeezed into it.
  2. Drop a starch (or two).  Root vegetables and grains are readily available and make for great comfort food over the winter months.  Starches are essentially concentrated sugars and unless you are very physically active, chances are you tend to eat more than you need.  Opt for leafy greens and healthy fats (think avocado, fatty fish, nuts, or coconut oil) to round out your meal at least once per day and notice how much lighter you feel.
  3. Reduce/eliminate sugar. Giving up sugar is one of the greatest things you can do to improve your health. The easiest way to avoid sugar is to eat whole foods, since sugar hides under many names in processed foods.  Other strategies include choosing water over smoothies/juices, choosing vegetables over fruit (I consider 2 pieces of fruit/day a healthy maximum), and including protein in every meal (especially breakfast).
  4. Increase your fiber. A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that simply increasing the amount of fiber you eat—even if everything else about your diet stays the same—will help you lose weight just as successfully as if you were following a strict diet plan. Fiber has many benefits – it satisfies hunger; is loaded with nutrients; detoxifies; promotes weight loss; improves blood sugar and cholesterol profiles, and slows aging. Aim for a minimum of 30 g/day. High fiber foods include vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits, beans and whole grains. 
  5. Eat fresh.  Substitute winter root vegetables in favour of spring arrivals such as leafy greens, asparagus spears, fiddleheads, green beans and fresh peas.    
  6. Make a weekly meal plan.  Cooking is the best health insurance.  Planning a weekly menu and cooking results in less takeout and decreased food costs, as well as lower calorie intake with smaller portions and healthier ingredients.  It is also the only way to ensure what foods end up on your dinner plate.  Invest a few hours a week stocking and prepping, to ensure timely and efficient meal preparation during the busy weekdays.

Enjoy the return of the sun 🙂

Easy Everyday Detox Tips

detoxification

Detoxification is a primary cornerstone of optimal health.  We live in a world that has been polluted by chemicals which in turn affect our air, our water, our soil.  In the United States alone, over 4 billion pounds of toxic chemicals are released by industry into the environment each year, including 72 million pounds of recognized carcinogens.  So it is easy to see how important it is to assist one’s body in ridding itself of such substances.

While I certainly advocate doing more rigorous detoxification practices regularly, making smaller lifestyles changes on a daily basis can really add up.  Your body has four main routes of elimination – skin, lungs, intestines and urinary tracts. In this article, I will discuss ways you can support each of these organ systems to keep them in good working order.

Skin.  Your skin is your body’s largest organ of elimination and it gets rid of toxins through sweating.  Use  deodorant instead of anti-perspirants which block the body’s sweat glands from working (if you find your sweat is particularly odorous, it is an indication that a more thorough detox is required.)  Exercising/moving your body is perhaps the best way to get your sweat going, but you can also use a sauna or even sip hot tea in a hot bath to induce sweating.  Dry skin brushing in the shower before you get wet is a great way to stimulate your skin as well as improve your lymphatic circulation.  Regular Epsom salt baths are great for two reasons – they open your pores and they are made of magnesium sulphate – the magnesium helps to soothe your nervous and musculoskeletal systems, while the sulphur is detoxifying.  Research indicates that bathing in mineral salts reduces circulating levels of inflammatory enzymes, improves symptoms of stress and enhances the urinary excretion of stress hormones.

Lungs.  Get into a regular practice of deep breathing on a daily basis to support your lung’s eliminative capacity.  Start with a minute/day and work your way up to several minutes several times a day.  Use a drop of essential oils such as eucalyptus or peppermint  over sinuses at bedtime to open up the respiratory tract.  Exercise is a great way to stimulate circulation, increase heart rate and improve respiration.   Houseplant s help to clean indoor air – your best choices are weeping fig, Boston fern, peace lily and English ivy.     

Digestion.  Go vegetarian 1x/week – vegetarian diets are higher in fibre which help support proper bowel elimination, as well as being easier to digest than animal protein.  Add freshly squeezed lemon to your drinking water which stimulates your gallbladder and other organs to increase digestive enzyme production. Give your digestive system a break by doing a modified fast – try to finish your evening meal by about 4pm and only have fluids (preferably clear) until noon the next day.  Try to eat fruit away from other foods as they get broken down at a different rate than all other foods – have them as snacks as opposed to part of main meals.  Add a good probiotic and antioxidant to your daily supplement regimen.

Support the liver and kidneys.  Drink dandelion or nettle tea on a regular basis.  Substitute coffee with Tulsi (Holy Basil) tea which helps to support your stress response and increase energy in a healthy supportive way. Replace/limit coffee, alcohol, soda and sugary drinks with good quality drinking water to support both your kidneys and reduce the workload of the liver.  Eat a minimum of 1-2 cups daily of inexpensive dietary detoxifying sulphur-rich veggies like garlic, onions, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts.

Regular detoxification practices compared to periodic cleanses is like the difference between taking out the trash daily and taking it out weekly!  By following these guidelines, you are giving your body’s organs of elimination the continued nutrients and resources they need to work efficiently, ensuring optimal health for years to come.

Catching a Cold? Warming Socks to the Rescue

immune health and warming socks

The warming sock treatment is best if repeated for three nights in a row, or as instructed by your physician.

Indications

  • Sore throat or any inflammation or infection of the throat
  • neck pain
  • ear infections
  • headaches
  • migraines
  • nasal congestion
  • upper respiratory infections
  • coughs
  • bronchitis
  • sinus infections

Contraindications

Use with caution in diabetes, Raynaud’s phenomenon or syndrome, arterial insufficiency or advanced intermittent claudication. The warming phase is especially important for these patients. Please consult your physician.

Supplies

  • 1 pair white cotton socks
  • 1 pair thick wool socks
  • Towel
  • Warm bath or warm foot bath

Directions

  1. Take a pair of cotton socks and soak them completely with cold water (as cold as you can tolerate). Be sure to wring the socks out thoroughly so they do not drip.
  2. Warm your feet first. This is very important as the treatment will not be as effective and could be harmful if your feet are not warmed first. Soaking your feet in warm water for at least 5-10 minutes or taking a warm bath/shower for 5-10 minutes can accomplish warming
  3. Dry off feet and body with a dry towel.
  4. Place cold wet socks on feet. Cover with thick wool socks. Go directly to bed. Avoid getting chilled.
  5. Keep the socks on overnight. You will find that the wet cotton socks will be dry in the morning.

Effects of the Warming Sock Treatment

This treatment acts to reflexively increase the circulation and decrease congestion in the upper respiratory passages, head, and throat. It has a sedating action and many patients report that they sleep much better during the treatment. This treatment is also effective for pain relief and increases the healing response during acute infections.