Healthy Planet

Don’t let heel pain get you down this summer

4 questions you should be asking about your heel pain “What exactly is going on with my heel when it feels like I’m walking on egg shells?” That’s honestly a great question and to be even more honest the most knowledgeable of healthcare professionals isn’t even 100% sure. However, there is a lot that we do know about it that could at least steer us in the right direction and understand more as there are a few things that are pretty consistent. So what we do know is that heel pain is most often the result of plantar fasciosis. I know it looks like a spelling error and even my macbook wanted to correct me for grammar. This is not a typo folks there is a distinct difference between what we commonly know as plantar fasciitis and plantar fasciosis. Fasciitis implies that there is chronic inflammation which was something we once thought to be true. We now know that   there is actually very little inflammation when it comes to this type heel pain. This is important to know because it will help with the question of “what should I do about my heel pain?” but we’ll talk about that later.   There are a couple of consistent theories that exist when it comes to this type of heel pain. One is that people commonly ramp up their workouts/runs to fast which is typical when the weather gets better right around this time of year. We go from running for small distances on a treadmill to 10k outdoor runs. This is the easiest way to make your heel angry. Another theory is that flexibility can be an issue. If your ankle and toe movement is limited this can cause increased stress to the heel by way of the plantar fascia which is just a fancy word for all the tendons, muscles and “stuff” that runs along the bottom of your foot and inserts into your heel bone. Lastly, strength is another major key factor. If your foot, calf or glute strength is sub par your heel will let you know soon enough. “So now that I know what it is how long is this thing going to stick around for?” I wish I had better news and had a smaller window but the research is what it is at the moment and it is said that it could last 3-6 months. But at the end of the day it is dependent on so many factors. Every single one of these factors is crucial: a) Will you relax and let it heal? Everybody wants to keep doing the exact thing that lit their heel on fire but in the same breath wants the heel pain to go away. In the case of heel pain you unfortunately can’t have your cake and eat it too. b) Will you be diligent with exercises? Heel pain loves controlled low grade load. What I mean by that is that good exercises will put happy stress on your heel and allow the muscle tissue to get stronger and become more resilient. c) Will you resort to just rest? Although rest is important in healing it has to be combined with exercise. Rest alone will never heal heel pain. It may feel really good since you haven’t been challenging it. But as soon as you get back into what brought on the heel pain to begin with soon enough the pain will come back. d) What are you eating? Nutritional changes are so important in this process. We often talk about rest, what to avoid, drugs, exercises etc. What we often overlook is food. There are many ways to use food as a vessel for healing. I’m not going to get into food details as that could be a whole blog post in itself. Just know what you eat could make all the difference.   “Can this even be avoided?” For those of you out there who have never experienced heel pain before consider yourself lucky as anybody suffering could tell you it’s not a party by any stretch. The same ways one could manage and overcome heel pain is the same process by which one can avoid heel pain. It involves exercise and movement education and an understanding of training intensity and volume all of which the next question you probably have will address.   “I think I’ve heard enough what could I start doing to deal with my heel pain?” There are so many ways approach this. All you need is a bucket of tools at your disposal that addresses these 3 important things; a) Increase big toe extension b) Improve toe strength c)  Calf and plantar fascia (muscle tissue under your foot) strength Strength plays an important role in managing heel pain. Hopefully we have started to paint a clear picture for you on the many intricacies of heel pain management. Heel pain is very common and at the same time very debilitating. If you take anything from this remember that complete rest isn’t the answer. You need to introduce exercises early and often. The only thing you should be resting from is the very thing that brought your heel pain on to begin with. Reference: Sullivan et al. 2015. Musculoskeletal and Activity-Related Factors Associated With Plantar Heel Pain Hossain and Makwana. 201 ...

How to Choose a Plant-Based Protein Powder

Plant-based protein powder isn’t new, but it does seem to be gaining in popularity. These days, there’s a wide variety of products to choose from, so it can be hard to determine which is best suited to your lifestyle and dietary needs. For those considering adding a plant-based protein powder to their diet, but don’t know where to start, this is the guide for you! A Primer on Protein Dietary protein consists of 20 amino acids, nine of which are essential or conditionally essential amino acids. So this means we need to get them or their precursors through food or supplements. At one time, we thought we had to eat all eight essential amino acids at the same time which led to considerable stress about combining plant foods to get “complete protein”. But, we now know that it is sufficient to eat a good mix of plant-based foods that provide essential amino acids throughout any 24-hour period [1]. The human body is very efficient at using and recycling essential amino acids to create its own complete protein. This means that most moderately active adults need around 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day [2]. More active people, such as athletes, may need a higher intake of  1.4-2/kg of body weight, given the higher rate of protein turnover [3]. Protein Powder Forms In general, protein powders (for example, whey powder), tend to come in the form of isolate, hydrolysate, and concentrate. This describes how they are purified and manufactured. Isolate Protein isolate is almost entirely isolated amino acids, with little fat, fibre, or other substances. These are digested more slowly and are typically less allergenic than other protein sources. They also help keep you feeling full for longer while supporting muscle protein synthesis [4]. Hydrolyslate Protein hydrolysates (proteins soaked in water) are digested more rapidly. This is because the bonds between the amino acids have been cut and undergone enzymatic activity. Protein hydrolysates tend to increase the rate of dietary amino acid incorporation into skeletal muscle protein [5]. As a result, this kind of protein may be useful for supporting muscle repair after an intense workout. Concentrate Protein concentrates are high in protein but are less concentrated than isolates and hydrolysates. They’ve also undergone less processing than other types of protein, so they’re an attractive option for those wanting a more natural protein powder [6]. Plant-Based Protein Sources Legumes, nuts, and seeds are excellent protein sources. Grains, fruits, and vegetables also contain protein, although in smaller amounts. Accordingly, plant-based protein supplements tend to come from legumes, seeds, and some grain products, or mixtures thereof. These plant-based protein sources have some key advantages over animal-derived proteins. For example, they often contain fibre, are lower in fat, and are free from cholesterol. So plant proteins can help you feel full while keeping your daily calorie intake low, and still meet your protein needs. Let’s take a closer look at four popular sources of plant-based protein powders and what they’re good for: Soy Soy protein is a complete protein and is touted as having many health benefits, like helping to maintain healthy cholesterol levels [7]. It does tend to be quite dense, but it mixes well with liquids. This, combined with its bland taste, make soy protein powder a good option for smoothies. Soy is a common allergen, however, and soy protein is often extracted using hexane so it isn’t suitable for everybody. Hemp Hemp seeds are an excellent source of amino acids as well as some essential fatty acids (EFAs) and fibre. Protein powders from hemp may be concentrates or isolates, however, so check labels for EFA and fibre content if those are factors. Hemp protein is quite granular and light. It also has a slight grassy flavour which helps make it a good choice for a green shake or smoothie. Additionally, hemp is a near-complete protein and is typically high in fibre, which makes it a popular choice. Brown Rice Brown rice protein and sprouted brown rice protein contain a good amount of amino acids, although they aren’t complete proteins. Because of this, brown rice protein is often mixed with pea or hemp protein to round out the essential amino acids. Sprouted brown rice protein is, in essence, a raw rice protein hydrolysate and is less granular than hemp, but less dense than soy. These qualities make it a good choice for mixing with foods, simple shakes, or smoothies. Additionally, brown rice protein has a low-allergen profile and is easy to digest which makes it a smart option for those with sensitive stomachs or allergies to soy or dairy. Pea Protein Mixing pea protein with other sources of plant protein ensures a good amino acid profile. Because of this, it’s common to find it in a blended formula with other plant-der ...

Eating Organic: The Benefits and the Basics

Over the last several years, we have seen a rise in demand for organic foods. While we have become more health conscious and environmentally focused, the benefits of eating organic foods have become more top of mind. The Benefits of Eating Organic By choosing to eat organic, you help support sustainable farming practices that focus on conserving soil health and water. Organic farmers avoid the use of inorganic pesticides and herbicides, and instead, use renewable resources to grow their crops. By comparison, conventional pesticides often include fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge. Choosing organic food can also help decrease your cumulative exposure to synthetic chemicals and heavy metals such as copper [1] [2]. Of course, organic foods are not always free of toxins and they can still be unhealthy, especially if eaten to excess. For example, some foods such as organic brown rice may contain undesirable levels of arsenic [3]. How to Identify Organics In Canada, Canadian Organic Regulations (COR) require that foods labelled “organic” contain at least 95% of organic ingredients. Many smaller growers can’t afford to get organic certification, however, which is why it’s so great to be able to talk to local growers at the farmers market and actually ask them about their farming practices. If you’re shopping at the grocery store, you can look for the organic aisle and organic labels on fruits and vegetables, as well as on non-dairy milks, grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and other pantry staples. Organic vs. Conventionally Grown There are several theories as to why organic produce may have higher nutrient levels than those grown conventionally. One such theory supposes that because pesticides defend plants against certain pests and predators, conventionally grown plants have less motivation to create substances that would protect them naturally. Many of these substances are chemicals that have positive benefits for our own health. For example, researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Science found that carrots fertilized with fresh compost farmyard manure (an organic fertilizer) produce the most polyacetylenes [4]. Polyacetylenes are chemicals found in carrots that have demonstrated an ability to trigger the death (apoptosis) of leukemia cells [5]. Other foods and herbs that contain polyacetylenes include panax ginseng, celery, and parsnips [5] [6]. Of course, these plants don’t produce these chemicals to fight leukemia cells. Instead, polyacetylenes discourage insects from eating the plants. They also have activity against certain bacteria and viruses that affect the plants. As it happens, the highest levels of polyacetylenes and many other protective nutrients are found in the skin (peel) of fruits and vegetables, where they are most needed. Given that it is usually recommended to peel conventionally grown fruits and vegetables to minimize pesticide intake, this may mean missing out much of these helpful nutrients. Why Choose Organic? Although more research needs to be done to determine any direct health benefits of organic foods versus conventionally grown foods, there are already plenty of reasons to choose organic: Better conditions for workers who grow and pick organic foods Reduced environmental impact from these foods More sustainable growing practices for better food security long term Remember though, eating conventionally grown fruits and vegetables is still better than eating no fresh produce at all! References: [1] Jarup, L. (2003). Hazards of Heavy Metal Contamination. Br Med Bull, 68, 167-82. [2] Curl, C.L., Beresford, S.A., Fenske, R.A., et al. (2015). Estimating perticide exposure from dietary intake and organic food choices: the Multi-Ethnic study of Atheroschlerosis. EnvironHealth Perspect, 123(5) 475-83. [3] Jackson, B.P. (2012). Organic foods and brown rice syrup. Environ Health Perspect, 120, 623-6 [4] Kjellenberg, L., Johansson, E., Gustavsson, K-E., et al. (2016). Influence of organic manures on carrot (Daucus carota L.) crops grown in a long-term field experiment in Sweden. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 31, pp 258-268. [5] Zidorn, C., Jöhrer, K., Ganzera, M., et al. (2005). Polyacetylenes from the Apiaceae vegetables carrot, celery, fennel, parsley, and paresip, and their cytotoxic activities. J Agric Food Chem, 53(7), 2518-23. [6] Matsunaga, H., Katano, M., Yamamoto, H., et al. (1990). Cytotxic activity of polyacetylene compounds in Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo), Dec; 38(12), 3480-2.    

Your 4 Step Guide To A Better Night’s Sleep

I think we all could agree a little more slumber in our lives would be a dream come true, pun intended. Sleep is grossly underrated. In the world of health we have an affinity to talk about exercise, work environment, and food at length but for some reason sleep is an often overlooked topic. Sleep should be as common a touching point as all of these other topics. We spend, or at least we should be spending 7 hours or more every single day sleeping. Anything else in our lives that consumes 7 hours of our day would be heavily discussed so we should be showing sleep that same attention. So without further adieu let us change the conversation and add to our healthy living arsenal. Here is your 4 step guide to a better night’s sleep. MANAGE SCREEN LIGHT AT CRUCIAL TIMES In an era of smartphones, laptops, tablets and televisions in every room it is important to monitor how soon before sleep you are staring down the barrel of your phone screen light. Screen light tricks your brain into thinking it is still daytime. The problem with that is your body continues to dump stress hormones in your body in preparation for the stresses of the day. If your body is busy doing that then it isn’t busy dumping the necessary sleep hormones into your body to prepare you for a good night’s rest. Try decreasing your screen light brightness once the sun goes down and there is no more light outside. Also try shutting down all devices a minimum of 15mins before sleep. These hacks will give your brain enough time to shift the focus to relaxation and slow down brain activity. Resist the urge to pick up your phone during sleep to check it by either leaving it in another room or placing it on its face so you don’t notice any notification lights throughout the night. If you tend to fall asleep to the television being on be sure to set a sleep timer on it. Although you are sleeping the background light is still registered by your brain which makes it confusing for your body resulting in inadequate sleep. A POWER NAP COULD MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE The question always comes up on if a power nap is actually beneficial or is it just an excuse to getaway with no real tangible benefit? Well the infamous “power nap” is an effective tool to stave off sleep deprivation. A 20-30min nap can increase alertness, improve decision making and productivity. Anywhere from 1pm-3pm is a prime window to escape for a little while and get in that well deserved nap. WHEN IT COMES TO CAFFEINE TIMING IS EVERYTHING The conversation of caffeine comes up all the time. We’re not here to discuss the idea of caffeine more specifically coffee being good or bad for you. Depending on who you talk to the idea of coffee will either be ridiculed or glorified. Regardless of our love or hate for coffee the fact remains that in Canada we drink a lot of coffee so it’s a topic that needs to be touched on. According to a 2015 CBC report Canada ranks 3rd in the world in coffee consumption only trailing Netherlands and Finland. It is also very accessible with Canadian coffee powerhouse Tim Hortons having one establishment per every 9,000 Canadians. So for you coffee drinkers the timing of your consumption is so important. Getting your coffee fix in a minimum of 6hrs before sleep is so important as the affects of caffeine on sleep cannot be ignored. As a general rule of thumb 4pm should be the cut off for your last sip of coffee. Following this rule will really help your quality of sleep. THE 10-2 RULE No we’re not talking about driving for beginners here. We’re talking about a man or woman’s best friend after dogs and diamonds, your liver. Your liver is responsible for so many body functions and it is imperative that it is getting all the support it needs.  Between the hours of 10pm and 2am is when your liver is in repair and the highest levels of melatonin (a sleep hormone) are available. With that being said the more sleep you get between the hours of 10pm and 2am the happier your liver will be. There you have it. Your 4 step guide to better night’s sleep.  Follow these simple steps and you will wake up more refreshed than you did this morning. Unless it’s a Monday morning, nobody likes Mondays. Enjoy! References Why Canadians drink more coffee than most people in the world The secret and surprising power of naps

Weight Loss is More than Just Cutting Calories

It is not uncommon to hear a friend or family member say that they are trying to lose weight. In fact, the vast majority of us spend our entire lives struggling to maintain a weight that is healthy or desirable. There are certainly many people that are over-eating or under-exercising for their caloric requirements. But what about the rest of us? For some individuals, it doesn’t matter how little we eat because the weigh scale doesn’t seem to budge! Weight loss can be quite complex with many contributing factors and the simple reality is that cutting calories is not a clear solution for losing weight. Here’s why. Calorie Counting Is Good… In Theory: When we eat food, we are consuming energy. When we exercise or create movement, we are burning energy. When attempting to lose weight, the simplest goal is to eat less energy relative to the amount of energy that your body outputs. In fact, it has often been stated that an energy deficit of 3500 kcal will lead to fat loss of exactly one pound because that’s how much energy is provided when you break down fat. And this will work in many people. But this simple equation does not take into account the type of macronutrients or micronutrients that you are actually consuming, nor does it consider the strong influence of hormones as we’ll discuss below. A Calorie is Not Just a Calorie: Most people that have done their own dietary research know that the human body does not respond to refined carbohydrates (ie. added sugars) the same way that it does to protein, fats or even complex carbohydrates. When we eat natural sugars found in fruit that are paired with the high fibre content, we have a blunted rise in blood glucose and insulin. If you eat the same number of calories from a donut, your sugar spikes and excess sugars become converted and deposited into fat. Similarly, low-carbohydrate diets have consistently shown greater weight loss when compared to low-fat diets with equal caloric intake. Physiologically, the body treats fats, proteins and carbohydrates quite differently. What About Hormones? The thyroid is largely responsible for maintaining a proper metabolic rate, meaning that it dictates how fast or slow our cells burn energy. This explains why those with low thyroid function can present with weight gain or the inability to lose weight. If you haven’t had your thyroid function checked by your doctor, this is a great place to start. However, just as your thyroid needs to be balanced to maintain a healthy weight, so does your estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and cortisol. Factors such as stress, poor liver function and nutritional deficiencies can all imbalance these crucial hormones. The Importance of Stress: When we are stressed, our body releases cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that tells the body to release sugar into the blood. This is great to provide energy to get through a short stressful event, but what about when cortisol is elevated for days, weeks or months at a time? Imbalanced sugar levels can lead to fat deposition over the long haul! Stress management is so important, in fact, that some research has found stress-management programs with no dietary changes to be more effective for weight loss than dietary changes alone. Sleep and its role in Weight Management: A large-scale study examining sleep habits in over 86,000 postmenopausal women found a strong association between both lack of sleep and excess sleep with obesity risk. Other studies have found shorter and longer sleep durations to be associated with greater body mass and greater abdominal fat measurements. Sleep deprivation’s association with obesity appears to be due not only with behavioral changes (such as exercising less when you’re tired), but also to hormonal dysregulation. Sleeping less than 6 hours per night results in blood sugar imbalances, insulin resistance and, ultimately, widespread inflammation in the body. Environmental Toxins: There is now a mountain of evidence to show that toxins in our environment can play a great role in body size. Ongoing exposure to chemicals with names like hexachlorobenzene, polybrominated biphenyl and phthalates can wreak havoc on your hormones and your weight loss attempts. Start eliminating the plastics and use glass containers or water bottles instead. Reduce your daily makeup and cosmetic exposure when possible. Avoid unnecessary air-fresheners, chemical-laden cleaners and pesticides. These small changes will all add up.         As you can clearly see, there is much more to consider than just calories in and calories out when it comes to weight loss. Eating real food, getting restful sleep, avoiding toxic chemicals, improving relationships and minimizing stressors in your life will all help to normalize your hormones and improve your weight in the long-run. Got some weight loss t ...

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age. Infertility is one of the most common PCOS symptoms. Because the symptoms of PCOS are seemingly unrelated to one another, the condition is often overlooked and undiagnosed. Overview Polycystic ovary syndrome causes irregular menstrual cycles, excessive body or facial hair and polycystic ovaries as its main symptoms. Polycystic means "many cysts," and PCOS often causes clusters of small, pearl-sized cysts in the ovaries. The cysts are fluid-filled and contain immature eggs. Women with PCOS produce slightly higher amounts of male hormones known as androgens, which contribute to some of the symptoms of the condition. The cause of PCOS is not known. Some women with PCOS are less sensitive to insulin than other women, a condition known as insulin resistance. Insulin resistance can cause the ovaries to produce too many male hormones. The resulting hormonal imbalance can cause the symptoms of PCOS. The condition appears to run in families, and sisters of those with it are twice as likely to have it. Currently, PCOS has no cure, but a variety of PCOS treatments can help alleviate the symptoms of this disease, including infertility. PCOS Symptoms PCOS is a syndrome disease defined by a collection of signs and symptoms. The symptoms of PCOS that one patient experiences can be very different from the symptoms of another patient. If you have two or more of the following symptoms, you need to have a thorough checkup to determine if you need PCOS treatment: Irregular or missing menstrual periods Infertility Excess or unwanted body or facial hair growth Thinning hair on the scalp Weight problems, often including weight gain around the waist Skin problems, including skin tags, darkening skin and acne Complications of PCOS The common PCOS symptoms are difficult enough for most women, but some will experience further complications, including: Diabetes, elevated insulin levels or insulin resistance Heart and blood vessel problems Uterine cancer Sleep apnea Each of these problems can be life threatening, which is why treatment for PCOS is so important. PCOS Treatments Polycystic ovary syndrome treatment starts with a proper diagnosis. Treatments are then chosen based on a woman's symptoms, age and future pregnancy plans. Treatment for PCOS may include: Birth control pills to regulate menstruation Insulin-sensitizing medications Ovulation induction to treat infertility Androgen-blocking medications Topical anti-hair-growth medications Other excess hair treatments Treatments for hair loss Acne treatments Removal of other skin problems Lifestyle and Prevention One of the best treatments for PCOS is a healthy lifestyle. A healthy diet, low in refined carbohydrates, is important, as this can help regulate blood sugar levels. Exercise can also help the body regulate insulin and keep excess weight off. Losing weight is challenging with PCOS, but doing so can help reduce the male hormone levels in the body, and some women will begin to ovulate naturally. With a proper diagnosis, lifestyle changes, and PCOS treatment, women can get relief from this condition and the overwhelming health problems it can cause. Editors: Cristina Meriggiola, MD, PhDUniversity of Bologna Musa Zamah, MD, PhDUniversity of California, San Francisco   Ref:

What Does "All Natural" Really Mean?

With the growing movement of families across the world going “green,” becoming more health conscious, and seeking more information about where exactly their foods and products come from, there’s been an increased push from large corporations and marketing companies to find new ways profit from this new trend. Unfortunately, more often than not, these corporations and marketers hold their own financial interests well above the health and well being of the consumer. Walk down the aisles of any major chain supermarket, and you’re bound to come across several products (or entire lines of products) marketed as being “natural” or “all natural” or even “100% natural.” But what exactly do those labels even mean? And how, if at all, are they regulated? Let’s get one thing clear from the start: the words “all natural” on the label doesn’t mean what you think, or want, it to mean. It does not mean that the granola bar is made from naturally occurring or non-processed ingredients. It does not mean that those beef steaks came from cows that were raised ethically without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones. And it certainly does not mean that those dozen eggs came from happy, healthy chickens. Meats and Poultry Depending on who you ask, the term “natural” on food labels can mean quite a few things, and at the same time, not much at all. The USDA, which regulates meat and poultry in the United States, says that a product is natural if it contains “no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product.” Maple Leaf Natural Selections deli meats claim they don’t contain nitrites, but the ingredients list ‘cultured celery extract,’ a natural form of nitrites.Photo courtesy: The FDA, on the other hand, defines “natural” meat and poultry as that which has not been treated or processed after it has been slaughtered – meaning that the conditions under which the animal lived beforeslaughter can include anything from antibiotics to growth hormones to genetically-modified feed. Other Foods The real problem appears when we try to find a definition for the word “natural” when referring to non-meat products, like granola bars, cereals, yogurts, and other snack items. In this case, there really is no clear-cut definition for the term. What that means for us, the consumer, is that any brand can market any product as being “natural” without any objection from the FDA, as long as the product does not contain “added colors, artificial preservatives, or synthetic substances.” Sounds pretty strict, eh? Think again! “Natural” Cheetos?? According to FDA’s non-definition, this is perfectly fine from a marketing standpoint! Photo courtesy: Sabrina’s Crossing Nature Valley granola bars marketed as “natural,” even though they contain additives, like maltodextrin.Photo courtesy:   Check Labels and Research! As you can see, the “natural” label doesn’t really mean anything, if it’s being used on products like the ones in these pictures. The truth of the matter is that the FDA and USDA do not regulate the term, so companies are free to use it as they wish. We cannot depend on these companies to be truthful with us, because let’s face it: there really is no truth in advertising; not when there’s billions of dollars to be made off of consumers’ desire to eat healthier foods and lead a healthier lifestyle. It’s up to us, as consumers, to take charge of our food by reading labels, researching ingredients, and making informed choices at the grocery store. We can’t continue to fall for these underhanded marketing tactics. We’ve got to demand better quality food, more transparency from food companies, and a better understanding of the real state of food in our society.   The only way to be sure your food is truly natural is by looking for the certified “organic” label. That label signifies that products contain no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, no genetically modified ingredients, and were not sprayed with fertilizers or pesticides. It should also be noted that some farmers simply cannot afford the organic certification, even though they practice organic farming; so be sure to check your local farmer’s markets for fresh, local produce, and get to know your farmers! Do you pay much mind to marketing claims on food products? Or do you spend more time reading labels and checking ingredients? Do you try to buy organic foods as much as possible? What types of organic foods are you willing to spend a little more mone ...

Health Benefits of Kale

It is rare that we are lucky enough to find a food that tastes great, fills us up and hits a home run on the nutrition scale. When we do, we should celebrate it and add it as a regular part of our dietary menu. Kale is the latest popular green to take center stage for all the reasons mentioned above. In fact, kale is being touted as one of the best natural nutrition powerhouses in the produce department. Here are several of the great health benefits of kale: Kale is a virtually guilt free snack food. One serving offers up no fat at all, less than forty calories and plenty of fiber. This is the perfect recipe for success when it comes to healthy snacking. All that fiber aids in digestion. If you have regularity problems, kale can help to ease the problem a great deal. It is a natural way to detox your body and keep your liver functioning at peak performance. Kale is thought to help prevent cancer. This is because it is loaded with antioxidants like flavonoids and carotenoids. We are still learning about the benefits and their relationship to cancer, but it is clear that they help a great deal. Who would have guessed that a bowl of kale could help you fight off such a horrible thing? Kale is a good food for those with asthma because of the cardiovascular benefits. Vitamin K is another great benefit of eating kale. This wonder vitamin helps fight cancer, Alzheimer’s and even promotes healthy bones and tissue. The benefits of vitamin K seem to increase with each passing year and we may only know the half of it. Kale is said to boost liver function, cell growth and iron levels – something that many people don’t get enough of. Kale is an anti-inflammatory that is loaded with Omega-3s. These are known to help with all kinds of problems from autoimmune disorders to arthritis and bursitis. Omega 3s are wonderful for our health and Kale is a natural source. Kale is thought to reduce cholesterol levels. Kale has tons of vitamin A that helps with your skin and eyes. The leafy green kale has a healthy dose of Vitamin C as well. While not as tasty as orange juice, it also lacks the sugar and other bad things you get in the juice. Each of them have their benefits. While kale doesn’t get as much attention when you talk about leafy green veggies such as lettuce, it certainly deserves a place among the greatest veggies you can eat. Loaded with vitamins, minerals and tons of other goodies, kale will help you stay healthy and fit while still tickling your taste buds with a wonderful flavor. Give kale a place on your menu and the benefits will keep coming. There are many ways you can enjoy kale. It is delicious in salads, soups and stir fries. Another way to enjoy it is in the form of kale chips! They make a great snack even kids enjoy. Where to Buy Kale Chips You can purchase kale chips at your local health food store. Healthy Planet also offers two brands of kale chips: Raw Vitality and Solar Raw Food. Pick up a bag today and start enjoying the many health benefits of kale chips.

Essential Oils: A Beginner’s Guide

One of the most commonly asked questions that I receive is "Where do I find essential oils?" And you know what? It's actually ridiculously easy to find essential oils. They're not as mystical and unknown as we tend to make them out to be. I know, because I was there! I had no idea what they were, how to use them, or where I could find them even if I did want to use them! So I've decided to create a brief beginner's guide to all things essential oils... What Are Essential Oils? Essential oils are botanical extracts made from flowers, herbs, trees, and various other plant materials. These oils, present in all plant matter are extracted either by cold pressing or steam distillation. Have you ever felt that oily residue on your hand after squeezing an orange? That residue is actually full of essential oils from the orange skin! How Can Essential Oils Be Used? Essential oils have been used for thousands of years (as early as the ancient Egyptians) for cosmetic and medicinal purposes. In modern times, their uses have expanded to include everything from air fresheners and massage oils, to skin care and cold remedies. Aromatherapy is also an area of alternative medicine where essential oils play a large role. Personally, I use them in all of my homemade products, like bath and body care, and household cleaners and disinfectants. Essential oils can either be added directly to home and bath products, or they're diluted in a carrier oil (ie: olive, almond, grape seed oil, etc.), and then applying this blend to the skin for absorption. They can also be carefully inhaled for their therapeutic benefits!  Are All Essential Oils Created Equal? Not all essential oils are created equal. To receive the full benefits of essential oils, you must be sure you're using 100% pure, therapeutic grade oils, and not just a fragrance oil, which is artificially created and doesn't contain the same therapeutic benefits. Some trusted brands are: NOW, Aura Cacia, and Organika. There are, of course, other brands available, but whatever you choose, make sure they say 100% pure and therapeutic on the label. Healthy Planet carries a wide selection of essential oils on their website. Are Essential Oils Safe? Absolutely! However, a great deal of precaution must be taken to ensure the proper use of essential oils. Essential oils should never be used "neat" (or undiluted), but instead should be diluted in a carrier oil before being applied to the skin. Some oils are not safe to use during pregnancy, some may cause skin irritations, and some should not be used internally. Special care should be taken when using essential oils on children, and those with chronic health conditions. Essential oils should be kept out of reach of children and pets, and should never be used on or near babies or pets. As always, please consult your health care provider before using essential oils as part of your regimen. Where Can I Buy Essential Oils? This can seem like the hardest part, but it's actually pretty simple. First, you'll want to know which essential oils you need for your specific applications - check out this link for a great list of essential oil therapeutic properties. From there, you can start your collection with just a few of the more common oils, like lavender, tea tree, eucalyptus, and orange. Essential oils can be found at any local health food store, like Health Planet in Canada. They can also be purchased online at Healthy Planet Online. Have you ever used essential oils before? What are your favorites and how have you used them? Resources: 

Top 10 Uses & Benefits of Raw Honey

When we think of honey, our minds automatically go to that little plastic bear filled with a thick, brown syrup-like substance. But what if I told you that stuff is not even really honey? What if I told you that the honey we grew up eating and learning about is vastly different from the real, pure, raw honey that our ancestors most likely used in their healing teas and tinctures? Raw honey is honey that has not been heated, pasteurized or processed in any way. There's a huge difference between raw and pasteurized honey. Raw honey contains the vitamins, enzymes, antioxidants and other natural nutrients that make it such a wonderfully healing food. Pasteurized honey, on the other hand, has been stripped of these beneficial properties through the process of heating, making it just as unhealthy as refined sugar. While pasteurized honey looks clear and syrupy, raw honey is more solid and opaque, and often contains small pieces of beeswax and pollen. We refer to raw honey as "liquid gold" in our home because of its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties. It also strengthens the immune system and is a great topical remedy for skin wounds and infections. Raw honey has become a staple in our kitchen. It's so versatile and we use it in so many different applications around the home! Here are my 10 favorite ways to use raw honey around our home: Soothe sore throats and coughs: Honey's antibiotic and antiviral properties make it great for treating sore throats and coughs. It coats the throat and helps reduce irritation. Add a spoonful into a warm cup of lemon tea, or just eat it right off the spoon! Treat cuts, burns and scrapes: Smooth a thick layer of honey over minor cuts and burns, and it acts as an antibiotic ointment to help kill any bacteria, reduce inflammation, and protect the exposed skin from dirt and debris. Spread it on your toast: Because it's thicker than regular, pasteurized honey, I love spreading it on a piece of toast, with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon in the morning. It's a great energy boost to start off your day on the right foot! Replace the processed sugar: Instead of granulated sugar, use raw honey to sweeten things like yogurt, smoothies, and almond milk, or stir a spoonful into your morning cup of coffee or tea. If replacing the sugar called for in a baked recipe, it's better to use just regular, pasteurized (organic, if possible) honey, since it will be heated during baking anyways. Wash your face: Raw honey, softened between your palms, and massaged all over your face, first thing in the morning, on a dry face - try it and you'll love your sparkling, soft skin. It can even help with acne - just apply a small amount to blemishes every night, and you should notice results within a week. Treat allergies: Raw, local honey taken a couple times a day, starting a few month before allergy season has been found to relieve seasonal allergies. It must be local honey, however, since it will contain tiny amounts of pollen from local plants, which will act as a sort of vaccine against the allergens found in that plant. Improve your sleep: Add some honey to a warm glass of milk or tea (or on it's own!) right before bedtime for a better night's rest. Honey helps your body release melatonin into the brain, which promotes a deeper, more restorative sleep. Support good bacteria: Honey contains probiotics that help support the growth and activity of good bacteria in our gut, making it very efficient for digestion. Since it doesn't ferment in the stomach, it's easily absorbed and be used to treat indigestion. Relieve constipation: Make a warm tea by mixing a spoonful of raw honey and a couple spoons of raw apple cider vinegar into warm water, to help naturally relieve constipation. Make an exfoliating sugar scrub: Mix some raw honey with a bit of sugar, and your favorite moisturizing oil, and massage the mixture all over your body, in the shower, for a gentle, exfoliating, all-natural body scrub. A word of caution: Since honey contains natural botulism spores, make sure not to give honey to children under the age of 1 year, as their intestinal tract is not mature enough to inhibit the growth of botulism. You can order good quality raw honey right at the Healthy Planet website! Resources:
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