Healthy Planet

Trying a natural deodorant for the first time? Here’s what you need to know

Deodorant
Now that summer is upon us and the hot summer weather is enjoyable, we are spending more time outdoors. It’s time to stock up on the essentials – sunscreen, hats, insect repellent…and don’t forget, a deodorant that does its function well. It’s only normal that the more time we spend in the sun, the more we may sweat. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about – in fact, sweating is your body’s natural mechanism to help cool itself down. The goal is not to reduce your sweat, but to prevent unpleasant odors. And yes, natural deodorants are just as capable as conventional ones! Why conventional deodorants have a bad rep Many conventional deodorants rely on aluminum salts as their active ingredient. Aluminum acts as a plug for your sweat glands, which is why they are so effective. On the other hand, natural deodorants are made without aluminum and use other ingredients like clay or baking soda to prevent your sweat from smelling bad. One of the main reasons people want to switch to a natural deodorant is to avoid aluminum products. Because they go directly on the armpit, a location of major lymph nodes, this heavy metal can enter the bloodstream and increase the risk of toxicity. Alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer in particular have been linked to aluminum in deodorants. Which natural deodorants can deliver on their promises? Crystal deodorants If you’ve never tried natural deodorants, the idea that a crystal-looking piece of salt can be used to get rid of your odor may seem far-fetched. But it’s true! Crystal deodorants are the most minimal and safest option because they only contain one ingredient: mineral salt. It’s a piece of white salt that you wet under your tap, then swipe under each pit 10-20 times. Salt is a natural killer for the bacteria in your armpits that might cause smells. You can also find crystal deodorants that are made into sprays for convenience, though the crystal option lasts longer. Because this type of deodorant is as natural as it gets, there is no scent, no residue and will not stain your clothes. For children or young teens looking to try their first deodorant, this is the best option. Best options: Lafe Deodorant Crystal Rock 120g, Lafe Deodorant Roll-On 71 g, Lafe Deodorant Spray 118mL Clay-based deodorants Clay is an extremely effective ingredient for keeping armpits from stinking up. It acts as a natural detoxifying agent and can absorb moisture. Clay is great for sensitive skin and even safe to use for baby’s skin on diaper rashes. Clay-based deodorants typically come in a jar and is rubbed on the armpits. All you need is a pea-sized amount for each armpit. The most natural and well-known deodorants are from the Routine line. They have various scents created by using different essential oils, are best known for being able to work even on the sweatiest armpits. If you’re sensitive to baking soda, they have a baking soda-free version for their popular scents. It’s the perfect deodorant to use on days when you will be spending the whole day outdoors, or before a high intensity workout. Once you try this brand, it’s hard to go back to other options! Best option: Routine Deodorant Superstar 58g Finding your best option The search for an effective natural deodorant often leaves people feeling discouraged. But don’t give up yet – the benefits of natural deodorants are worth waiting for, and there are some amazing options out there, waiting for you to try! More and more companies are coming out with their own formula, you are bound to find something that works for you. Author Grace Tien is a women’s health holistic nutritionist. She helps her clients optimize their nutrition habits so that they can get rid of afternoon slumps and live each day full of energy. Grace specializes in nutrition for healthy periods, you can find out more at @gracetien.ca on Instagram.

Why did Health Canada increase the maximum vitamin D dose?

 vitamin D
For the first time in many years, Health Canada has changed the official maximum vitamin D dose allowed by supplement companies. Health Canada rarely changes their recommended vitamin doses, so this change surprised many people. What does the increase in dosage mean for us? As of February 24, 2021, we are now allowed to buy over-the-counter vitamin D supplements that are 2500 IU. Previously, we were only able to buy supplements that contained a maximum of 1000 IU. Soon, natural health brands will be releasing new, upgraded versions of their vitamin D supplements. Is this new dose safe? Although 2500 IU may seem like a big jump from the previous recommended dose, this increase has been a long time coming. In the US, vitamin D supplements up to 10, 000 IU are sold over the counter regularly. Evidence that supports the safety of allowing higher vitamin D limits has been collected for many years. Health Canada has been receiving requests from consumers, physicians, and the natural supplement industry for a long time, and it’s finally been approved, finally. To note, the maximum dose of vitamin D allowed does not represent the maximum amount of vitamin D you can take in one day before reaching toxicity. Instead, it “represents the highest average daily intake of a nutrient that is likely to pose no risk of adverse effects in the general population”, according to Health Canada. As such, it is the maximum dose of vitamin D you can legally buy in Canada, without a doctor’s prescription. However, if your doctor has used a blood test and concluded your vitamin D levels to be low, they can certainly prescribe you a dose higher than 2500 IU. Who is at risk for vitamin D deficiency? Vitamin D is a unique nutrient. Although we can consume it through our diet, our primary source comes from the sun’s UV rays. As the rays hit your skin, the inactive vitamin D in your skin cells are converted to the active form. In order for this conversion to occur, you must be outside during the sun’s strongest hours, and be mostly uncovered. Both clothing and sunscreen can prevent your skin from making vital vitamin D. You may be a risk of vitamin D deficiency if you: Rarely spend time outdoors Are living in an institution like a care home Usually wear clothes that cover up most of your skin when you’re outdoors Have darker skin Live in a country where the winter months are long How to ensure you are getting enough vitamin D year-round To prevent vitamin D deficiency, the most important step is to determine your reason for the deficiency. If you don’t go outside frequently, you may choose to make a daily routine of taking walks outdoors every morning. If the culprit is something that cannot be changed, such as having darker skin or being confined indoors, you may consider adding a daily vitamin D supplement. The most bioavailable vitamin D supplements contain a fat source as an added ingredient. Because vitamin D itself is fat-soluble, pairing the vitamin with a fat enhances its absorption. Popular pairings include coconut oil, MCT oil and sunflower oil. If you can’t stand the taste of oil as a supplement, emulsified liquids or softgels are just as effective. Best options: Genestra D3 K2 Mulsion 20mL, CanPrev Vitamin D3 & K2 + MCT 120 Softgels The superstar vitamin Whether you chose to increase your time outdoors in the sunlight or add a new supplement to your regime, the benefits of vitamin D have been evident year after year. You can rely on vitamin D to balance your immune system, keep your teeth and bones strong and regulate your hormones. Health Canada’s increase assures us that vitamin D is an important supplement to consider – try it and you’ll see! Author Grace Tien is a women’s health holistic nutritionist. She helps her clients optimize their nutrition habits so that they can get rid of afternoon slumps and live each day full of energy. Grace specializes in nutrition for healthy periods, you can find out more at @gracetien.ca on Instagram.

Digestive Enzymes vs Digestive Bitters – Which Should You Choose?

Digestive Enzymes or Digestive Bitters
Is your digestion system working optimally? Even though we eat every day, most of us do not know what normal digestive function looks like. How do you know if your symptoms are a result of your body digesting food, or the opposite? Digestion is the process of breaking down food so that your body can used the nutrients for various organ functions. When you eat, the food travels from your mouth through the esophagus, and into the stomach. It will move through the small intestine and large intestine (colon) before exiting via the anus. But that’s not all – your pancreas, liver and gallbladder all play important roles in your ability to digest and absorb the nutrients properly. When digestion issues occur, it may be a sign that one of these organs need extra support. Normal Digestive Sensations Having 1-3 easy bowel movements per day Bloat or gas after eating foods high in sulfur (ex: onions, beans, garlic, lentils, asparagus) Feeling fullness after a large meal Abnormal Digestive Sensations Feeling bloated after only a few bites of foods Nausea after eating Bloat or gas after every meal Acid reflux Stomach pain or cramping Mushy or lumpy stool Solving Abnormal Digestive Symptoms If you are experiencing abnormal digestive symptoms on a regular basis, you may want to consider supporting your digestive system strategically. From a holistic perspective, taking digestive bitters and digestive enzymes before meals are popular options. Digestive Bitters Digestive bitters are a blend of herbs that will simulate digestion – everything from the production of stomach acid, to stimulating the liver, to producing your own digestive enzymes to break down food. Our bodies have bitter receptors in the mouth, so when you taste these herbs, digestive juices and enzymes receive a kickstart and run more smoothly. As a result, symptoms like bloating, gas and indigestion can be eased. These tinctures consist of bitter herbs soaked into organic alcohol, creating a potent extract. You only need 1-2mL of this tincture before meals to experience amazing effects! Unlike digestive enzymes, digestive bitters can be taken long term because the body will not become dependent on them. Digestive bitter blends: St. Francis Canadian Bitters 100mL, Botanica Digestive Bitters 50mL Bitter herbs: dandelion, artichoke, chicory root, gentian root, licorice, burdock Digestive Enzymes While digestive bitters encourage your body to make its own digestive enzymes, you may choose to supplement directly with a blend of digestive enzymes. Enzymes are responsible for chemically breaking down food in the digestive tract in order to be fully absorbed. The pancreas makes many of these enzymes naturally and sends them to the intestines, where most of the absorption occurs. However, certain health conditions such chronic pancreatitis, can interfere with this production. Without sufficient enzymes, you cannot absorb nutrients, even if you have a healthy diet. For those who have poor digestion or malnutrition, digestive enzymes can be supplemented to help your own enzymes. The main types of enzymes are amylase, lipase and proteases, which break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins, respectively. Some blends may also include hydrochloric acid (HCl), making it a great option for those that experience heartburn due to low stomach acid. Digestive enzyme formulas can also contain ox bile, which is needed to break down fats. People who have had their gallbladder removed will have difficulty storing bile, and may want to supplement with a digestive enzyme containing extra bile. There are many formulas available – finding the perfect one will depend on your specific digestive needs. It is important to take digestive enzymes before or right after eating, so that they have time to break down the food. It is not recommended to take these enzymes long-term, as it can affect your body’s ability to produce its own. Instead, use them when digestive symptoms are flaring up, or to combat a deficiency caused by a specific health condition. Digestive enzyme formulas: Enzymedica Digest Gold 45 Capsules, NOW Super Enzymes 180 Capsules A Permanent Solution? While both digestive bitters and digestive enzymes offer relief from digestive issues, they are not a primary treatment. They can be used to boost the digestive process, but if symptoms persist, please consult your primary health practitioner. Author Grace Tien is a dietetics and holistic nutrition grad. She creates sustainable, delicious meal plans to help clients with their health goals. Grace specializes in nutrition for healthy periods, you can find out more at @gracetien.ca on Instagram.

Natural Moisturizers that will change up your Skincare Routine

Natural Moisturizers - Skincare
Have you ever heard the saying, “more is not better”? When it comes to conventional moisturizers, you may be surprised at the long list of ingredients on each bottle. Even if the product is labeled “natural”, it may still contain alcohol, phytates, xanthan gum, sesame oil, fragrances, and sunflower oil the list goes on. Unless you pay attention to the ingredient list closely, natural health companies can sneak a few questionable substances into your daily products. Many are fillers, while some may also be used as preservatives or emulsifiers. How can you avoid going down a rabbit hole trying to avoid every potential harmful ingredient? Instead of looking for a particular brand that meets your standards, why not go back to the basics? Mother nature has already provided us with the best moisturizers. These natural fats and oils can act as effective moisturizers on their own, or you can mix them together to make the ultimate blend. Did you know that natural oils and fats can replace your body lotion? They don’t need any preservatives or fillers – not to mention, they are full of nutrients such as vitamin A, E, and omega-3 fats. Don’t miss out on trying these moisturizing powerhouses Shea butter Shea butter is a thick butter-like fat that comes from the shea tree nuts. You can find it in bulk as large chunks, though it usually requires some chopping before using. Luckily, many skincare companies are recognizing the amazing benefits of shea butter and are whipping it into a texture that is easier to scoop out of the container. Shea butter acts as a powerful moisturizer, forming a skin barrier between the skin, locking in moisture for even the driest skin. It is naturally anti-inflammatory, making it a great moisturizer for inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis. Shea butter option: Maiga Shea Butter Raw 1lb Cocoa butter Cocoa butter has a similar texture to shea butter; it is thick and solid at room temperature. It comes from the cocoa bean. Sound familiar? Cocoa powder and chocolate are made from the same plant! Just like good-quality chocolate, cocoa butter contains a variety of antioxidants that help nourish your skin from the inside out. Antioxidants protect your skin from sun damage, skin aging, dark patches, and even dull skin. Cocoa butter is the go-to moisturizer to keep your skin young and supple. Cocoa butter option: Eli’s Pure Cocoa Butter 115g Coconut oil Even though coconut oil is typically solid at room temperature, you can find fractionated coconut oil that will remain liquid. This makes it easier to apply – they often come in a squeezable tube, like a lotion bottle. For those that don’t like the coconut smell, you can look for oils that are refined. They are specially processed in a way where they won’t contain a strong scent of coconut. If you choose to use coconut oil as your moisturizer, make sure to try out a patch on your skin first. It is great for moisturizing the body, but some people may find that it clogs the pores. Others find that it helps reduce redness and inflammation. It’s best to try a skin patch to see which group you belong to. Coconut oil option: Prairie Naturals Coco-b Coconut Oil 100mL Jojoba oil Jojoba oil comes from the seed of the jojoba plant. It is full of vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps your skin cells regenerate faster, resulting in glowing skin. Jojoba oil is not as thick as the other fats and oils, but it is a potent moisturizer, nonetheless. Like the others, it can be used on the body, though jojoba oil shines best as a facial moisturizer. It is the closest oil that resembles your own skin oil – instead of clogging your pores, it balances the oil produced by your own skin glands. When you apply jojoba oil, it tricks your skin into thinking your skin already has enough oil, so it doesn’t need to produce more. This is helpful in preventing acne, which is often caused by an overproduction of oil. Jojoba oil option: Aura Cacia Organic Skin Care Oil 118mL Do I need to change up my whole skincare routine? If you have never used these natural ingredients before, do not fret. They are great additions to your skincare routine and can help build your foundations before you make the full switch to natural skincare. They are often cheaper than natural skincare brands, allowing you to dip your toe before you commit. Plus, you’ll save yourself the headache of researching and checking products on the shelves as you search for the best products. Author Grace Tien is a women’s health holistic nutritionist. She helps her clients optimize their nutrition habits so that they can get rid of afternoon slumps and live each day full of energy. Grace specializes in nutrition for healthy periods, you can find out more at @gracetien.ca on Instagram. 

Healthier Sugar Alternatives – Do They Exist?

sugar alternatives
Take a moment and think about this: how many high-sugar foods do you eat in a day? Protein bars, cereals, smoothies, juices, lattes, kombucha…not to mention obvious ones like cookies and cake. Many of these foods are part of our daily diet, even among the “healthiest” nutritionists and dietitians. While it may seem unfathomable to cut out all these foods in the name of health, we have some good news for you: sugar is not the enemy! Cutting out all these delicious foods is not necessarily healthy. There are so many options for sugar these days, and healthier alternatives do exist. Why sugar-free options are not the solution    If you have a way of getting that sweet taste without consuming sugar, would you make the switch? You may be familiar with some popular artificial sugars (sugar-free options), such as maltitol, erythritol, aspartame, Nutrasweet, Sucralose, Splenda and Acesulfame K. When they first came out onto the market, sugar-free alternatives were all the rage. After all, they provided that sweet taste without any calories. They were deemed safe for diabetic patients and those who were cutting sugar out of their diet for health reasons. The truth is, sugar-free options are called “sugar-free” because they are made from artificial substances that your body does not recognize. Your body cannot digest it, so it passes straight through the digestive system. And while these artificial sugars do not stay in the body, they can wreak havoc while passing through the digestive tract. These toxic compounds have been linked to changes in the gut microflora, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, increased inflammation and even insulin resistance. Healthier sweeteners to try On the other hand, natural sugars are easy for your body to digest, and are often filled with other minerals and vitamins that are nutritious. Yes, this means that your sugar can be healthy too! Coconut sugar Also known as coconut palm sugar, coconut sugar is made from the sap of the coconut plant. It contains many minerals like zinc, iron, calcium and potassium, as well as polyphenols and antioxidants. Unlike white sugar, coconut sugar has a low glycemic index and will not cause a huge blood sugar spike. Best options: Ecoideas Coconut Sugar Organic 454g, One Earth Coconut Sugar 1.5kg Raw honey Unpasteurized (raw) honey is a powerhouse of nutrients. It is traditionally used for its medicinal effects for wounds, colds and infections. Raw honey is antibacterial and antifungal – you can use it to kill pathogens, topically or internally. It works great as a cough fighter or to soothe sore throats. Even if you’re not sick, adding a teaspoon to your cup of tea tastes delicious! Best options: Dutchman’s Gold Raw Honey 1kg, One Root Raw Wildflower Honey 1kg Maple syrup Pure maple syrup is another natural sugar that contains many minerals. It is a rich source of manganese, riboflavin (vitamin B2), copper and calcium. You can bake with maple syrup, or add it to your coffee every morning. However, please note that commercial pancake syrup and pure maple syrup are very different. When looking for a good quality maple syrup, check the ingredients and make sure “maple syrup” is the only ingredient in the list. Bonus points if it comes from a farm! Best options: Canadian Heritage Organic Maple Syrup 250ml, Benefits by Nature Maple Syrup Organic 1L Incorporating sugar into a healthy lifestyle Sweets and desserts may be the first foods that people tend to cut out when starting a new diet. But once you cut out all sugars, this diet is very difficult to maintain. Temptations are everywhere. Donuts at work, birthday celebrations, your best friend’s baking…there will be countless others. It is for this reason that cutting out all sugars is not a long-term solution. Sugar can be part of a healthy lifestyle – it’s all about which options you are choosing! Author Grace Tien is a women’s health holistic nutritionist. She helps her clients optimize their nutrition habits so that they can get rid of afternoon slumps and live each day full of energy. Grace specializes in nutrition for healthy periods, you can find out more at @gracetien.ca on Instagram.

Using essential oils to enhance your daily life

Using essential oils to enhance your daily life
Many of the products we use on a day-to-day basis are filled with synthetic chemicals. Body wash, shampoos, lotions, spot treatments, and bathroom cleaners… may smell great, but these synthetic substances are often filled with toxic ingredients that have a long-term harmful effect. Not to worry though, essential oils are a great natural alternative to these products. You’ll find much natural beauty, cleaning and skincare products containing essential oils rather than using harsh fragrances. This allows you to enjoy your products to the full extent while avoiding the synthetic ingredients that may interfere with the body’s hormones. What are essential oils? Though essential oils usually come in small bottles, they are full of potent aroma and benefits. When you open a bottle, the scent is immediately noticeable, similar to the perfume. This is because essential oils are made by steaming or pressing plants. During the process, the plant compounds that produce fragrance are captured. Each small bottle can take up to several pounds of the plant – it is extremely potent compared to the plant alone! The most useful essential oils you can start using today Lavender This floral scent is most well-known for its relaxing scent. Add a drop or two on your pillow before your sleep and you’ll be out like a baby. It is also very calming for the skin and can be used to treat skin irritations such as redness or burns. Alternatively, you can use it to calm the mind. During times of stress, you can rub some on the temples or the back of the neck to relax your body. Best options: Aura Cacia Lavender Oil 15mL, NOW Certified Organic Lavender Oil 30mL Tea tree This scent is most well-known for its purifying qualities. Use it to sanitize home surfaces, clean the air or put it on skin infections to kill pathogens. The applications are limitless. The leaves of the tea tree are antibacterial and antifungal, making it a great option to diffuse during cold and flu season. You can also dilute it with a carrier oil and apply to the skin as needed. Best options: Thursday Plantation Tea Tree 100% Pure Oil 10mL, NOW Tea Tree Oil 30mL Frankincense Though frankincense is not cheap, it has many health benefits. Frankincense has been used by the ancient Egyptians who used it for everything from perfume to salves to heal the skin. It is one of the best oils to add to your skincare routine, as it helps reduce the appearance of skin imperfections by rejuvenating skin cells. Best options: Divine Essence Frankincense Oil 5mL, Aromaforce Essential Oil 15mL Lemon If you’re planning to start making your own DIY house cleaning products, lemon is the best oil to add to your collection. It can be added to white vinegar (diluted with ½ distilled water) or diffused to clean virtually all areas of the house. Not to mention, lemon has an uplifting aroma – it’s the perfect mood booster. You can also use it to remove sticky labels from old pasta glass jars. Add a few drops of lemon oil and you can easily scrub off the label. Best options: Aromaforce Essential Oil Lemon Organic 15mL, Aura Cacia Lemon Oil 15mL Eucalyptus One of the main benefits of eucalyptus oil is that it helps clear breathing and open the lung airways. Stuffy noses don’t stand a chance with this calming scent. As you diffuse eucalyptus in the air, you can purify the air and surfaces of pathogens, while clearing your mind. It is a must-have for the cold and flu season! Best options: NOW Eucalyptus Oil 30mL, Aromaforce Essential Oil Eucalyptus Organic 15mL Building a collection of essential oils You don’t have to buy all these essential oils at once – try starting with one or two at a time. As you start incorporating them into your life, you’ll surely want to add more to your collection! They are a versatile and natural way to add some nice smells to your life. The bonus is that they have many beneficial purposes as well. Author Grace Tien is a women’s health holistic nutritionist. She helps her clients optimize their nutrition habits so that they can get rid of afternoon slumps and live each day full of energy. Grace specializes in nutrition for healthy periods, you can find out more at @gracetien.ca on Instagram.

Is it necessary to use a natural sunscreen?

Use a natural sunscreen
Can sun exposure cause cancer? Can sunlight boost your immune system? There seems to be a constant debate as to whether sun exposure is truly needed. Because if they are not, why risk the harmful effects such as increasing the risk of skin cancer? Most people know they need to put on sunscreen before they spend the day in the sun, but it’s important to remember that you don’t need to avoid the sun entirely. We need sunlight to produce vitamin D, balance our circadian rhythm and keep our bodies strong and healthy. The concern with UV rays Sunlight from the sun is composed of three types of light energy: visible, infrared, and ultraviolet (UV) rays. UVA and UVB rays are known to be light rays that react with the melanin in your skin cells and can cause serious skin damage. Your body’s skin cells are designed to absorb the dangerous UV rays, but there comes a point where the amount of ray exposure exceeds what your cells can absorb. When you develop a red sunburn, it is a sign that your melanin cells have reached their limit. After this point, the UV rays can create free radicals and oxidative damage in your body. Oxidative damage can result in a wide range of conditions – in mild cases, it may increase the levels of inflammation and prevent your organ systems from working optimally. In severe or chronic cases, the DNA in your cells can become mutated and develop into cancerous tumors. Not everyone develops sunburns, but the people who do likely notice it does not take long for their skin to reach this point. One of the reasons why there is so much debate regarding safe sun exposure is because every person has a different risk factor. Heredity and environment play a huge role. If you are fair-skinned and get sunburned easily, sun exposure for long periods may be more dangerous for you. If you have darker skin and do not get sunburned, you can have safer sun exposure. It’s all about knowing your own body! Why natural sunscreens offer a safer alternative There are two main types of sunscreens on the market, physical sunscreens, and chemical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens are designed to sit on your skin and absorb the UV rays, so they do not enter your cells. However, the active ingredients used to accomplish this important task can also enter your body and bloodstream. These ingredients are not recognized as safe and can be harmful in high quantities or with daily use. The main UV filters oxybenzone, homosalate and octocrylene have been linked to increased risk of cancer, which defeats the purpose of its protective functions. On the other hand, physical (mineral) sunscreens are designed to form a barrier to physically shield the UV rays, which bounce off harmlessly. The ingredients are not absorbed into the skin and are considered more natural because they do not use harmful chemicals. Because physical sunscreens form a barrier, they must be applied as the last layer on the skin, over your daily skincare and makeup. Its active ingredient, zinc oxide, can sometimes have a white cast, though many natural brands have formulas that prevent this from happening. Choosing natural sunscreens ensures you are not applying more toxins and harmful chemicals on your skin, while still protecting yourself from excess UV rays. Best options: Badger Sport Sunscreen Clear Zinc SPF 40 Unscented 87ml, All Good Sport Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 89ml, Thinksport Safe Sunscreen SPF 50+ 6oz Other ways to protect yourself from the sun Even though sunscreen is the foundation of safe sun exposure, you can take steps to protect yourself on a daily basis. Wearing clothes that cover the areas where the sun is most likely to hit (forehead, shoulders, arms, legs) can offer sufficient protection if you must be outside. Keeping a hat or a light sweater can be great options to keep around. Keep in mind that the sun is strongest from 11 am to 2 pm, so avoid spending time in direct sunlight during these hours, and you’ll be cutting the risk dramatically! Author Grace Tien is a women’s health holistic nutritionist. She helps her clients optimize their nutrition habits so that they can get rid of afternoon slumps and live each day full of energy. Grace specializes in nutrition for healthy periods, you can find out more at @gracetien.ca on Instagram.

Is your smoothie healthy? 3 ways to make sure your smoothie is as nourishing as you think it is

3 ways to make sure your smoothie is as nourishing as you think it is
While we’re enjoying the last of the hot weather, long days and cold drinks, it’s a good time as any to make sure we are enjoying them to the fullest. There’s something about summer that just makes smoothies taste more refreshing, so here at Healthy Planet, we will be making them as much as we can before the warm weather ends. However, not all smoothies are healthy, despite what their advertising and claims may tell you. With these simple tips, you can rest assured that your smoothies will taste delicious and while nourishing your body with essential vitamins and minerals.   3 simple rules to make a healthy smoothie  Use coconut water or water instead of concentrated juice Many smoothie makers add concentrated juices to their smoothies to make up the bulk of the flavour. But the concentrated juices they add may contain added sugars and preservatives that you may not be aware of. The safest bet is to ask for or use coconut water (no sugar added, it should be slightly sweet naturally) or just plain water. If it is a good combo of fruits and vegetables, you shouldn’t taste much of a difference. Rather than relying on concentrated juice, opt for smoothies with frozen fruit as the main flavour. Unsweetened coconut water option: Blue Monkey Organic Coconut Water 1L   Add at least one source of fat in your smoothie Having lots of fruits in your smoothie isn’t the end of the world, but if your smoothie is only made up of fruits, your blood sugar may quickly spike and drop. If you’ve ever felt hungry or tired right after drinking a “healthy” smoothie, you may have experienced a blood sugar roller coaster. In order for a smoothie to have some sustenance, you need to add a little source of healthy fat. This helps slow the absorption of sugar into the body, so you stay full longer and still get that yummy flavour. Healthy fat options to add to your smoothies: ¼ avocado 1 tbsp nut butters 1 cup coconut milk ½ tbsp chia or flax seeds Do not replace a whole meal with a smoothie unless absolutely necessary Ideally, your meals involve some chewing action. Your digestion thrives when you take the time to chew your food properly, and even though you might not feel it, a smoothie containing lots of fruits and vegetables still requires optimal digestion so that you absorb all the nutrients. The process of chewing helps your digestive system release digestive juices and enzymes, which are needed to break down the foods in the smoothie. You can eat a little snack with your smoothie, or take the time to chew your smoothie, at least in the first few bites. It makes a big difference in how you digest it! How to keep smoothies a part of your healthy routine Even though smoothies should not replace meals, if you’re on the go and a smoothie is the only thing you have time to drink or eat, it’s better to have a smoothie than skipping a meal! Make sure you are adding in a source of healthy fat and protein to get the same optimal nutrition you would get in a regular meal. With strategic planning, you can up-level your smoothies and make them work for you! Author Grace Tien is a women’s health holistic nutritionist. She helps her clients optimize their nutrition habits so that they can get rid of afternoon slumps and live each day full of energy. Grace specializes in nutrition for healthy periods, you can find out more at @gracetien.ca on Instagram. 

How to Optimize Protein Intake for Weight Loss or Mass Building Goals

How to Optimize Protein Intake for Mass Building Goals
We’ve been led to believe that higher protein intake is always better – it has to be better than carbs, or fat – right? Both carbohydrates and fat have been demonized in recent years as both boogeymen origins of inflammation and illness, but it is truly not that simplistic. As we’ve started to gain a better understanding as more research and studies come to light, we can now look at fat and recognize it depends on the quality and type of fat used, what it is being consumed with, and how it is being incorporated into a healthy diet. No longer is the emphasis on removing fat from the diet, only to replace it with things that are much worse and inflammation-promoting. The same applies to carbohydrates – refined sugars and refined grains lead to inflammation. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates from vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds can all be extremely antioxidant-rich, protecting against illness and disease. In most cases, a healthy diet is one that encompasses a variety of whole foods and nutrients – both micro, and macro. At the same time, the key importance is to avoid refined foods and grains, artificial sugars, vegetable oils, and red meats. While specific types of diets or lifestyles like the ‘ketogenic’ diet are a great tool for weight loss or managing medical conditions, they are not a ‘one size fits all' approach that will work for everyone. Many of these diets are not sustainable long-term. At the end of the day, they are simply that – a tool. How You Can Incorporate High-Protein into a Healthy Diet Protein plays an important role in many bodily processes and is essential to healthy growth, development, organ function, and mass. But can there be too much of a good thing? Most research seems to indicate that a higher protein intake, above the recommended daily amount, is not required to gain and may actually place more stress on the kidneys as opposed to improving health. The RDA recommendation is about 0.36 grams per pound, while for athletes or intensive trainers, it ranges up to ~0.86 grams per pound. On a 2500 calorie diet for someone weighing in at 160-175 pounds, this roughly equals ~70 grams of protein (or ~280 calories) for the average individual per day, which is easily attainable from either animal-based sources or plant-based sources. For those that are athletes, active, malnourished, or trying to lose weight: incorporating more protein into the diet also does not appear to do any harm, provided it is not a primary source of calories long-term, and the protein choices are smart ones. Getting most of those 2500 calories from healthy protein choices does not seem feasible, does it? Long-term, your kidneys would have a difficult time, and you’d likely smell of ammonia…    What healthy protein means is – reducing intake of red meats, processed meats, and conventional dairy, while instead opting for fish and seafood, eggs, plant-based protein like legumes, and vegetables. Is Plant-Based Protein Comparable to Animal Protein? It is a misunderstanding that plant-based foods are not comparable to animal-based proteins in terms of quality and benefit. While animal-based protein may seem to promote a stronger anabolic response for muscle mass building and utilization, plant-based protein can meet the same nutritional demands. While you would have to eat a much larger serving of vegetables to get the same amount of protein and amino acid profile as some beef, beef is also more difficult to eat more of and tends to promote an inflammatory response compared to foods with high levels of antioxidants and polyphenols, like vegetables. Further, most plant foods do in fact contain all the essential amino acids needed by the body – just in much smaller amounts, depending on the food. This is why high-quality plant-based sources like beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, etc. are combined together in meals to ensure these needs are met with ease. In one of the largest studies conducted on the matter, including 30 (!) years of data, the risk factors for cardiovascular disease and cancer were increased primarily with processed and unprocessed red meats (particularly pork) – but not from fish, seafood or poultry. Conversely, a higher intake of plant-based protein was associated with all lower mortality risks and better health. Selecting The Right Protein Powder for You Protein powders and protein supplements can play an important role in meeting daily protein needs, as an easy way to reach a high level of protein without cooking or stressing. This is especially true for bodybuilders or athletes that do not constantly have the time to be cooking and eat healthy, high-protein meals. The importance then lies in selecting a protein powder that meets your nutritional goals and dietary restrictions. It is essential to select one that is free from ...

How to Prevent Nutrient Deficiencies while on the Birth Control Pill

Birth Control Pill
Oral birth control, or “the pill”, has done many great things for women. It’s given freedom, but like many prescription medications, there are side effects that cannot be neglected. Yes, it can prevent unwanted pregnancy and improve period problems. On the other hand, the long-term health consequences aren’t frequently discussed, and they can have a significant impact on your daily life. Once you understand how the pill works and how it can really impact your body in the long term, you can take a proactive approach to prevent these side effects. Common side effects of the pill Being moody all the time  Depression  Increased risk of stroke  Increased risk of thyroid and adrenal disorders  Increased risk of heart attacks Fatigue Hair loss Dry skin Low libido Change in periods Leaky gut  Depletion of key nutrients: magnesium, zinc, B vitamins and vitamin C How does the birth control pill work? The pill acts on all your hormones, not just your sex hormones responsible for the pregnancy. This means that everything from your metabolism to your stress can be affected.  Your natural estrogen and progesterone hormone levels will change and fluctuate every cycle. When you take the pill, you are giving yourself a dose of synthetic estrogen and progesterone, with a week of sugar pills (no hormones). These synthetic hormones suppress your natural hormone fluctuations, so you won’t be able to release an egg each cycle (ovulation) and get pregnant.  During the week you are taking the sugar pills, you will experience a bleed and have a “period” as a result of hormone withdrawal. It’s not the same as a natural period, which is why your period problems likely went away after starting the pill.  Why the pill does not fix hormone problems  When it comes to hormones, the pill is a band-aid solution. While you’re on it, you can suppress your own hormones and perhaps your PMS symptoms too. But once you stop, you’ll likely be right back where you started. The more times you’ve taken the pill does not mean you are working towards your hormones being more “balanced”. In fact, the longer you stay on the pill, the more you suppress your body’s natural processes and hormonal fluctuations.  How to protect yourself from the negative side effects of the pill It’s not always feasible to get off the pill, so the best thing you can do is support your body with the right nutrients. Key nutrients such as magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin C and zinc are depleted by the pill, so you can choose to eat more nutrient-dense foods or use supplements. Supplement options New Roots Pure Magnesium Bisglycinate 130mg 120 Capsules AOR Advanced B Complex Ultra 60 Time-Release Tablets Mega Food Complex C 72 Tablets NFH Zinc SAP 60 Capsules Nutrient-dense foods Leafy greens Oysters Grassfed beef Beef or chicken liver Camu camu Avocado Coconut water Staying on the pill Whether you choose to stay on the pill or not, you can be proactive in making sure your body is still receiving and absorbing all the key nutrients. The more you know about the side effects and nutrient deficiencies, the better you can prepare yourself. Author Grace Tien is a women’s health holistic nutritionist. She helps her clients optimize their nutrition habits so that they can get rid of afternoon slumps and live each day full of energy. Grace specializes in nutrition for healthy periods, you can find out more at @gracetien.ca on Instagram.