BODY: Matcha Made in Heaven

Matcha’s popularity over the last few years has remained constant in a health industry that is perpetually on the hunt for the next superfood supplement. Much like the rise of drinks containing the detoxifying properties of chlorophyll, charcoal and turmeric, many cafés now offer matcha teas, lattes and baked goods. Matcha powder is incredibly versatile so you can add it to your diet in the form of tea, smoothies, coffee or cake.

Similar to green tea, matcha is derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, however the extra benefits come from the way it is grown. Matcha tea plants are covered 20-30 days before harvest to shield them from direct sunlight; by doing this, the chlorophyll production is increased and boosts the amino acid content which gives the plant a darker green colour and vastly increases its nutrient benefits.

Matcha contains nutrients from the entire tea leaf, rendering a greater level of caffeine and antioxidants than you would typically find in green tea. Some scientific studies have shown that matcha can help protect the liver, promote heart health and assist in weight loss.

Much like green tea, matcha is rich in catechins: a specific class of plant compound that acts as a natural antioxidant and is commonly found in tea, cocoa and berries. By consuming a healthy amount of natural antioxidants, you can help your body stabilize free radicals, which are the potentially harmful compounds that can damage your cells and cause disease. By adding matcha powder to hot water and make a tea, you actually release more catechins than steeping green tea leaves in water. The result is a high-power antioxidant rich (and caffeinated) drink!

Matcha has been shown to help protect the liver from damage; our livers are responsible for flushing out toxins, metabolizing drugs and processing nutrients so it’s vital we keep them running smoothly. One study gave diabetic rats matcha for 16 weeks and found that it prevented damaged to the kidneys and liver. Another study was conducted using green tea extract and showed that after 12 weeks the liver enzyme levels were reduced; elevated levels can be a sign of liver damage.

In studies using test tubes and rats, green tea extract (similar to matcha) was found to decrease tumor size and slowed the growth rate of breast cancer cells in rats. Matcha in particular is high in EGCG, a type of catechin that has been shown to have powerful anti-cancer properties. One test tube study found that the EGCG in matcha helped kill off prostate cancer cells; other test-tube studies show that EGCG is effective against skin, lung and liver cancer. While further testing is necessary to determine the effectiveness in humans, the initial results are promising.

Consuming matcha has been shown to help protect against heart disease and reduce levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) as well as triglycerides. When combined with a healthy diet and exercise, using matcha may help heart health and increase protection against heart disease and stroke, one of the leading causes of death for people over the age of 35.

Most weight-loss supplements use green tea extract; it has been shown to help speed up metabolism and increase fat burning. A review of 11 different studies showed that green tea reduced body weight and also helped maintain weight-loss. Given the higher efficiency of matcha in all other areas, it is likely to render the same results. (1)

Some tests have shown that by consuming roughly 4 grams of matcha may help enhance brain function. A 2017 study in Food Research showed that people who drank matcha tea experienced an increase in attention and processing speed an hour later, benefits which strongly outweigh drinking tea or coffee. This increase in attention, alertness and memory is likely due to matcha’s L-Theanine (a polyphenol called EGCG) and the higher concentration of caffeine. The L-Theanine also helps extended wakefulness without an energy crash, while boosting alpha brain wave activity to help decrease stress levels. Splurging on a matcha latte every now and again could be the solution to the afternoon slump. (2)

While the benefits of supplementing your diet with matcha are many, as with any health supplement, moderation is key: liver problems have been reported in individuals who drank 6 or more cups of green tea per day. This equals about two cups of matcha tea, given its higher concentration. Adding 4 grams of matcha to your diet a few times a week until you get used to it is a great start. Matcha is easily found in many health food stores, grocery stores, and online. My local grocery store carries matcha and I have been adding it to smoothies and oatmeal with great results; I’m less likely to crave or need coffee on days I supplement with matcha. As with anything, make sure the supplement is right for you before incorporating it on a regular basis.

Citations:
1. Link, Rachel. “7 Proven Ways Matcha Tea Improves Your Health.” Healthline, 10 Oct. 2017, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-benefits-of-matcha-tea.
2. Gainsburg, Marissa. “9 Benefits of Matcha Tea That Will Make You Want To Drink It Every Day.” Womens Heath Mag, 22 Apr. 2019, https://www.womenshealthmag.com/food/a27127259/matcha-powder-benefits/.

MIND: Amazonia

Forests and meat animals compete for the same land. The prodigious appetite of the affluent nations for meat means that agribusiness can pay more than those who want to preserve or restore the forest.

We are, quite literally, gambling with the future of our planet – for the sake of hamburgers.

Animal Liberation // Peter Singer

BODY: Ameliorate

It is inevitable that every time a New Year rolls around we get sucked into the marketing vortex of “New Year, New Me” and all the health supplements, workout clothes and gym memberships that are sold as the complete package of health.

I guess, “New Year, Same Lazy Piece of Shit” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Saying that, while it is noble to implement health goals at the start of each year, more often than not we set ourselves up for disaster. More than half of people who set New Year’s goals backslide within the first month, sometimes giving up on themselves altogether. While roadblocks occur in the pursuit of any dream, I think it is crucial to stay focused on the bigger picture.

Personally, I think setting highly specific goals, while initially effective, can become the bane of your existence, especially for weight loss. Focusing steadfastly on a “goal weight” will make you more likely to cut calories (or entire food groups) and resort to over-exercising and under-eating. Less emphasis should be placed on the number and more on the quality of your health and the way your body feels. Aches, pains, inflammation and rashes are all signs that your body is off-balance and through a healthy diet and exercise you can often alleviate or even eliminate these symptoms.

As I get older and more in tune with my body, I start to realize how sensitive my system is and the importance of good nutrition. While in my early party days I was able to indulge in all manner of vices (i.e. booze, party candy, and post-party Cora’s trips) without feeling too much damage the next day. Now… A few drinks and the next morning I can feel my body running at a sluggish pace. As such, I’m looking to significantly cut down, and by all means eliminate, my alcoholic intake over the next few years. As my Brit preaches ad nauseam, “Every extra drink robs you of happiness the next day.” I’ll cheers to that.

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Happy New Years Eve = Not So Happy Morning

Looking forward to the rest of 2016, I’m taking note of how I feel more self-aware of my body than in previous years. As such, my goals for this year are to give my body the nutrients and self-care it needs, while also setting and reaching the new goals I want to put into place. One huge drawback to working in Canada during the winter is that I find it is typically too cold to run outside, however I’ve substituted my long running route in Spain for a membership to IAM Yoga and Wynn Fitness, both of which are located quite close to my office. Having a pre- or post-office workout gives a bit of a jump start to each day.

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Exercise Gives You Endorphins = Endorphins Make You Happy

I’ve swapped my carb-heavy Spanish breakfast of olive-oil on thick whole wheat bread for a super-charged “Green Smoothie” (complete with spinach, flax, mango, banana, dates and a splash of chlorophyll) to start my day. My lunch is now more than half pure vegetables, as is my dinner. As a perpetual vegetarian and sometimes vegan, I have the tendency to lean towards carbo-loading every meal. By planning my meals at least a day in advance (and including some fresh fruit for snacks) I eliminate the risk of becoming hangry or splurging on something sweet.

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Lean, Mean… Green?

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Cold Pressery in Mississauga, ON. Easily One Of The Best Places For Vegan Food!

In the next few months I will have to adjust yet again to living in a new country (!!!!) and being 100% accountable for my budget and lifestyle choices. I think getting accustomed to a regime where I incorporate healthy eating, consistent workouts and a full-time job will make the transition a bit easier. I hope to run my first half-marathon by the end of the year, and what better place to accomplish that feat than Europe?

Good luck & good workout.

AS

 

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.

cyrus

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: The Benefits of Chlorophyll

It’s time to talk about my favourite nutrition supplement du jour.

Since completing my über hippie soul-searching Euro-trip I’ve begun to focus on an all-natural lifestyle approach. As a result, I have started supplementing my diet with liquid chlorophyll.

Before I discovered the numerous health benefits it bestows upon humans, my only knowledge of chlorophyll was my rudimentary Grade 12 Bio class – chlorophyll is food for plants. As it turns out, we can reap numerous health benefits from ingesting chlorophyll on a daily basis!

The construction of chlorophyll is almost identical to the molecule hemoglobin, which our bodies need to build and transport red blood cells; as a result it helps transport oxygen throughout the body. The only difference between hemoglobin and chlorophyll boils down to the centre atom; within hemoglobin the centre atom is iron while in liquid chlorophyll the center atom is magnesium. Magnesium is excellent for the body as it helps deliver oxygen to cells, tissues, bones, nerves and muscles. Not only that – nearly the entire body (cardiovascular system, digestive system, nervous system, brain, muscles, kidneys, liver, hormone-secreting glands) requires magnesium for metabolic function!

Due to its structure chlorophyll is an excellent antioxidant aid. With high levels of Vitamin A, C and E chlorophyll has been shown to lower inflammation within the body while removing excess toxins and waste. Its ability to bind to heavy metals such as mercury gives it a strong healing power.

Digestive problems? Adding a tablespoon of chlorophyll to water, juice or a smoothie two times per day can help promote a healthy digestive tract. As a result, it also helps combat bad breath stemming from an unhealthy bloodstream or colon.

Personally I prefer liquid chlorophyll because I am guaranteed 150mg per serving and it’s easy to add to smoothies on a busy day. However, there are loads of foods you can add to your daily diet to start improving your health such as: asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green cabbage, celery, collard greens, green beans, green peas, kale, leeks, green olives, parsley, romaine lettuce, sea vegetables, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnip greens.*

Since incorporating more greens into my diet I’ve noticed my energy levels improving in the morning – an impressive feat considering I have substituted a green smoothie instead of coffee!

If you aren’t ready to commit to liquid chlorophyll (it costs $26 for 1L of liquid, which lasts about a month) then start adding fresh or steamed greens to your meals!

When in doubt, GO GREEN.

Namaste,

AS

*Read more at http://naturalrevolution.org/untapping-the-secrets-of-chlorophyll/#Mi70ACi8W8GuDpKc.99

 

SOL: Falafel & Wine

SOL: Falafel & Wine

Blew through my budget shockingly quickly while in Barcelona… I should have brought more cash with me! As it is my dinner funds were slightly strapped – thankfully we managed to find $3 falafel and $4 bottles of rose. Priorities!

Breakfast is included at Urbany Barcelona and then I have enough cash set aside for lunch on the street and some fresh fruit for the train back to Perpignan.

We walked around for five hours today exploring the city and getting a taste of Barcelona life. Tomorrow we’ll loop around the port and visit the Gothic district before getting on the 4pm train back to our host’s house.

It’s been a whirlwind trip so far, but it’s exciting and it reminds me why I love traveling.

Safe travels,
AS

SOL: Running in the Mountains and Sunday Roast

SOL: Running in the Mountains and Sunday Roast

Sunday was spent in a state of semi-relaxation. We managed to finish all the morning tasks fairly early on and then did some gardening until lunch.

Afterwards we drove to a local street market which is essentially a city-wide thrift store. Overall it was a bunch of random junk, but there were some cool old trunks and vintage furniture that would have been nice to buy. Alas, I only walked away with two new scarves.

Afterwards I sat by the pool and finished reading The Alchemist and then decided to go for a run. It’s so beautiful running here and I’m continuously stopping to look at the mountains and the view. Naturally I got lost and I’m fairly certain my legs will be dead tomorrow.

Sunday dinner is consistently modeled after a “Vegan Roast” and we ate garlic-roasted potatoes, pea soup, cauliflower, oat loaf, homemade bread and cake. Namua’s cooking is going to kill me; not to mention the pitcher of wine that we manage to go through every evening.

French living is truly in a league of its own.

AS

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.