BODY: The Truth Behind the Gluten-Free Movement

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I’ve been meaning to write this post ever since someone came up to me about a year ago at the grocery store where I was working and asked me, “What aisle is your gluten-free popcorn in?”

It’s time to shed a bit of light on the “gluten-free” diet fad. Before the last few years, the only people who were following a strict gluten-free diet fell into two categories; those suffering from Celiac disease, and those with a wheat allergy.

Celiac disease is a digestive ailment which causes the small intestine to halt the absorption of nutrients from food when gluten is ingested; as a result people who suffer from this infliction cannot properly digest the gluten protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Not only is gluten found in foods but it is often added to medicine, vitamins, supplements and beauty products. Approximately 1 in 133 people suffers from celiac disease – not exactly enough to justify the 450 million dollar gluten-free market that exists in North America today.

When a person who suffers celiac disease ingests gluten, the intestine essentially shuts down and refuses to absorb nutrients from food. As a result, malnourishment, anemia and osteoporosis are often possible with sufferers of this disease. There are also those who suffer from wheat allergy, which causes an anti-body response and sparks rashes, hives and sometimes anaphylaxis.

The current trend is sparking a sub-group of people who avoid gluten and can be categorized as people suffering from “non-celiac gluten sensitivity.” Unfortunately I feel the rise in declaring yourself gluten-free has been sparked from a lot of hype from celebrities and not a lot of fact – enter my Popcorn Princess anecdote.

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While I will not discredit those who are sensitive to gluten, most nutritionists will agree that even those who find themselves uncomfortable after eating certain wheat products can typically ingest one serving of gluten per day and feel fine. Most foods do not contain gluten: any food made from a grain (i.e. all forms of corn and rice), most dairy products as well as beans and legumes.

The only places you will find gluten lurking is in wheat products; cakes, cereals, pasta, couscous, bread, barley, malt, rye and beer. Any processed food may contain a wheat by-product or have come in contact with one while being manufactured. The simplest way to avoid any digestion upsets is to follow an unprocessed vegetarian diet… Although I may be biased.

Is gluten actually crap? In moderation, no. While many find themselves losing weight when adopting a gluten free diet it is most likely because they have cut out a heavy-carb food group (bread and pasta, for example) and have failed to substitute it with a healthy, gluten-free alternative. In this case, you may be losing weight, but you are ultimately depriving your body of the carbohydrates it needs to function. By the same token, any postive changes you see in regards to your health after cutting out gluten-laden products may be due to eliminating crappy foods that just so happen to contain gluten, i.e. anything heavily processed and laden with chemicals, fat, excess carbohydrates and not much else.

Over-eating anything will cause symptoms – instead of cutting out your baguette sandwich immediately, instead try reducing your gluten intake and see how you feel. If nothing else, do your research. Paying extra for gluten-free foods that are naturally gluten-free is ridiculous! Above all, my favourite health mantra is this – everything in moderation.

Namaste,

AS

 

For more information please visit:

http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/celiac/

http://healthydebate.ca/2014/07/topic/non-celiac-gluten-sensitivity

BODY: Grilled Avocado

BODY: Grilled Avocado

Have I mentioned my slight (read: all-consuming, literally) obsession with avocados?

I love them. I eat them daily, use them for face masks and hair masks, and would happily run away to live on an avocado farm for the rest of my life.

Aside from adding avocado to sandwiches and salads, last summer I discovered the mouth-watering appeal of the grilled avocado.

Easiest meal ever: half the avocado, remove the pit, place both halves in tin foil. Drizzle some coconut oil and add any seasoning you like. I add the Clubhouse Cajun mix, even though it’s full of sodium because it tastes So.Damn.Good.

Toss it in the oven (350 degrees) or on the BBQ for 10-15 until the top has browned and it’s sizzling.

I eat it out of the skin using multigrain crackers like Wheat Thins, but you can serve in with tortilla chips, pita, or whatever you like!

Some health benefits of avocado include:

Healthy Fats: While you might be tempted to shy away from avocados because they are high in fat, (three quarters of the calorie count), have no fear! Avocados contain monounsaturated fat which has been proven to reduce bad cholesterol and lower your risk of stroke & heart disease.

Vitamins & Minerals: Avocados contain Potassium, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and B Vitamins to keep your inner and outer appearance healthy & glowing!

Dietary Fiber: Avocados contain approximately 11 grams of fiber, which is half of your daily quota.

Waist Not, Want Not: People who eat avocado on a regular basis have been shown to have a lower body weight, BMI and waist circumference than those who don’t.

Clean Body, Clean Mind: Avocados contain glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that helps fight free radicals in the body. It also boosts the immune system, prevents dementia, slows the aging process (!!!) and encourages a healthy nervous system.

F*ck Cancer: Avocados are rich in phytochemicals which have been reported to prevent certain cancers. The chemopreventative characteristics of avocados show that they offer a dietary advantage in the prevention of cancer.

Try it now!
Namaste,
AS

BODY: The Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

On several of the fitness blogs I follow on social media, I’ve recently seen a huge spike in the mention of apple cider vinegar to obtain weight loss and overall better health. I began to question whether it actually lives up to the hype, especially for the purpose of digestion problems, of which I’ve noticed I’ve been getting increasingly as I change my diet.

Apple cider vinegar has been credited with assisting in diabetes, heart health, high cholesterol, weight loss, poor digestion and metabolism.  Apple cider vinegar, affectionately referred to as ACV, is most effective when unpasteurized or organic, as it contains “the mother” of vinegar, which makes it thicker and amber colored.

What has it been proved to actually do? I had to find out if this “miracle” tonic is the one thing missing from my health and fitness regime.

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After reading up on apple cider vinegar, I decided to purchase some of my own. Numerous sites claim Bragg’s is the best brand available, but really any organic brand so long as it contains “the mother,” makes it effective. Most common cupboards do not contain the right type of apple cider vinegar. Living in Canada, I was a little worried I would have to trek to Whole Foods, however I found it easily in Loblaw’s organic section – $6.99 for a litre of organic ACV.

Please take note! Apple cider vinegar is HIGHLY acidic. Make sure you mix one or two tablespoons into 500ml of water. If the concentrate of ACV is too high, it will actually erode your enamel and your esophagus. Please be careful – never take “healthy shots” of pure apple cider vinegar unless you want your mouth to singe off. Not fun! Not healthy! Make sure to dilute before drinking.

What can it do? ACV has been credited with the following:

  • Stomach/intestinal problems: Mix a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar into water, (I prefer hot water), and drink promptly. Thanks to its antibiotic properties, if your problem is bacterial the ACV will help clear it up immediately.
  • Prevents indigestion: Adding 1 teaspoon of honey and 1 tablespoon of ACV to a glass of warm water and drink it 30 minutes before you eat any potentially problematic meals. It will help ease the foods transition through your digestion. When added to salads and vinaigrettes, it can help reduce bloating, gas, and heartburn.
  • Diabetes: ACV helps in maintaining blood sugar levels! Non-diabetics can benefit from this as well, because insulin will not direct sugar to be stored as fat. It also slows down starch digestion, which helps lower glucose levels in the bloodstream.
  • Clear skin: Apple cider vinegar is a powerful astringent and antiseptic. It can help in prevention and treatment of acne.
  • Helps sore throats and sinus problems: The minute you feel a sore throat, drink ACV! The acidic environment created by the drink will kill most germs. Mix 1 teaspoon of ACV with 1 cup of water and gargle occasionally.
  • Helps beat exhaustion: Exercise and stress can cause a buildup of lactic acid in the body, resulting in fatigue and lingering exhaustion. The amino acids that are present in ACV act as an antidote. Not only that, but they also contain potassium and enzymes that relieve fatigue. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons to a glass of water and chug!
  • Protects against cancer: ACV contains beta-carotene, which has antioxidant properties that fight damage from free radicals. It can help protect against cancer and boost the immune system.

I started drinking my ACV drinks about two weeks ago, and I can see small changes in my health. I tried drinking it cold, mixed in with water and a small amount of fruit juice, but initially even a 1 tablespoon to 500ml water mix was too strong! The organic ACV has a powerful, overwhelming taste and it takes some time to get used to it. Try mixing it with small amount of honey or apple juice until you become accustomed to the taste.

I now drink it first thing in the morning when I wake up, because, much like hot water with lemon juice, it is excellent for flushing out your system and jumpstarting your metabolism. It helps by stimulating circulation and aids in detoxification of the liver. It also helps cleanse your body by breaking up mucus throughout the body and cleansing the lymph nodes to allow for better lymph circulation. A healthy lymphatic system can remove toxins from the cells in the body while improving immune system response. When I wake up I add two tablespoons of ACV to a medium sized mug and drink it like tea as I get ready. Wait thirty minutes after drinking before you have breakfast, so it can work its way through your system. This will cleanse your body each morning and help you control cravings. As with any detox process, I did notice I initally had some cramping and breakouts, but after a few days it passed! I find drinking this mixture in the morning has helped me cut coffee and energy drinks out of my diet – an added bonus.

BODY: Benefits of Smoothies

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Lean, Mean… Green?

I’m a huge advocate of smoothies as a “meal” replacement, and here’s why – using the ever efficient Magic Bullet, I can blend several complete servings of vegetables, fruits, protein, carbs and fats together to make a delicious meal on the go! I’m guilty of being perpetually late, so smoothies are a godsend on mornings when I wake up with barely enough time to find a matching outfit, let alone make oatmeal and coffee.

I’m current adding ProGreens+ Vegan Smoothie powder to my smoothies, but I generally don’t recommend adding any type of substitute – let your foods do the work for you.  Diet supplements are typically a waste of money as you can find all nutrients in your food. With my current job I find I’m hungry very easily (and all the time) so the protein tends to keep me full longer. Fun fact – it can take your body over a day to completely digest 25 grams of protein!

Buying a Magic Bullet, or any juicer/food processor, is an absolute must for anyone looking to eat healthy. Smoothies allow you to experiment with all the foods in your kitchen to produce one SUPERMEAL.

As of late, my smoothies are consisting of lots of greens, (think kale, spinach, celery, broccoli), lots of fruit, (namely blueberries, bananas, raspberries, strawberries, mango), and a serving of protein (soy milk or Greek yogurt). Adding fresh juice, especially the Bolthouse brand, for a more “liquid” smoothie is also amazing.

My smoothies are my wonder food! After a light breakfast (fruit) I wait until I get to work and drink this nutritional powerhouse. Although my ingredients vary depending on what is in my fridge, I can rest assured I am getting copious amounts of Vitamin A, iron, fiber, antioxidants, calcium, Vitamin C, protein, potassium, Vitamin B – all in just one meal!

I also find by substituting a meal for a smoothie, it takes me longer to eat, and therefore it is easier for my body to digest. I’m guilty of cramming my face the minute food is in front of me so by drinking a smoothie, I’m forced to pace myself.

Start off by substituting one meal a day with a smoothie. Notice how your body adapts to the surplus of vitamins and minerals you are providing. Introducing smoothies to your diet is also a great way to ease your body into a detox.

Not sure where to start? Google “GREEN SMOOTHIE” and modify to your needs.

BODY: Quinoa Love Affair

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I have an obsession with quinoa. It is replete with health benefits and is one of the most protein-rich foods available. It is a complete protein, carrying all nine essential amino acids, which makes it excellent for vegetarians & vegans. It also packs a healthy dose of fibre, which helps prevent heart disease and lower cholesterol. Quinoa contains iron, which helps carry oxygen throughout our body, increases brain function and aids in energy metabolism. It is rich in magnesium, which helps relax blood vessels and alleviates migraines. Magnesium may also benefit Type 2 diabetes by helping maintain a healthy blood sugar level.

Not only does it do all of this for your body, but you can use quinoa for everything; it can be a substitute for high calorie/carbohydrate sources such as rice and pasta, it can be used to make patties, “veggieloafs”, and you can use it in lieu of oatmeal and top it with fresh berries for breakfast. There’s a reason it is hailed as a superfood!

I personally love quinoa salad during summer months. It’s light and refreshing, and fills you up without weighing you down (or bloating you during bikini season).

This recipe can use either plain or red quinoa, although I prefer the red quinoa because the texture and taste complements the ingredients better.

To cook quinoa, follow the same rules as cooking rice. Make sure you measure the dry quinoa, remembering the proportion of dried quinoa to cooked quinoa is about 1:3, so 1 cup dry yields approximately 3 cups cooked.

Rinse and drain the quinoa, then put the rinsed quinoa in a pot of water using a ratio of 1 cup quinoa, 2 cups water. Put in some salt to taste if you’d like. Cover and bring to a boil, once it boils, turn the heat down to simmer and leave the lid slightly ajar. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until water is absorbed and quinoa is soft. If the quinoa is tender but there’s excess water, turn off the boiler but leave the quinoa uncovered for another 5 minutes until it is absorbed.

Once your quinoa is cooked, set it aside and prep your fruits and veggies! I use grape tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, avocado, green onion, red onion and garlic. Use whatever amount appeals to you, but the more veggies the better.

As for dressing, I prefer making my own so I know exactly what is going into it, and so it’s fresh! For the dressing, I use roughly three tablespoons of Dijon mustard, a la France, 1 teaspoon of olive oil and 1 and a half teaspoons red wine vinegar. Modifying this per taste, and per serving size, if you want a stronger mustard taste or not. Mix all of this together, either in a large serving bowl or per meal.