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The Good and the Bad: What are the Health Effects of Caffeine Consumption?

Caffeine is a bit of a two-headed monster. For many, it’s the perfect way to start a morning: sitting in the breakfast nook with a steaming hot cup-a-joe in one hand, favorite book in the other, watching your daughter play around in the yard with your lovable dog. Life’s great! But, as many of you know, caffeine can also be your worst nightmare: lying awake at three in the morning, splitting headache, stomach doing somersaults, heart pulsing faster than a rabid dog.  How can this be? What’s the truth here? Is caffeine good or is caffeine bad? I wish there were a quick and easy explanation for you, but the reality is never simple – especially when it comes to caffeine. The truth is that it’s both good and bad. It’s important to be aware of just how exactly caffeine can affect your health. THE GOOD Let’s start with the good news. The benefits of caffeine are pretty well known. (After all, why else would over 80% of the population consume it?) It’s a stimulant. It works by activating the central nervous system. And, as such, it can provide mental alertness and concentration, boost your mood, and help postpone fatigue. All good things.  On top of that, coffee – which is by far and away the number one source of caffeine consumption – has been the focus of much scholarly research. Here are some of the purported health benefits of coffee: • It can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. • It can reduce the risk of mouth and throat cancer. • It may help lower our risk of stroke, Parkinson’s, and dementia.     But – as I mentioned earlier – caffeine isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It has a dark side, too. THE BAD To begin with, caffeine is a drug. Plain and simple. Over time, the body will get used to it and will depend on it as a part of its everyday routine. And when caffeine is not there all of a sudden, you’ll have a bad time. These effects are called withdrawal symptoms. They may include: • Upset stomach • Headache • Dehydration • Muscle pain • Insomnia • Lethargy • Anxiety • Depression • Irritability • Etc.  You get the point. Nobody wants to be around a coffee addict who hasn’t had coffee. …and nobody wants to be one either. On top of the withdrawal symptoms, there may also be significant long-term health effects as well. THE LONG-TERM EFFECTS According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), excessive long-term consumption of caffeine may lead to a loss of bone density, which in turn may lead an increased risk of osteoporosis. But wait, there’s more: • Increased blood sugar levels. Daily consumption of caffeine may increase blood sugar levels, which can be a major problem for those with diabetes. (Source) • Irregular heartbeat. Higher amounts of caffeine may result in extreme agitation, tremors, and a rapid heartbeat. (Source) • Pregnancy complications. Too much caffeine may result in miscarriage or birth defects. It can also make it more difficult for women to get pregnant in the first place. (Source) • Increased blood pressure. Caffeine may cause short, but dramatic increase in blood pressure. (Source) • Increase cholesterol levels. There is a compound in coffee called “cafestol” that raises LDL cholesterol levels. (Source)   NOW WHAT? Don’t be scared by all of this. There are a number of ways in which you can live a healthy lifestyle and still consume caffeine. The key, as always, is moderation. Here are some tips: • In general, it’s recommended that you consume under 400 mg/day of caffeine. That’s about four 8 oz. cups of coffee, which is more than enough for most people.  • Be aware of other foods that may include caffeine: chocolate bars (5-25 mg), energy drinks (up to 160 mg) and soft drinks (~30 mg) are some examples. Many prescription drugs also include caffeine.  If you don’t want to go cold turkey on the caffeine, you should try Wize Monkey Coffee Leaf Tea. Their five different award-winning teas will help you ease off the caffeine addiction and also keep you focused without any crash of jitters. The caffeine level is around 20mg per cup, making it the perfect substitute to rotate into your routine. They have Original, Minty Marvel, Mango Party, Earl Grey and Jasmine, which are all available at Healthy Planet. Try it today and starting thinking outside the bean.

Lunchbox Doctor’s Perfect Pack-Up Ideas

It’s hard enough to think of tasty lunches for yourself everyday, let alone make inspiring lunchboxes for your kids too.   And if they’re gluten-intolerant, or just plain picky, it’s even tougher to find filling, exciting lunch ideas. So our expert nutritionist, and founder of Lunchbox Doctor, has devised three perfect packed lunches to satisfy every appetite. Lunchbox Recipes Carrot Hummus 3 carrots, washed and chopped into batons 1 tbsp olive oil Salt and pepper 1 tin of white beans such as haricot or butter, drained and rinsed A garlic clove, crushed 1½ tbsp lemon juice ½ tsp ground cumin ½ tsp smoked paprika   Directions: Preheat oven to 180ºC/fan 160ºC/Gas 4. Drizzle the carrots with oil and roast until soft. Blitz the carrots with the other ingredients in a food processor until smooth.   Seeded Flapjack 75g mixed seeds, such as pumpkin and sunflower 125g butter 75g unrefined sugar 1 tbsp blackstrap molasses 175g oats 50g dried fruit – cut up larger fruits such as prunes or apricots Directions: Preheat oven to 180ºC/fan 160ºC/Gas 4. Whiz the seeds to a powder in food processor or coffee grinder. Do this in batches if using a coffee grinder. Melt the butter, sugar and molasses together in a saucepan. Add the oats, dried fruit and ground seeds, and mix well together. Spread the mixture out on a baking tin, lined with greaseproof paper, and bake for 20-25 mins or until golden brown. Cut whilst hot, and then allow to cool in baking tray before removing.   Beetroot Chocolate Brownie Cake 125g cooked beetroot, finely grated 125g butter 250g dark chocolate, broken into squares 3 eggs, beaten 2 tbsp barley malt syrup or honey 1 tsp vanilla extract 100g wholegrain spelt flour 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda Directions: Preheat the oven to 200ºC/fan 180ºC/Gas 6. Combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda and beetroot in a bowl. Melt the butter and chocolate in a different bowl over a pan of boiling water, being careful not to let the bowl touch the boiling water. Add the melted butter and chocolate mix to the flour and beetroot mix. Fold in the eggs, then add the syrup and vanilla extract. Pour into a 20cm x 20cm baking tin, greased and/or lined as necessary. Bake for 20-25 mins until it forms a crust on top but is still a little moist (not uncooked) on the inside. Grabbed From: http://www.hollandandbarrett.com/the-health-hub/perfect-packed-lunches/?sc=22096&rilt=lunch&utm_source=Responsys&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=080517_Back_To_School

The Best Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Gluten Free Oatmeal Pancake Mix (8 servings) 4 and 1/2 cup ground oat flour 1 and 2/3 cup cup quick cooking oats 1/2 cup coconut sugar 2 teaspoon baking powder 2 teaspoon baking soda To make a batch (or 2 servings = 4 medium size pancakes) of NORMAL gluten free oatmeal pancakes you’ll need: 1 cup of gluten free oatmeal pancake mix 1 egg 1 tablespoon of coconut oil, partially melted 1/2 cup non dairy milk All you need are 5 dry ingredients and 3 wet ingredients and you’ve got yourself a gluten free oatmeal pancake.   The Best Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Pancake Recipe PREP TIME:5 minutes COOK TIME:10 minutes TOTAL TIME:15 minutes Yield: 4 medium size pancakes Ingredients 1 cup of gluten free oatmeal pancake mix 1 egg, large 1 tablespoon of coconut oil, partially melted 1/2 cup non dairy milk 1 teaspoon vanilla 1/4 cup chocolate chips Instructions First, spray a pan with nonstick cooking spray and turn burner to medium heat. Then, in a medium size bowl, whisk together 1 egg. Add in milk, coconut oil, and vanilla. Next, add in 1 cup of gluten free oatmeal pancake mix and mix until combined. Using a 1/4 measuring cup. Spoon 1/4 of the batter onto the pan and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Cook for about a minute on each side. Grabbed from: http://fitfoodiefinds.com/2014/05/best-oatmeal-chocolate-chip-pancakes/

Foods For Glowing Skin

As relaxing as regular facials may seem, sometimes they’re just not enough to give you the healthy glow you’re looking for, because how your skin appears on the outside can often be a good indication of your health on the inside. What we eat can not only affect us mentally and physically, but it can have a big impact on our skin’s appearance; that’s why it’s important to incorporate foods in your diet that are full of beautifying nutrients. So in addition to your skin care regimewhich should already include avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun, a good moisturizer and drinking 8-10 glasses of water each day, start adding these 5 foods to your diet right now for healthier, more vibrant and younger looking skin. Chocolate Why: Yup, you read that right. But not just any chocolate, dark chocolate. Dark, unprocessed chocolate contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that can help improve the health and look of your skin by helping to protect it against UV damage and can help fight free radicals, which have a direct relation to aging skin[1]. Chocolate has also been shown to help reduce stress and can boost your mood to brighten up tired-looking skin and reduce the breakdown of collagen….so you can say “See you never, wrinkles.” Tip: We aren’t suggesting to go grab yourself a large chocolate bar or drinking an extra-large hot chocolate. Studies show that just 2-3 ounces of 70% chocolate can give you the beautifying benefits (and craving fix) you’re looking for. Turmeric Why: Right now there’s nothing trendier than turmeric, but for a good reason!  Although not a food per se, turmeric is a not-so-spicy spice that should definitely be on this list. Many skin conditions such as acne, eczema and puffiness can be due to inflammatory conditions within the body that manifest to the surface of the skin. Turmeric on the other hand, is known for its high anti-inflammatory properties, so using turmeric as a flavour enhancer while cooking can offer some wonderful anti-inflammatory benefits to the skin. Turmeric can also be used in at-home facial masks and can even be taken as a supplement if you want some additional benefits.   Avocado Why: Famous for their many heart and brain health benefits, they are actually great for the skin, too! Avocados are high in mono and poly unsaturated fats, which can help give your skin the glowing, dewy look by keeping it firm and moisturized. Avocados are also high in vitamin E and carotenoids, an antioxidant that helps fight free-radical damage—a major cause of aging skin. Studies[2] also show that carotenoids can help improve the skin’s thickness and tone, making it less prone to wrinkling. Tip: Avocados can be added to any meal, really, so there is no reason not to get enough of this yummy item in your diet. Need some ideas? Try topping your sandwich or salad with some avocado slices, or blend half an avocado in your next smoothie for extra creaminess. Still need some avo-inspiration? This summer, try grilling avocado slices topped with fresh lemon juice and sea salt. Or hey, give them a try as a facial mask if you’re feeling adventurous. Grapefruit Why: It makes for way more than just a refreshing breakfast! Grapefruit contains more than 100% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C, a nutrient that has been shown to help aid skin damage caused by the sun or other environmental pollutants. Collagen, what keeps our skin tight and firm, naturally decreases with age, but one of vitamin C’s claims to fame is that it can help stimulate collagen production, which in turn can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and help prevent future ones from developing.  Tip: Vitamin C is highly volatile to heat, meaning its potency can be lost during cooking. So eating these items raw is your best bet to get your max vitamin C benefits. If you’re looking for additional collagen support, a collagen supplement such as Jamieson Collagen Anti-Wrinkle is your best defense against fighting off the signs of aging. Tomatoes Why: They work great as a salad topper (and admittedlythey go perfectly on pizza), but it’s hard to find a reason why tomatoes shouldn’t be on your list if you’re looking to improve your skin health. Tomatoes contain lycopene, a carotenoid that gives them their bright red hue, which is converted into vitamin A. Vitamin A (or you may be familiar with the term “retinol”) is a nutrient that can help reduce the effects of aging while helping to increase the production of collagen. Lycopene has also been shown to help reduce the effects of sun damage, helping skin cell regeneration, and reducing skin redness. But oily skin can also benefit from this antioxidant as it can help reduce inflammation leading to excess oil production and breakouts. Tip: Unlike Vitamin C, h ...

Smarter Outdoor Cooking

One of the most common summer customs is outdoor cooking: barbecue and or charring being one of the most highly practised. Like many modern practices, there is a degree of controversy surrounding outdoor cooking–especially with animal proteins (red/white meat, fish/seafood). Therefore, I want to walk you through the science, and offer some context. So, what exactly is the issue with charring animal proteins? In short, due to their unique structure, when they are heated to temperatures above 212ºF (100ºC), they begin to form highly carcinogenic compounds known as (HAA). HAAs become even more potent at 572ºF (300ºC). So, the higher the temperature, the longer the cooking time, the higher the concentration of HAAs. Because they have been proven to work at the level of DNA, they have been classed as genotoxic. This means that they can create mutations, insertions, and deletions in our DNA, which is serious business we want to avoid. Further, it’s noteworthy that all methods for cooking animal proteins eventually create these rings. There are; however, proven ways to significantly reduce formation, which I will share. Another set of compounds associated with high heat cooking are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). They are formed when animal protein is blackened or charred on a metal surface, or when their fat and juices splash on to an open flame. This creates an incomplete combustion reaction, where white smoke is produced, or the flames rise directly on to the food. They then saturate the animal protein with PAHs. They are formed at temperatures of 392º F (200ºC) or higher, which poses another issue for the summer barbecue, seeing most animal proteins are cooked at 572ºF (300ºC) or higher. In many cases, certain cuts are cooked at 650ºF (343ºC) or higher. What’s so interesting is that these compounds only form when animal protein is cooked. If you were to eat these proteins raw, the compounds would not form; but, obviously other deleterious issues come into play with the consumption of raw animal protein (with the exception of sushi). This is why cooking these types of foods correctly is crucial, so what is an omnivore to do then? Well, although the science is a bit scary, simple steps can be taken to significantly reduce the formation of these carcinogens. The first step to healthier barbecue is plants! Because they do not contain creatine amidst amino acids, HAAs are almost negligible when they’re cooked. Although some plant foods can produce PAHs (mostly processed gluten based grains and fats/oils), their concentration is much lower than their animal counter parts. Plants are also packed with dense nutrient profiles that have been proven in the reduction of carcinogens, and the promotion of overall health. You want to choose veggies like kale, cabbage, collards, broccoli and cauliflower due to their anti-carcinogenic activity. Their high fibre content is a bonus too, seeing it can help the elimination of the toxins that form. There is also the option of reducing overall animal protein content by making some whole food veggie options, like mushroom and bean burgers, or a “carrot dog”. Ideally, 3/4s of your plate should be plant based (both raw and cooked) to ensure cellular protection. A perfect addition would be something fermented, like sauerkraut or organic yogurt, seeing it has been demonstrated that certain lacto-bacteria play a protective role when dealing with HAAs. Studies on Bifidobacterium longum (BB-536) suggest that it actually binds to HAAs and also works to prevent them from causing DNA damage in the colon and other organs. Therefore, it would be wise to supplement with this bacteria daily or at least on days charred animal proteins are consumed. Herbs, such as rosemary and thyme have also been cited to reduce overall HAA content, along with garlic, ginger, and red chili pepper. These can either be rubbed directly on the animal protein or used in a marinade. With marinades, the research points to wine and beer being the most effective at HAA reduction, when accompanied by one of the aforementioned herbs or spices. Interestingly, the darker the beer, the more protection offered. So, bring on the Guinness! Smarter summer grilling is all about anti-oxidant protection, so sip on scrumptious lemonade while prepping.  As mentioned, time and temperature affect the creation of HAAs and PAHs, so try to barbecue at lower temperatures until the item is safe to eat. Avoid well done, blackened or heavily charred parts. Use lean cuts, that are smaller, trimmed of fat, and try to keep them directly out of flames. Avoid pressing down on the cuts and flip more often to ensure even cooking. Avoid processed animal proteins, and aim for the highest quality grass fed, organic cuts, and wild caught seafood. Ensure that the grill is well cleaned upon use, opt for less chemically treated coals, and ...

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 http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/canada-coffee-tim-hortons-1.3745971 The secret and surprising power of naps http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/the-secret-and-surprising-power-of-naps#2 https://drnibber.com/your-4-step-guide-to-a-better-nights-sleep/

6 Goal Setting Strategies to Help Build Muscle

It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, young or old: More and more people are adding the goal of building muscle as part of their overall fitness program. Whether it’s for aesthetic reasons, sports performance, weight management, to improve your active lifestyle or a combination of the aforementioned – more people than ever before are engaging in resistance training as a means of adding lean muscle to their physiques. If you’re one of them, here are a few tips that can help you maximize your results:   1. HAVE A PLAN: Sure, it sounds simple, yet the gyms are filled with people just “winging it,” wandering aimlessly from machine to machine and making up their workouts as they go. A few crunches here, a biceps curl there, a quick stretch, with no method to their madness. Lack of structure is one of the primary reasons so few manage to achieve their workout goals. Yes, there is a science to building muscle, and it starts by following a well-designed exercise plan. It can be a workout found in a book, a magazine, an exercise DVD, one in an exercise app. Just make sure you are following an intelligently-designed strength training plan. (Ideally one created by someone with an exercise-science related degree and/or possessing one of the top fitness certifications, such as those from the ACSM, NSCA or NASM.)   2. CHOOSE YOUR PLAN CAREFULLY: Unfortunately it’s not enough to simply follow a plan – You also have to ensure that the one you do select is based on sound exercise science. Thanks in large part to the internet and social media there’s a plethora of bad fitness advice, questionable workout plans and self-proclaimed “fitness experts” out there. Choosing an improper strength training plan can not only keep you from achieving your goals, it may also potentially lead to injury. Be sure you seek out information from a reputable source.   3. USE APPROPRIATE RESISTANCE: There is a line often used in fitness: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” When it comes to resistance training and building muscle, the concept is known as the “Overload Principle.” Simply put, it means you should lift weights that are challenging, without losing your ability to maintain safe, proper form. The human body is an extremely intelligent machine, and can adapt to the stressors imposed upon it. Lifting the appropriate weight breaks down your muscle tissue and your body “adapts” by rebuilding and repairing itself, including increasing the size of your muscle fibers.   4. EAT YOUR PROTEIN: Amino acids are the building blocks of muscle, and protein is made up of amino acids. Failure to eat adequate daily protein can prevent you from building lean muscle. A good strategy is to try to consume high-quality sources of protein with each meal.   5. BE CONSISTENT: Lifting weights a few times a month will simply not get you the muscle building results you are looking for. You need to overload the muscles at least a few times per week to adequately overload and stimulate your muscular system.[annotation]Schoenfeld BJ, Ogborn D, Krieger JW. (2016). Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine. 46(11):1689-1697. A good plan is to engage in a full-body strength training workout three times per week on non-consecutive days.  It doesn’t matter if you do it at home or the gym, with free weights, machines, or your body weight. You just need to do it, and do it consistently.   6. GIVE IT TIME: Building muscle, like just about everything related to exercise, takes time. No, it won’t happen overnight, or even in a few weeks for that matter. But it can happen, as long as you don’t expect immediate results and you follow the advice listed above.   Reference: https://myvega.ca/blog/tips-for-building-muscle/
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