Healthy Alternatives: Coffee

I love the smell, taste and impact that coffee has on me and in moderation I, like the next person, loves a well prepared latte. Unfortunately like many of the pleasures in life too much coffee maybe a detriment to your long term health.

Although the immediate reaction to coffee is an increase in energy, focus and concentration, this short term stimulation on the nervous system and adrenal glands ultimately ends up causing stress to the body.   Typically too much coffee intake results in anxiety and nervousness, energy crashes, sugar cravings, insomnia and heartburn.

So what alternatives to coffee do I recommend that will give you the similar impact without the physical cost to the body?

Yerba mate tea, green tea, chai tea and cocoa powder all contain caffeine but at much lower amounts than that found in coffee. They provide the energy and focus without the after effect of jitters and energy crashes.  In addition these teas are rich in nutrients, antioxidants and compounds that have an overall healing impact. They have been shown to assist with weight management, reduce the risk of cancer and support detoxification.

The good news is that many of these alternatives are now available at your favourite coffee shop or trendy tea store.   So the next time you are ready to order you morning java consider switching things up with a cup of green mint tea or chai tea with honey.

5 ways to have more energy

energyDid you know that feeling exhausted is so common that it has its own acronym, TATT, which stands for “tired all the time”? If you regularly feel exhausted it’s a good idea to consult your health care professional to rule out any underlying health issues. Tiredness can also be the result of a busy lifestyle. If you find yourself struggling to stay alert throughout the day then you might want to try some of the following suggestion to boost your energy.

1 – Stay Hydrated with Water and Electrolytes

The human body is 55-75 percent water. All bodily systems depend on adequate water to sustain regular metabolic activity. Even mild dehydration can compromise function and lead to symptoms like thirst, dry skin, constipation, fatigue, headaches, and weakness.

How much water should you drink? Here is an easy formula to get you started:

Your weight (lbs) ÷ 16 = Daily intake (cups)

_______________ lbs ÷ 16 = _______________ cups

If you had an intense workout, try coconut water or water with lemon and honey to help replace the electrolytes your body sweated out.

2 – Limit or avoid caffeine

Caffeine and coffee simply fool your body into producing fake energy. Caffeine temporarily takes large amounts of adrenaline from your adrenal glands, resulting in a longer-term of energy levels and a greater dependence of caffeine for energy.

If you do consume caffeine have your last caffeinated drink before midday. It takes women 8 hours to metabolize caffeine.

Substitute your cup of coffee with Rooibos tea. Rooibos tea is made from South Africa’s red bush plant and is packed with antioxidants including aspalathin, which regulates the adrenal hormones, helping to reduce stress and maintain high energy levels.

3 – Natural light

Exposure to bright, natural light first thing in the morning is the best way to wake up your brain and to regulate your biological clock and keep it on track. Enjoy your breakfast in by a sunny window or better yet, get outside for a few minutes and enjoy the natural light and the fresh air which will also help you feel more energized.

4 – Daily Exercise

Incorporating at least 30 minutes of exercise into your day will not only give you more energy, it will make you healthier and happier. Exercise releases endorphins that will leave you feeling uplifted. Physical activity also sends oxygen and nutrients to your cells, helping your system work more efficiently. For an extra boost of energy exercise outdoors in the morning to get the benefits from the natural light.

5 – Eat Chia Seeds

Did you know that the ancient Mayans and Aztecs warriors used to eat Chia seeds for energy and alertness during war? Chia seeds have high amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 that help regulate glands, fight adrenal fatigue, and reduce inflammation. They are also high in protein and fiber, which keep blood sugar stable.

Stating your day with refined carbohydrate such as a bagel, muffin or high sugar cereal can disrupt blood sugar levels, causing a mid-morning crash. Adding chia seeds to your morning smoothie or oatmeal can help satisfy your hunger and avoid an energy crash.

Chia seed pudding is a delicious snack and it’s easy to make.

Chocolate chia pudding

  • 1 ¼ cup almond milk
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • 4 pitted dates

Place all the ingredients in a high speed blender and blend until smooth. Pour the pudding in glasses or small jars and refrigerate for a minimum of four hours.

Fiber is crucial to your health. Learn why!

granola-787997_960_720Are you getting enough fiber? Most Canadians only get half the recommended daily amount. According to a survey by the Heart and Stroke foundation the average Canadian daily intake is about 14 grams instead of the recommended 25 to 38 grams.

Fiber does more than keep us regular, it helps to lower cholesterol and maintain a healthy body weight, controls blood sugar, and lowers the risk of disease such as diabetes and heart disease. Recent studies are discovering the importance of fiber on gut microbiome. Research has found that when your gut lacks fiber the microbes are starved and start to feed on the protective mucus lining of the gut which can lead to inflammation and disease. You can read more about fiber and gut health here.HighFiberList

The article notes that you need to eat a high fiber diet consistently to maintain a healthy gut. If you currently aren’t eating enough fiber you will want to increase your intake slowly to prevent gas, bloating and discomfort. You will also need to drink more water to help move the fiber along.

There are 2 main types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber becomes gel-like when mixed with liquid, while insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve and passes through largely intact. Some foods contain both types of fiber. It is important to eat a variety of fiber-rich foods to get the health benefits of both types.

Here are some tips to increase your fiber intake:

  • Always compare food label when grocery shopping and opt high fiber foods.
  • Eat plenty of whole foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds
  • Eat vegetables and fruits instead of drinking juice.
  • Add a small salad or vegetable soup to your lunch or dinner.
  • Add beans or lentils to soups and salads.
  • Snack on nuts, seeds and fruit.
  • Have some hummus and veggies as a snack.
  • Add ground flaxseeds, chia seeds and shredded coconut to oatmeal, smoothies, or yogurt
  • Download this list and keep it handy to make high-fiber choices.

By focusing on adding more fiber rich foods to your diet you will inevitably make better eating choices!

Make ahead lunches

soup-1006694_1280When it comes to making healthy lunches, planning is crucial. The good news is that once you get used to the routine it becomes easier.

Planning for healthy work or school lunches might look like this:

  1. during the week make a list of possible lunches
  2. create a grocery list
  3. create menu plan to ensure meal rotation
  4. prepare your meals Sunday and possibly a few on Wednesday

Choosing foods that stay in the fridge for a few days without going bad is key. As a general rule cooked foods should be stored in the refrigerator and be eaten within 3 to 4 days. This is why you might want to take some time Wednesday to cook a few things such as quinoa.

The following foods keep for at least 3 days once cooked and refrigerated:

Rice: 4 to 6 days in the refrigerator or 6 months in the freezer.

Quinoa: 3 days in the refrigerator

Beans: 3-4 days in refrigerator or 1-2 month is freezer.

Chicken: 3-4 days in refrigerator or 4 month is freezer.

Boiled eggs: 1 week in the fridge.

Hummus: see the label. Most are good for up to 5 days after opening.

Foods that freeze well include: soup, stews, chili, pasta sauce, bread, baked goods, or homemade bars.

Not sure what to make? Here are a few lunch ideas:

Wraps
You can use flour tortillas, pita bread, collards or romaine lettuce as your wraps. Fill the wrap with your favourite fillings. Egg and tuna salad is good in romaine lettuce. Refried beans, salsa and cheese are good in a flour tortilla. Make a salad and stuff it into pita bread. Ideally you would have all the ingredients on hand and make your wrap in the morning so that it doesn’t get soggy overnight. You can also bring the filling in a separate container and make your wrap at lunch time.

Bento Boxes
For those who love variety, the possibilities are endless! If you need some ideas check out this post and if you want to make an extra special bento try these.

Hearty soup, stews and chili
Make a big batch and freeze in individual portions for a quick lunch. Use a slow cooker to save time.

Veggie Bowls
Add steamed, roasted or raw veggies over cooked rice, quinoa, rice noodles or another grain. Top with it beans, nuts, or lean meat for added protein and add a drizzle of your favourite sauce.
This is a simple and delicious sauce that will keep in the fridge for up to a week. You can add it to a veggie bowl, salad or use it as a dipping sauce.

Tahini Lemon Sauce
Blend 1/2 cup tahini, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 1 garlic clove, and a 1/4 cup water.

Burrito Bowl
Layer some rice, refried beans, salsa and avocado. This is one of the quickest lunches to put together when you have everything on hand.

Once your meals are prepared, pack them in containers free of BPA and other toxins. It’s best practice to stay away from plastic as much as possible. If you do use plastic make sure they are dishwasher safe if you use a dishwasher and do not heat your meals in plastic.

Some ideas for safe packaging include: mason jars, stainless steam thermos and parchment paper. Ikea sells these glass containers that have good lids so they are less likely to leak. Terra 20 has a few stainless steal contain options such as this 2 layer sandwich box.

If you have children include them in the planning and prepping process so that they get into the habit of preparing healthy meals.

7 natural ways to relieve constipation

Constipation is generally defined as fewer than two or three bowel movements a week. However, you should aim to have one to three good bowel movements a day. Being regular is important for your overall health because it helps rid your body of excess toxins, hormones and cholesterol.

Many factors can cause constipation such as:

  • Being dehydrated
  • Poor diet that lacks fiber
  • Poor thyroid function
  • Lack of healthy gut bacteria
  • Lack of digestive enzymes
  • Low stomach acid
  • Food intolerances
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Magnesium deficiency
  • Iron supplements
  • Ignoring the urge to go
  • Irritable bowel syndrome

Here are some tips to keep you regular:

1. Eat more fiber. Aim to get at least 24 grams of fiber per day. Fiber increases the bulk of your stool to and it feeds good bacteria in the gut. To add more fiber to your diet add 1-2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds to your food and read Fiber is crucial to your health where you will find tips and a list of high fiber foods that you can download.

2. Eat prunes which are high in fiber and contain dihydroxyphenyl isatin, which stimulates the bowel, as well as sorbitol, a natural sugar that has a laxative effect.

3. Avoid the following foods: sugar and processed foods, dairy, gluten, and soy.

4. Take supplements.

Magnesium pulls water into the intestines to increase stool volume and make it softer, which encourages peristalsis, or contraction and relaxation of the intestines. Be aware that taking too much magnesium cause diarrhea, so it’s important to start slowly. Taking it at night will help you have a good bowel movement the next morning.
Please note that people with kidney or severe heart disease should only take magnefish oilsium under a doctor’s supervision.

Fish Oil is one of the highest food sources of omega 3 essential fatty acids. Natural oils provide lubrication to your digestive tract to help the stool pass through your colon.

5. Stay hydrated to help soften and move the stool through the digestive tract. If you are not sure how much water you should be drinking per day you can use this equation as a guide line:

Your weight (lbs) ÷ 16 = Daily intake (cups) _______________ lbs ÷ 16 = _______________ cups.

Drinking warm lemon water first thing in the morning on an empty stomach will help wake up your digestive system by increasing the release of hydrochloric acid and can help with intestinal peristalsis to encourage a bowel movement.

6. Squat first thing in the morning, maybe while you are having your warm water. Squatting relaxes the muscles that allows the rectum to easily eliminate.

7. Exercise to help stimulate circulation and intestinal function.

If you have tried the tips suggested above and are still experiencing constipation it would be a good idea to seek help from your medical professionals to find and address the root cause.

 

Make ahead breakfast recipes

Chia PuddingThese recipes are quick to prepare and make enough servings for breakfast for a week for 1 person.

Oatmeal Bake
Oats provide a good dose of soluble fiber to help you stay regular and lower cholesterol levels.

  • 2 cups oats
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup berries (fresh or frozen)
  • ½ cup chopped nuts & seeds
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup almond milk
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
  2. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and add the berries.
  3. In another bowl, mix the egg,  almond milk and vanilla.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry mix and then spread the mixture into a greased baking dish.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown
  6. Serve with more berries and milk or on its own!
  7. Store in the fridge or make a big batch and freeze.

Chia seed pudding
Chia seeds are rich in fiber, omega-3 fats, protein, vitamins and minerals.

  • 1 cup of full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup of almond milk
  • 2/3 cup of chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp of maple syrup
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  1. Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend on low speed until thick or blend on a higher speed for a smoother texture.
  2. Store in the fridge.
  3. Option to serve with fruit.