Let’s never do that again: a decade of bad decisions

Detox juice cleanse promo
Detox juice cleanse promo

Let's never do that again: a decade of bad decisions

As the 2010s come to a close, itu2019s easy for us to look back on the way we lived. In the present, the decisions we made in the past can be questionable u2014 especially when it comes to advice about health and wellness.

Ah, wellness. Thereu2019s a word weu2019re going to ban from our vocabulary the moment the clock strikes midnight on New Yearu2019s Eve.

While u201cwellnessu201d may have started the decade as a way of optimizing our fitness routines, exploring alternatives cures, and investing in self-care, it has bloomed into a pseudoscience that promotes the myths of the diet industry. In the eyes of wellness, we need to invest large sums of money into dangerous, unproven cures and techniques that look great on social media and do nothing for our bodies. The wellness industry, from essential oils to extreme diets, prioritizes thinness as an outward display of health.

In the final days of 2019, letu2019s say NO to the irresponsible trends of the past decade.

But if we are rejecting so much, what should we be embracing? Here are some suggestions:

Nobodyu2019s life magically changes at the stroke of midnight and weu2019re all trying to get better. Letu2019s make positive steps by removing lies, hype, and hatred from how we get healthy this year and celebrate that we have as we get stronger, smarter, and kinder in the new year.

All the hype surrounding gluten-free eating? Forget about it

Gluten-free diets / image source: healthline.org

Gluten-free diets / image source: healthline.org

You know all the hype surrounding gluten-free eating? Forget about it

I think it’s fair to say that 2019 has been the year of the Keto diet. Keto products, apps that measure fat, cookbooks, and controversies have been top-of-mind in so many of my discussions with my clients. We talked about the keto diet and unpacked the way populate diets cycle through our culture. Coming behind the keto diet in terms of questions and interest is a gluten-free diet. Is a gluten-free diet the key to a healthier, happier you?

Gluten is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye, and a cross between wheat and rye called triticale. Gluten is to be avoided or removed from your diet if you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, dermatitis herpetiformis, or a gluten-sensitivity. Celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis are both autoimmune disorders and affect those who cannot digest gluten. A gluten-sensitivity is an allergic reaction to gluten, and individuals diagnosed with this experience symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and pain. For people who have these issues, a gluten-free diet will provide you with relief from the symptoms of these illnesses.

But what about the rest of us? Can we benefit from a reduction in gluten as well?

You know how we talked about trends like cleanses and detoxes that take your money and do little for you? Well, gluten-free is a $4 billion dollar business, being kept afloat by promises of wellness and weight loss. It’s a trendy diet and a quick fix. Why wouldn’t this industry promote the idea of gluten-free?

It won’t make you lose weight. Going gluten-free may mean that you will initially lose weight because you will be taking unhealthy carbohydrates (like cake, muffins, cookies, white bread, etc.) from your diet. There are far healthier and easier ways to lose weight than going gluten-free.

It isn’t a healthier way to eat. Cutting out wheat, rye, barley, and other grains that provide gluten eliminates some of the key sources of complex carbohydrates that we need in a balanced diet. You will also lose fibre, B vitamins, and folate. Gluten-free breads, cereals, and crackers may tend to be lower in fibre, are generally not fortified. Fortified products provide you with  iron, calcium, and vitamin D. Gluten-free products are often higher in sugar and fat to compensate for a loss of texture and flavour.

If you know anyone who suffers from a medically-diagnosed gluten issue, and finds tiniest taste of gluten triggering debilitating gastrointestinal discomfort, they will let you know that this is a time consuming, expensive, and restrictive diet.  Based on pseudo-science, trendiness, and consumerism, gluten-free is yet another way for us to remove important nutrients from our diets and celebrate quick fixes over long-term lifestyle changes.


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Matcha brings ritual and a myriad of health benefits. What’s not to like?

Matcha tea with spoon and whisk / image source: Oregon Sports News

Matcha tea with spoon and whisk / image source: Oregon Sports News

Matcha brings ritual and a myriad of health benefits. What’s not to like?

If you’ve been to a coffee shop or tea emporium recently, you’ve probably seen matcha on the menu. You may have even heard that matcha has more caffeine than coffee — yet is still incredibly healthy. From weight loss to cancer prevention, matcha is being hailed as a secret weapon to wellness.

Matcha is different from regular green tea. Instead of steeping the tea leaves in hot water, they are ground into a powder so you are actually consuming the leaf itself. Unlike traditional green tea, matcha preparation involves covering the tea plants with shade cloths before they’re harvested. This improves the flavour and texture of the leaves. The shade also increases the amount of chlorophyll content in the leaves, which is what makes them bright green and full of nutrients. Leaves are steamed to stop fermentation, dried, and aged in cold storage.

Is there any scientific proof that matcha can do everything from lowering blood pressure to increasing metabolism? There have been a number of studies that demonstrate that matcha can reduce cell damage and prevent chronic disease. This is due to the concentrated amount of antioxidants. Catechins, an antioxidant in matcha, may help reduce blood pressure — and is considered especially effective if your upper number is 130 or higher.

And what about the claim that matcha produces the boost of caffeine without the jitters? Because you’re consuming whole leaves, you may get three times as much caffeine than a cup of steeped tea — about the amount in a cup of brewed coffee. Matcha releases caffeine slowly in your bloodstream so you’re less likely to experience a sudden rush of energy … or the inevitable crash.

But is matcha tasty? Some people actually don’t enjoy drinking matcha because they find it grassy-tasting, grainy, and bitter. They may also find the texture, which can be paste-like, difficult to swallow. Others aren’t bothered by the taste and enjoy matcha in teas, lattes, smoothies, and even in energy balls.

If you are a tea lover or interested in trying match for its benefits, start by having a beverage prepared for you. If you like the taste, you can invest in a matcha whisk, frother, or maker (a tube where you can shake and then drain the tea through a sieve). These pieces are essential for making matcha at home because you cannot just add the powder to hot water. Matcha needs to be prepared. And for many people, it’s worth the ritual and the health rewards.


More superfood content

Protein snacks to give your workout an extra boost — or just keep you going

Healthy quinoa tuna bowl. Protein snacks are ideal for keeping up your energy / image source: wildamor.com

Protein snacks are ideal for keeping up your energy / image source: wildamor.com

Protein snacks to give your workout an extra boost — or just keep you going

We’ve talked about the power of protein and how it can help fuel your weight training workout.  Protein also helps decreases hunger, builds and maintains muscles, fortifies your bones, improves brain function, and aids your immune system.

But how much protein do you need a day? The amount depends on your lifestyle and your fitness goals. Current dietary guidelines suggest that adult men and women should consume between 10 and 35 percent of their total calories from protein. 

To fuel our workouts or just to combat against the 3 PM slump when we need an extra boost, we need protein to keep us thriving and on track. While grabbing a protein bar may feel like a good option, many of these products are just glorified candy bars and have misleading information on their wrappers. High in sugar or artificial sweeteners, high in calories, and even high in saturated fat, these on-the-go options are highly processed.

Instead of falling prey to one of these shiny bars, I recommend looking at whole food sources of protein that are portable and free from extra, unnecessary ingredients. Here are some easy high protein options:

  1. Mixed nuts. Can you imagine a list of high protein snacks without seeing mixed nuts on it? If you’re assembling this classic snack, focus on almonds and pistachios as they have a higher protein content than other options.
  2. Chia pudding. Chia seeds can be mixed with a beverage (usually almond milk) and refrigerated. The results are a filling, protein-rich pudding that fills you up and can provide you with up to 40% of your recommended daily fiber intake.
  3. Tuna. A small can of tuna fish contains 39 grams of protein. It also contains B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. Make sure the tuna is packed in water and not oil.
  4. Energy bites. There are so many recipes available online for these high protein, whole food treats. They are the perfect combination of protein, good carbs, healthy fats, and high in fiber.
  5. Jerky. If you avoid sodium- and sugar-filled varieties, the low-sodium or natural options are a great source of protein. There’s even vegan jerky that you can make.

From single servings of cottage cheese to greek yogurt, there are many alternatives to overly processed protein bars. Like most things, a little meal planning goes a long way — especially when it comes to healthy snacking.

Fueling your workout: what to eat before and what to eat afterward

Woman eating thin crust pizza / Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

Fueling your workout: what to eat before and what to eat afterward

I’ve heard so many different things about what to eat before, after, and during workouts that it can be complicated to figure out what’s the best strategy. In order to get the maximum benefit from your time at the gym, in a class, or on a run, you need to think about fuel. And not surprisingly, the fuel you choose is dependant on your goals. That means you need to consider the type of activity you are performing before selecting a snack. For example, you don’t need to carb-load before a pilates class!

Before a workout, it may be better to eat a meal that focuses more on protein and carbohydrates than fats. Protein can increase the amount of muscle mass gained from a resistance workout. Consuming the right amount and right kind of carbohydrates before a cardio-focused workout will ensure that your body has enough energy to perform well.

No matter what you eat, there’s technically no need to snack right before you exercise if your workout lasts less than 60 minutes. It won’t give you added energy — but it may keep you focused on your workout and off feeling hungry.

Timing is also important. Make sure you eat a meal or snack 30–90 minutes before you work out. This will reduce bloating. Working out on a very full stomach can lead to cramping and general uneasiness. While you don’t want to pass out from hunger when doing your squats, you also don’t want to feel like you’re going to throw up in downward dog.

But what about eating after a workout? During an exercise session, energy is depleted, muscle tissue is damaged, and fluids (along with electrolytes) are lost through sweat. Post-workout nutrients are essential and help stimulate protein synthesis to repair and build new muscle tissue and restore fluid and electrolyte balance.

You can use the intensity of your workout to determine the ratio of carbohydrate to protein in your post-workout meal. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends an endurance athlete consume a 300-400 calorie snack with a 3-to-1 carbohydrate to protein ratio within an hour of exercise completion. Low to medium intensity workouts are advised to follow a 2-to-1 carbohydrate to protein ratio, consumed within an hour and no longer than two hours after you exercise.

There are no real rules when it comes to fuel and exercise. Everyone is different but the key is to keep your pre- and post-workout snacks focused on protein and carbohydrates.

The Future of Fitness Explained: a primer on MCT oil and some of its supposed benefits

MCT oil in front of a coconut / Image source: Healthline

MCT oil in front of a coconut / Image source: Healthline

The Future of Fitness Explained: a primer on MCT oil and some of its supposed benefits

If you love to learn about new exercise and fitness trends, The Future of Fitness explains it to you in a way you can understand and separate the hype cycle from actual results.

You may have heard of MCT oil as the silver bullet to supercharge your exercise routine, brain power, weight loss, fight Alzeheimer’s disease, and decrease sugar cravings. It provides you with energy and puts you into ketosis (see The Future of Fitness Explained: The Keto Diet if you need a refresher on Ketones and Ketosis). But MCT oil has also been accused of causing unpleasant side effects and has been called an expensive health trend whose only effect is taking your money.

What is MCT oil? Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) are partially man-made fats. MCTs are made by processing coconut and palm kernel oils in the laboratory. Because of the shorter chain length of the fatty acids, MCTs are rapidly broken down and absorbed into the body. Unlike longer-chain fatty acids, MCTs go straight to the liver and can be used as an instant energy source or turned into ketones. Unlike regular fatty acids, ketones can cross from the blood to the brain. This provides an alternative energy source for the brain, which ordinarily uses glucose for fuel.

How can I use MCT oil? You can’t cook with MCT oil, owing to its low smoke point, which is far lower than most commonly used oils. It is most often taken as a dietary supplement. MCT oil is flavourless, tasteless, and colourless. This means it can be added to salads in dressings or used in beverages.

Does it work? MCT oil has been called a super fuel since your body absorbs MCTs more rapidly than long-chain triglycerides. They can be quickly broken down and they can be used as an immediate source of energy. This can create the mental sense of clarity that many people experience when using MCT oil. When it comes to weight-loss claims, some research suggests that replacing other dietary fats with MCT oil may be beneficial. However, MCT oil is high in calories. A tablespoon of MCT oil contains 14g of fat, 100% of which is saturated and 115 calories. Benefits like detoxification and improved athletic performance are supported by little, mixed, or no evidence.

Should I Try It? It’s very rare that I tell people to stay away from a product. But for some people, myself included, MCT oil can cause significant gastrointestinal distress. You might have seen the word “liver” in almost every paragraph of this summary. High doses of MCT oil may increase the amount of fat in your liver in the long term. That’s why MCT oil is not appropriate for people with liver damage or disease. If you have any liver or gallbladder issues, you should stay away from anything that includes MCT or uses the word “bulletproof” in its name or labelling.

If you know your health history and haven’t experienced these types of issues, you can consult with your doctor or see how your body reacts. If you feel uncomfortable, stop immediately.

More Information Please!

Try these links and get educated about the pros and cons of MCT oil:

Fake meat may be getting a lot of play, but is it healthy?

Fake meat or the real thing? This soy-based product can be made to "bleed" red just like animal flesh. Image source: Anthony Lindsay Photography/Impossible Foods

Fake meat or the real thing? This soy-based product can be made to "bleed" red just like animal flesh. Image source: Anthony Lindsay Photography/Impossible Foods

Fake meat may be getting a lot of play, but is it healthy?

This summer, fake meat went mainstream. It felt like every restaurant chain was boasting meat-free versions of their menu options. Products like The Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat moved confidently to the frozen food section. Even the most committed carnivores tried meat replacement burgers, chick’n fillets, and kale sausages. When products advertised themselves as reputable substitutes to meat, they emphasized their texture and taste. Like the Pepsi challenge of the 1980s, meat eaters were being fooled into accidentally eating vegan — and they weren’t complaining.

Veggie burgers have come a long way. Once constructed from peas, corn, and some sort of sawdust-like binding agent, it was rare to find a vegetarian option that didn’t need to be smothered in sauces to become edible. As soy products evolved with a societal demand, and we learned that being meat-free didn’t mean we were relegated to soft tofu, vegetarian brands became supermarket staples. For many people, the flexitarian lifestyle (eating a mostly vegetarian diet, occasionally including meat) is a healthy solution.

It’s rare that your vegan best friend will complain that they miss the taste and texture of beef or the crackle of chicken skin. When you think about it, meat replacement products that boast these attributes are geared towards the occasional meat eater. So if you love the taste of a burger, but find the sustainability of raising cattle hard to stomach, beefless alternatives are worth a try. Plant-based burgers use less water and generate less greenhouse gases.

But, let’s not lie to ourselves. A burger is a burger. And a burger, impossible or not, is not healthy. They contain mostly soy or wheat protein, as well as added preservatives, salt, flavourings, and fillers to enhance its taste, shelf life, and texture. The Impossible Burger has more sodium with 370 milligrams, or about 16 percent of the recommended daily ceiling versus 82 milligrams in a beef burger.

Would I recommend switching to these new meatless products for health? The simple answer is no. If you are sensitive to soy, salt, or wheat, these new burgers should be avoided. There are other alternatives, though they have not received the benefit of the buzz media cycle, that contain whole grains and legumes that would be a considerable alternative. They are the more traditional veggie burgers and contain less genetically modified and processed ingredients.

There’s nothing wrong with the occasional burger — be it beef, turkey, chicken, soy, or bean. While increasing options to suit all dietary restrictions is a positive step, we have to educate ourselves about our choices. We also have to be truthful and ask ourselves why are we deciding to eat something — is it for ethical reasons, or because we think it is better for us? By questioning the hype cycle, and becoming informed consumers, we can make better choices for ourselves and for the welfare of the planet.

Do you need to detox? Or just stop eating things that are bad for you?

Stock image to go with detox post / image source: psychologies.co.uk

Stock image to go with detox post

Do you need to detox? Or just stop eating things that are bad for you?

Toxins are everywhere. We’re constantly alerted to the fact pollution, chemicals, and poisonous substances surround us. From air quality alerts to the waxy substances on non-organic fruit, we are inundated with reminders of our compromised environment. A number of classes, products, websites, programs, and articles also urge us to eliminate the buildup of toxins in our bodies. Without taking action, we are putting our health in danger. But is there any truth to these threats? Is a detox an effective way to reset ourselves?

Our fear of toxins is at the heart of detox diets and products. And fear sells. In fact, many detox diets and products are harmful to the body and your well-being. Adding chemicals to your diet, paying for products that promote sweating or promise to pull impurities out through your feet are all quick fixes to a non-existent problem. The fact is you don’t need a cleanse or detox to rid yourself of toxins.

When we’re looking for a solution to a frightening problem, it’s easier to look outside of ourselves than knowing that our bodies are actually equipped with a detoxification system of their own. The skin, lungs, respiratory system, intestines, liver, and kidneys all work together to create barriers or eliminate toxins. And that popular myth that sweating eliminates toxins is just that — a myth.

Detox diets work because you are cutting calories. Removing food groups, limiting the intake of certain foods, eating at certain times of the day, or adding extra fibre can lead to gastrointestinal issues, low blood pressure, fainting, nausea, and fatigue. There is no research showing the positives of  any detox diets.

Instead of buying into the detox hype, start by removing processed foods from your diet and prioritizing exercise, hydratation, and sleep. Make choices to use quality ingredients (fresh or frozen) and whole grains in your cooking.

There are many ways to take care of yourself, physically and mentally. Using products that boast detoxifying properties or recommend unhealthy eating practices are a waste of money and potentially dangerous. Instead, I invite you to do an internet detox. It’s time to unfollow, unsubscribe, and delete content that promotes unrealistic, unhealthy, and costly solutions to an imaginary problem.

Don’t take bad habits on holiday: Three tips to keep vacations good for your health

Luxury seaside meal at Maldives resort. / Holidays can be a chance to enjoy exotic dishes -- better than overindulging familiar not-so-healthy fare.

Don’t take bad habits on holiday: Three tips to keep vacations good for your health

This post originally appeared March 18, 2019.

I remember being at an airport a couple of years ago and seeing a sign that made me laugh and think. “Vacation calories don’t count!” it exclaimed. For so many of us, vacations are a break from the routine. This doesn’t just include work but can extend to diet and exercise. We can see vacations as a free-for-all, a magical time period where calories don’t count and exercise is an inconvenience.

I get it. When on vacation, you want to indulge in the things that you normally wouldn’t touch when you’re at home. So how can you find a healthy balance? Here are three things you can do to make the most of your holiday while staying committed to maintaining your health goals:

Avoid the buffet — if possible

Whether you’re at an all-inclusive, on a cruise, or at a hotel, the lure of the buffet is an on-going temptation. Because of the choices on offer, it can be easy to go back and overindulge. But the days of the 99-cent buffet are long gone.  Today, buffets can be just as expensive as eating in a proper restaurant.

If a buffet is your only option, use smaller plates and focus on the foods you will really enjoy. Don’t look at a buffet as a FOMO experience — much of the same food will be available the following day. While there may be slight variations, by day two or three, you will know your buffet’s offerings by heart. Also, take advantage of the chefs to prepare fresh choices.

Eat local

As our world becomes increasingly commercial, it’s not surprising to see a familiar restaurant chain on the main street of your vacation destination. Instead of gravitating towards what you know, a holiday can be the opportunity to try something different and local. Find those little restaurants and eat like a local. This may require venturing off the resort, so get a recommendation from your hotel. People are eager to share their regional cuisine and culture. One of the best Chinese meals I ever had was in Cuba.

Eating local also means eating at different times of day. When in Spain, head out for dinner at 10 PM and don’t be afraid to ask questions as you peruse the menu. Eating is an adventure and while you might not like everything, you’ll definitely come home with one or two unexpected new dishes that you’ll be excited to incorporate into your routine.

Keep active

While you may not want to spend 30 minutes a day of your holiday on the treadmill at the hotel fitness centre, there are many ways to stay active on vacations. If you’re on a city break, walk as much as you can. You’ll see more and uncover hidden gems that you never thought you would experience. Walking immerses you in a new place and slows you down to take in your surroundings.

The same goes for exploring nature. Hiking, rock-climbing, zip-lining, discovering ruins, or paddling a canoe lets you experience different environments and landscapes — and reminds us all why we need to protect these places.

If you’re on a beach vacation, swimming can get your heart rate up. We’re not talking about mindless laps in the pool while dodging an unruly game of Marco Polo. Snorkelling can introduce you to a beautiful undersea world and the strange creatures that live there. Even walking along the beach provides resistance which can turn a leisurely stroll into an activity that raises your heart rate.

A vacation can be a break but it’s not an excuse to return to bad habits and destroy all your good work. By making sure that each indulgence is deliberate and taking the time to get some well-needed rest, you can come back home reinvigorated and ready to commit to yourself.

They’re berry good for you: Acai and goji and bil, oh my!

Goji berries / Image source: blog.nekterjuicebar.com

Handful of acai berries / Image source: Mayo Clinic News Network

They’re berry good for you: Acai and goji and bil, oh my!

Raspberries? Blueberries? Strawberries? Pffft. Been there, ate that.

I kid. I’m not really slagging them. Whatever your preference, berries typically deliver high amounts of Vitamin C, dietary fibre, and antioxidants. You see them in a wide variety of dishes from jams to juices to pancakes, where they add colour and a wide spectrum of flavours ranging from sweet to sour and beyond. Today we look at three lesser-known but ultra-healthy members of the berry family.

Acai berries and power / Image source: evolution-slimming.comAcai berries

Among the best known exotic berries, acai berries are native to the Brazilian Amazon region and are popular for their high  antioxidant content. In fact, they may contain up to ten times as much antioxidant polyphenols as blueberries. Acai berries have been linked to reductions in cholesterol levels and post-exercise oxidative stress.

Acai berry fans tout many other possible health benefits for these Brazilian berries, including heart and skin health, weight loss, energy boost, anti-aging properties, and more. And no list of possible health claims would be complete, of course, without references to the male libido; acai berries are said to help in this regard by promoting increased blood circulation. 

Acai berries are perishable, and thus are usually shipped frozen. They can be used in juices and powders and eaten with yogurt, cereals, and desserts.

Goji berries / Image source: blog.nekterjuicebar.comGoji berries

Traditionally used as a medicinal food in China, goji berries have a sweet taste tinged with a little sour and are often marketed in dried form. In addition to being potent sources of Vitamin A and copper, goji berries are high in  zeaxanthin, making them a powerful supplement to eye health. They also contain antioxidant polyphenols, which can protect against ultraviolet light. Other possible benefits include boosting the immune system and reducing the risk of cancer.

Some research draws links between goji berries and sexual performance, and even suggests that they can function as an alternative to medications such as Viagra.

Goji berries can be used in smoothies, yogurt, cereal, salads, and more. You can also enjoy them by the handful like raisins.

Fresh bilberries / Image source: linnea.chBilberries

Bilberries are similar to blueberries but are smaller, softer, and darker. They are good sources of fibre and Vitamin C, and are said to help reduce inflammation, blood sugar, and cholesterol. One study tied them to weight loss and reduced waist circumference. Other potential benefits include stronger blood vessels and better circulation, prevention of cell damage, possible reduction in blood glucose levels, and treating diarrhea and nausea. 

Like the other berries, bilberries are a good source of dietary antioxidants, manganese, zinc, and iron. Bilberry extract has been cited as an effective defense against a number of eye problems, including some tied to aging. The fruit is also said to have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.

Bilberries can be used in preserves, pies, jams, and tarts. The juice can be enjoyed straight or used as the basis for liqueurs and syrups. Even the leaves can be used to brew tea!

Bottom line

Like their better-known cousins, today’s berries pack a healthy punch. They’re low in calories but high in fibre, and excellent sources of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. And their lively flavours can help reduce cravings for sugary snacks. In short, there are berry good reasons to make them part of your daily diet!

Disclaimer: this site is not offering professional medical or nutritional advice. If you have questions about these foods and your health, ask your family doctor or a qualified nutritionist.