Health & Nutrition Blog – Healthy Planet Canada

3 Ingredients to Make the Best Protein Shakes

We’ve all gotten stuck in a smoothie rut before, whether we’re creatures of habit or just don’t really feel like being creative. We make our post-workout smoothie and realize that we’ve been drinking this same concoction for the last two weeks straight. Sure it tastes good, but you’re starting to really despise these ingredients and even the smell of them is making you feel unmotivated about your once fabulous smoothie.  You stick to it, because it has everything you need: protein, some healthy fats and maybe some extra goodies like antioxidants or greens.  It’s now time to step out of that rut and make yourself the best protein shakes of your life. Protein shakes with purpose! Click on the highlighted ingredients for inspirational recipe ideas to destroy your smoothie rut. Plant-based protein inspirations Ever wondered which plant-based foods make excellent sources of protein and taste great in a smoothie?  Here are a few of my favorites: Hemp seeds Almonds/almond butter Sacha Inchi seeds (SaviSeeds) Pumpkin Seeds Vega One, Vega Protein Smoothie or Vega Sport Performance Protein Healthy fats Now that you have some great ideas for some plant-based protein smoothie ingredient ideas, it’s time to look at adding in essential fatty acids. These are an important addition to our diet, since our bodies cannot produce them.  Here are some great healthy fat options to add to your smoothie: Avocados Chia seeds Ground flaxseeds Nut butters Extra nutrition booster These next few ingredients pack quite a nutritional punch and make a great addition to your smoothies, not only for flavor but for the great nutritional benefits they offer. Berries (antioxidant support) Turmeric (inflammation support) Cayenne (circulation) Lemon (alkaline-forming) Ginger (digestive support)

Introduction to Strength Training

Historically, outside of the niche interests of sports like weightlifting, powerlifting, bodybuilding and strongman, the use of strength training as primary exercise hasn’t been accepted. In recent times, perhaps owed to the actual benefits, but most likely due to the “selfies” that follow it, strength training and lifting weights has become the trendy thing to do. Recently, even in the most hard-core and conservative strength circles, there has been a shift to natural bodybuilding and “raw” powerlifting (i.e. without the assistance of supportive equipment), reclaiming a previously divided middle ground. This interest in strength has produced a new wave of fitness enthusiasts, some transient gym-folk, some from the general population, in search of exercise with a common denominator: strength. Physical fitness, aesthetics, and strength are not, and shouldn’t be, mutually exclusive.

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Zinc: The Key to a Healthy Immune and Digestive System

Zinc is an essential micronutrient required for many enzyme and body functions. It is essential for growth and physical development, and for the metabolism of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Approximately 12% of people in the US do not consume enough zinc in their diets, and this number is closer to 40% in those over 65 years of age. In older adults it is most likely a combination of eating fewer zinc-rich foods (meat and shellfish such as oysters) and the inability to absorb it from the digestive system. For proper absorption zinc requires vitamin B1, B6 and adequate stomach acid. Many people, especially as they get older, have low levels of stomach acid, which leads to mineral deficiencies.

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Natural Solutions for an Enlarged Prostate

Prostate problems are incredibly common. To make these problems even worse, men are often unaware of their bodies, and few understand the risk factors or the signs associated with an enlarged prostate. Additionally, men are frequently reluctant to undergo prostate exams to screen for this problem. This is a serious issue, especially regarding prostate cancer, as studies show that men often present with advanced stages of the condition. Diagnosis of advanced prostate cancer remains a major health problem and is more difficult to treat than problems that are identified early.

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Healthy Bones: It’s More Than Just Calcium

Most people know that adequate calcium intake is essential for healthy bone formation. Since calcium is the primary mineral found in bones, it has been added to many foods in order to ensure our population does not have a deficiency. For decades marketing campaigns by dairy farmers and family doctors have been advocating high levels of calcium in order to build bones and prevent osteoporosis. In 2011, the benefits of calcium were called into question when a research study found that calcium supplementation was linked to a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes.1 This news sent shock-waves through the medical and scientific communities as they searched to make sense of this evidence. Could the mineral that was thought to be so vital in preventing weak bones be contributing to cardiovascular disease? The answer is no. Calcium and progressive resistance training are still the most important factor in bone health.However, to make sense of this new connection with heart health we need to look beyond just calcium and explore two other key factors in the regulation of calcium levels. Starting with the basics, calcium is the primary mineral that is part of the “mineral-protein matrix” that makes up bones. Vitamin D and Vitamin K are the biological signals that direct calcium from the digestive tract where it is absorbed and then directed into the bones.2 With insufficient (or deficient) levels of these vitamins, calcium is poorly absorbed and can be inappropriately stored in areas such as blood vessels. One theory behind the calcium and heart disease connection suggests since calcium was just supplemented by itself in the study, without considering vitamin D and K, excess amounts of calcium where stored in the wrong areas (i.e. the blood vessels). This can lead to the hardening of arteries (calcification) and possibly increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. So what is it about vitamin D and K that optimizes calcium usage by the body? Vitamin D and Bone health The 2 ways the body obtains vitamin D, is either through a conversion process in the skin or absorption through the digestive system. However, once produced or absorbed, it still must undergo further conversion by the liver and kidneys before it reaches the fully activated form, 1 alpha, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D3. 2 The effect of vitamin D was first connected to calcium regulation and bone formation and the active form is referred to as calcitrol, but we now know that vitamin D has multiple actions through out the body, including the control of genes.2 In regards to bone health, adequate vitamin D levels are required to absorb calcium from the intestinal tract. When calcium levels are deficient (below 80nmol/L or 32ng/mL) then absorption can fall from 30-40% to 10-15%.3 This means that even though a person is supplementing with the recommended 1000mg/day of calcium then they may only be getting 100mg that is actually absorbed. There is strong evidence supporting the supplementation of vitamin D and calcium together to reduce the risk of fractures.2,4 The synergist action is most likely responsible for this observed benefit. However it is important to reiterate that even though vitamin D is given together with calcium in these studies, the key end point must be that vitamin D levels reached levels greater than 80nmol/L since this is the level that has been shown to optimally absorb calcium.3 This underscores the importance of measuring a person’s plasma levels in order to determine what dose is required to replete their vitamin D level. The more deficient a person is, the greater the dose that will be required to bring their levels back up. The other benefit of vitamin D is that it has been show to improve muscle pain, posture and balance which are all key in preventing falls which can lead to a fracture.3,5 Vitamin K and Bone Health While the connection between vitamin D and calcium levels for bone health is well known, the relationship of vitamin K and calcium is relatively new. Vitamin K is most well known for its effect on the blood coagulation system. It is a key factor in making the blood more “sticky” in order to prevent excess bleeding. It most well known as the target for the blood thinning drug called Coumadin (Warfarin®). Vitamin K is actually a family of molecules with a number of unique forms. Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) is found in plants while vitamin K2 (menaquinone) is formed by bacteria after fermentation. Vitamin K2 is further divided into MK-4 and MK-7 forms.2,6 The majority of vitamin K in the human diet comes from dark green leafy plants, which is in the K1 form. Human gut bacteria can also produce the K2 form but these amounts are poorly absorbed.2 Other sources of K2 include animal products, cheeses and fermented foods such as natto (a Japanese food made from fermented soy beans).2,6 One of the main biological roles of vitamin K is that it is responsible for a process called carboxylation. ...

What Weight Loss Supplements Actually Work?

Recently, there has been a lot of talk in the news regarding weight loss supplementation after a survey found that many consumers were misinformed regarding their effectiveness and safety. This has caused many to lose faith in supplements for weight loss. But let’s not be so hasty. In previous years, has outlined specific ingredients with a strong track record and scientific support for modest weight loss, while highlighting flaws in other less supported, yet highly marketed, products. It is unfair to paint all weight loss supplements with the same brush. The take home messages from this consumer report should be the following: 1. Weight loss cannot simply be solved by a pill per day. They must always be used in the context of a healthy diet, lifestyle and exercise.2. There is a wide variation in ingredient efficacy, brand quality and safety. Just as there is a wide variation in food quality and clothing quality, we cannot say that all supplements are good or that all are bad. Many reported side effects of weight loss supplements tend to be caused by nervous system stimulants like ephedrine and caffeine. But there are lots of safe and trusted ones, too.3. Every individual’s reason for weight gain is unique. In some cases, the cause is too many calories in and not enough out (i.e. eating too much and not exercising enough). But in many cases, there are hormone imbalances or stress or nutrient deficiencies or chemical exposure, etc. (see here for more details). In these circumstances, weight loss is more likely when a targeted supplement is used for the specific imbalance.4. Given the above points, it is highly recommended to speak with someone qualified to advise you about supplementation, as well as dietary and lifestyle changes. Be wary of a sales pitch because weight loss supplements are still a business. So what does work? Here are some of the supplements that may be worth considering in addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle: – Green Tea Extract: increases your body’s metabolic rate– Triphala: especially indicated for those with occasional constipation– Green Coffee Bean Extract: decreases sugar absorption and also lowers blood pressure– Ashwagandha: used to offset weight gain seen with high stress– Whey Protein: shown to keep you full and helps preserve lean muscle tissue when dieting As aforementioned, be wary of supplements with high amounts of caffeine or ephedrine that are simply trying to stimulate your nervous system. Raspberry ketones are also commonly touted for weight loss but with very little science to back them up. These are the types of ingredients worth avoiding. Instead, start with the basics: remove processed foods, eat more vegetables, drink more water, get outside and get moving. Then add in a targeted supplement for your individual circumstance. What have you found to make the biggest difference in your weight loss journey? Have you tried any of the products mentioned above? Share your experiences with us below! 

Common Nutrient Deficiencies on a Gluten-Free Diet

Adopting the gluten-free diet can significantly improve your health if you suffer from celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, but it may also account for certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Some research indicates people following the diet get too little of certain nutrients, especially some B vitamins, vitamin D and calcium. A small study from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center found that more than 92% of those studied didn’t get enough vitamin D, more than 85% didn’t get enough folate and nearly 82% didn’t get enough calcium. According to the study, vitamin B12, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and iron were also deficient. Another study conducted in Sweden looked at 30 adult celiacs who had been following a gluten-free diet for eight to 12 years. The researchers tested blood levels of a variety of nutrients, including ferritin (iron), calcium, zinc, folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. The study found that 37% of the participants were low in vitamin B6, 20% were low in folate, while 10% were low in both B6 and folate. Nutritional deficiencies are quite common in the overall population, not just in those eating gluten-free. However, gluten-free grain products aren’t fortified with vitamins and minerals the way conventional grain products are and this may account for some deficiencies. Some people who follow a gluten-free diet may also adopt a dairy-free diet, which might be another factor to consider behind the vitamin D and calcium deficiencies found in the study. In conclusion, your risks of some nutrient deficiencies, namely B vitamins, vitamin D, calcium and iron may be somewhat higher if you’re gluten-free (especially if you’re also dairy-free), but you should be able to offset those deficiencies through careful eating and by using supplements. If you’re concerned about your nutritional status, I would strongly suggest that you incorporate a high-end multivitamin and mineral supplement such as Ortho-Core, and seek the assistance of a skilled healthcare provider well-versed in the assessment of nutritional deficiencies. Have you gone gluten-free due to various symptoms? Share your journey with us in the comments below!

Gaining Healthy Weight

While the great majority of today’s population seems to be interested in dropping the excess weight they’ve accumulated, there are still others who find themselves facing the opposite problem—how to gain weight or at least prevent further weight loss. Some individuals—for numerous reasons—experience a drastic change in their metabolism, making a healthy body weight very difficult to maintain. In diseases like cancer, excess weight loss is referred to as cachexia or wasting syndrome, and it affects both body fat and lean muscle mass. It is believed to be caused by increased inflammatory messengers as well as tumour-derived factors that cause appetite suppression, and an overall hyper-catabolic (wasting) state. The fact is, weight loss—especially from muscle—can cause premature aging and has been shown to shorten the survival time of people with diseases like cancer. So whether you are suffering from an illness, or just can’t seem to gain healthy weight (lean body mass) no matter what you seem to try, the following are some research-proven methods to help maintain andregain healthy weight: Ensure an adequate diet by consuming between five and eight mini-meals each day. Use high quality cold-processed whey isolates with high levels of alpha-lactalbumin (High-Alpha Whey Protein) to maintain adequate protein intake, as the essential amino acids will help maintain protein stores and counteract muscle wasting. Pick foods that contain the most calories but are still nutritious, such as organic seeds and nuts. Instead of filling up on low-calorie dense foods—like soup and salad—consume the most calorie-dense portion of your meals first. Embrace good saturated fats, like grass-fed butter and organic coconut oil. These fats help the body manufacture sex hormones, which help the body maintain and grow new muscle tissue. Do resistance exercise at least three times each week. Progressive resistance exercise (using heavier resistance as your muscles adapt to each exercise load) creates just enough muscle trauma for the muscles to become larger and stronger. Resistance exercise also helps protein become more effective at repairing muscle. Make sure to ingest a liquid protein shake as close to finishing a workout as possible. Avoid highly refined “white” foods, excess sugars and hydrogenated trans fats. It’s interesting to note, the most medically endorsed weight gain liquid formulas are loaded with sugars such as pure sucrose, corn maltodextrin and corn syrup. According to research presented close to a decade ago, high grade fish oils may reverse some aspects of muscle loss. Other research from the Pharmaceutical Sciences Research Institute in Birmingham, UK, indicates that the fatty acid EPA is the only natural agent that can interfere with the action of a tumour factor called PIF, believed to be a major cause of muscle wasting. Further studies indicate, it takes about two grams of EPA daily to help counteract weight loss.

Natural Solutions for an Enlarged Prostate

This month expert Dr. Ludovic Brunel discusses enlarged prostate and potential problems in men. You’re never too young to start paying attention. Please read on: Prostate problems are incredibly common. To make these problems even worse, men are often unaware of their bodies, and few understand the risk factors or the signs associated with an enlarged prostate. Additionally, men are frequently reluctant to undergo prostate exams to screen for this problem. This is a serious issue, especially regarding prostate cancer, as studies show that men often present with advanced stages of the condition.[i] Diagnosis of advanced prostate cancer remains a major health problem and is more difficult to treat than problems that are identified early. Given that about one in eight Canadian men is expected to develop prostate cancer during his lifetime and that the majority of men will develop a benign enlargement of the prostate, understanding the symptoms associated with the condition is crucial. Although symptoms are not always present, the most common problems associated with an enlarged prostate include: Waking up many times at night to urinateHaving pain or a burning feeling when urinatingHaving blood in your urineHaving difficulty urinatingA weaker than normal streamFeeling that the bladder is not empty after urinationUrinary frequencyIn terms of the risks associated with the development of prostate problems, some significant risk factors are uncontrollable and include being over the age of 50 and having a family history of prostate cancer. Other risk factors are modifiable and can be precluded by having a healthy weight and eating properly. In terms of diet, men that consume more saturated fat have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer. Certain diseases and medications can also increase the risk of developing an enlarged prostate. For instance, patients with diabetes are at increased risk and so are patients with heart disease – especially if they are taking beta blockers. Exercise also helps to reduce the incidence of developing an enlarged prostate. If you are already experiencing problems related to an enlarged prostate, there are several potential treatments. Prostate cancer prevention: Several natural treatments have been shown to hold promise for the prevention of prostate cancer. For example, there is some evidence that lower selenium levels are associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer. Early studies also suggest that higher lycopene levels may be associated with a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. Treatment of prostate cancer: Needless to say that prostate cancer is a serious health condition characterized by the uncontrollable growth of cells in the prostate gland. If you are experiencing any signs of an enlarged prostate, you should see your medical doctor as soon as possible to get assessed. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH): By age 60, over half of men have some prostate enlargement. By age 70, over 90% of men have an enlarged prostate. If your prostate issues have been attributed to BPH, several natural options are available. Treatment options are usually centered on an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase. This enzyme leads to the conversion of testosterone into a more dangerous metabolite called Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). By reducing the conversion of testosterone into DHT, medications and natural medicines can help to reduce the severity of symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate. For this reason, stinging nettle root is a particularly interesting ingredient having been shown to be capable of reducing the activity of 5-alpha-reductase.[ii] Other ingredients with similar activities include beta-sitosterol,[iii] lycopene,[iv] and Pygeum.[v] Flower pollen extract has also been shown to be a powerful anti-inflammatory capable of reducing the symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate. Several formulas that combine ingredients that have been shown to benefit the prostate are available. Excellent options include Ultimate Prostate™, Prostate Health™ and Immuno-Care™.