Best Ever Green Smoothie

So fall is here and I haven’t posted in MONTHS.  The reason?  Well, aside from being busy, the motivation to post when you don’t feel like what you’re providing to others is either new or well done, starts to fall away.  However, recently I began a bit of a revival.  And it all started with Angela Liddon’s Oh She Glows.  I went WAAAY back in her posts (starting at the very last one) and looked through her progression as a person, in her purpose for having a blog, and in her photography.  She wrote for many years, hundreds of posts, initially as a health and beauty blog.  You can see her transition into veganism and eventually the transition of her health and beauty blog into a full blown vegan food blog.  Not to insult her, but compared to her new photos, her older photos are pretty dull and a bit uninspiring.  Which is why it was so great to comb through those hundreds of posts and see her blog develop into what it is today.  What inspired me was knowing that she was just a woman putting stuff out there like so many other people.  I have no idea how many people were following her posts at the time, but the comments sections only had around 20-30 per post.  Since I have a total of 0 people following me, it was just awesome to know that at some point she was in the same position as I am and kept posting.  She even went through a period of not knowing where to go with Oh She Glows and asking her followers to provide feedback about what to do.  Who would have thought????

So, with the inspiration that Angela provided me to just post regardless of how many followers you have, or how many people look at your website, or not even knowing exactly what you’re doing, I provide today’s post.  I didn’t think when I started this website that it would provide much food related content, but I have been so inspired by it throughout the last year that I’m just going to throw up whatever and hopefully at some point someone may find a post helpful or informative. Or I may just be posting to the blank open space of the internet.  Who really cares though, right?

Green Smooth_Perpetual Flow

This is a recipe for my all time favorite smoothie.  I’m not one to make only fruit smoothies because I love thinking I’m getting some veggies into my body without really knowing it.  So, I don’t make many ‘colorful’ smoothies because they always end up green.  However, in terms of the green kind, this one is my favorite.

Ingredients:

1 banana

1/2 to 1 cup pineapple

1 handful spinach

1 cup water

1/2 cup ice cubes

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 Tbsp chia seeds

1 Tbsp flax meal

1 tsp spirulina

1 tsp maca

1/2 tsp tumeric powder

Instructions: Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  The great thing about spinach is that even in a cheap blender it blends up smooth so you don’t get chunks of leaf in your mouth.

There are so many other things you could add if you wanted that would be delicious.  I like adding fresh ginger or subbing coconut water for the regular water.  Experiment and see what you like best.  I just love this basic one because you can’t taste the spinach so the pineapple flavour really stands out.  Too many times I’ve made a smoothie with one fruit or another and I can’t taste the fruit because it’s too delicate a flavour compared to kale, swiss chard, or dandelion greens.

I most commonly make this for breakfast, but you could also pour into smaller bottles for pre- or post-workout drinks or even just to fill in the afternoon low that comes during work. It makes for an amazing snack and kids will love it (except if they hate anything green, then there are no guarantees).

I hope you all have a wonderful time experimenting with this yourselves.

DIY Bathroom Scrub

Since cleaning up my act in terms of food, there has been a natural progression towards being more concerned about other types of products in my life. I’m still trying new types of bathroom products and cosmetics, but the big things that I’m now moving towards are more natural DIY cleaning products.  I’ve found that not only do they work well but they work out to be far cheaper AND I don’t have to worry about chemicals in the house.  I can’t remove all chemicals but my hope is to minimize them as much as I can.

My favorite new product is a bathroom scrub.  I’m embarrassed to say that I used to use Scrubbing Bubbles brand to clean my shower/tub.  It smelled like chemicals but did work. So, moving forward I needed to find a natural bath scrub that actually worked.  Here it is folks…the wonder of wonders bathroom scrub.  I swear by this stuff!  It’s not very abrasive so I haven’t found that it scratches anything yet.  I’ve used it for many different purposes including cleaning the toilet.  I usually use a vinegar-based bathroom cleaner (recipe to come) on faucets just to be on the safe side.

Most or all of the ingredients you can buy at your local grocery store.

bathroom scrub

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup baking soda

1/4 cup liquid castile soap (you can use whatever scent you like best.  I use unscented so that I can add my own – see below)

1 tablespoon hydrogen peroxide

1 jar or container

Optional:

~10 drops of tea tree oil

~10 drops of any other essential oils you might like.  I like adding orange or lemon.

Mix all the ingredients together and put into the container of your choice.  The only tip necessary is to leave room in your container (about 2 inches from the top) because this mixture expands.  Make sure to tighten the lid to prevent it from drying out.  However, if it does dry out, just add a little water and it’ll be as good to use as when you first made it.

Let me know where you use it or if you have any other handy tips!

The Hardest Thing To Do Is To Do Nothing

My life has been a continual series of changes lately. I recently moved to a different city, started a new job, created a new home, have been meeting new people, have run on new trails, and generally have just been lost a lot of the time. I’ve been enjoying a lot of the change but unfortunately the mindset of staying ‘present’ has been falling by the wayside in certain aspects of my life.

Last year I started a meditation practice. I didn’t (and still don’t) go to a meditation center or sit in an uncomfortable cross-legged position. I don’t take an hour or more each day to meditate and I definitely don’t get up early to do it while the sun is rising (although in BC that’s happening fairly late now so I guess I could). What I have tried to do is meditate at night for 15 minutes before bed. I even do it lying down in bed because it’s when I’m the most relaxed and afterwards I can just fall straight to sleep. Why did I start this practice? I had heard about a really great beginners app for meditation and challenged myself to try it for 30 consecutive days. Well, the old adage that routine comes from repetition worked. I actually started to look forward to meditating each night (which surprised even me)!

I had repeatedly heard about the benefits of meditation during a time in my life when I had found myself really stressed out. I was hoping that taking some time to myself in which I wasn’t ‘thinking’ I would be able to solve some of my problems and help deal with some of my anxiety. I have to admit that it was not the easiest thing to start doing even though I had dabbled in it a few years before.  I can tell you that I didn’t feel anything immediately. Even after a few months of being pretty consistent I couldn’t tell you how meditation had changed me. I did know that I looked forward to doing it. It was only when others noticed change in me that I was able to recognize that changes had happened, but in different ways than I had originally expected.   When I stood back and looked within myself I realized that I had become more patient, less prone to feeling stressed and anxious, and more aware of my feelings and those of others. There was no defined moment during meditation where the solution to my life’s problems had become clear, but what had happened was that I had begun to feel better able to cope with the problems that do exist as well as those that will assuredly happen to me in the future.

I also found that falling asleep became much easier. No tossing and turning being unable to shut off the thoughts that kept me awake. It became so easy just to slip into sleep. A number of my family members have also used this app and have found it very helpful to reduce stress and anxiety. I have yet to get my mom to try, stubborn as she is, but I swear it would help even her.

I have no affiliation with this app (it’s called Headspace), just a desire to tell people about the fact that there’s an easy, practical, and unintimidating way to meditate in the comfort of your own home. Being guided through meditation prevents anyone who wants to learn how to meditate, from sitting for 20 minutes in complete silence with a bunch of thoughts whizzing around in your head. You end up on a journey without feeling lost or frustrated with meditation.

I truly think that meditation is a fantastic addition to daily life. As difficult (or easy) as it might seem, it’s both easier and harder than that. But for all the time you think you’re wasting by meditating, try even 10 minutes a day and I swear you’ll enjoy benefits that far outweigh the time it takes to do. Think of it as equal in importance to getting regular exercise and eating right. It is something already proven to decrease stress, blood pressure, and reduce anxiety.

There is also an awesome website called zen habits written by Leo Babauta that I swear reduces anxiety and stress just by spending the time reading it.  The website is so simple you breathe easier just looking at it.  If you just have a few minutes to unwind or are struggling at work to focus, visit zen habits, take a few deep breathes and you’ll feel so much better.

Diets make me crazy!

I have a pet peeve and it’s the word diet. I feel like fad-diets are thought of as ways to help you ‘hack’ your life and end up thin, popular, rich, and healthy. Fad-diets to me are just temporary band-aids by which ‘doctors’ or ‘experts’ take money from those of us who just want to be healthier and feel good. And who wants to be throwing money at someone who almost always makes us more confused about what is healthy? Based on looking at the number of books in the Food and Health section of your local bookstore, healthy fats, minimizing carbohydrates, eating only meat, taking pills, juicing or fasting, cheat days, ketosis or doing all of them at the same time is the way to a healthier you. There is no possible way we can keep up with the myriad of information bombarded on us and make any sense out of it at all. It becomes insanely confusing, made worse only by the fact that marketing and branding sends us mixed messages about…well, everything.

Fad-diets are temporary. They are usually restrictive and they are 100% not fun. They can even be exceptionally unsafe. Eating healthy foods and getting rid of the rest of the processed crap has been shown to promote health in so many ways I don’t want to list them here. That’s not a diet. It’s a life choice that is possible and fulfilling in the long term.

I wrote this post due to a situation that happened to me a few months ago. I went out for lunch with two of my bosses at a restaurant of my choosing. One of my bosses knows my predisposition for plant-based eating and is understanding because his girlfriend is vegetarian. My other boss, however, does not know this about me. We sit down and pretty early on my male boss asks me if I’m still vegan. I say yes and my female boss looks at me, smiles and says, “Does that mean you don’t eat gluten?” I didn’t know what to say. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I know that people out there just eat food they think is good for you (or not) and don’t try to understand or learn about nutrition. Totally fine if that’s the world you want to live in. However, what really got me was that now that I’ve been immersed in being nutritionally conscious, I forgot that there are people out there that don’t care or don’t know about alternative ways to eat. This post is for those of you who want a refresher on diets, want to learn what different diets are, or just don’t care but will read anyways.

As an initial statement, I wanted to put in perspective the current state of fad-diets. In a study by Katz and Meller (2014), major diets of the day were compared to see if one came out on top: low carb, low fat, low glycemic, Mediterranean, mixed/balanced (DASH), Paleolithic, vegan, and elements of other diets. What they couldn’t conclude was that there was any best diet, however, they did state that “a diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.” The researchers also noted that nutritionally-replete plant-based diets are supported by a wide array of favorable health outcomes, including fewer cancers and less heart disease.

Below I have explained a few of the more common diets. In some cases I have added notes about when care may be necessary regarding a diet, but feel free to eat in a way that works for you.

Vegan

The first thing I’d like to clarify is that veganism is an ethic, not a diet. It is an entire lifestyle choice and does not revolve solely around what is or is not being eaten. Vegans are best described as not eating animals, animal products, or animal secretions (which just sounds incredibly disgusting). This includes: meat, eggs, dairy, honey, and gelatin. Other less obvious foods include some sugars (those made with bone char), many candies with shiny coatings (which are made from the resin excreted by the lac bug), some red-pigmented foods (those with cochineal, carminic acid, or carmine listed which are made from a female cochineal insect), soy cheese (some have casein, a milk protein added to them), peanuts (some use gelatin as an additive), refried beans made with lard, orange juice that is fortified with omega-3s derived from fish, and many beers and wines. The list is a long one, so to be vegan means in many cases, making your own food or being very diligent about checking labels (or eating at vegan restaurants – which are usually delicious!).

In addition to not consuming foods that exploit animals, this also extends to the use of products that may exploit animals. This list is extensive but includes various items such as leather, lotions, cosmetics, clothing, shoes (surprising it’s commonly the glue in shoes that is derived from animals), paint/paintbrushes, and many vitamins and supplements.

There are many reasons that people choose to live their lives as vegans. The most common that I am aware of include: 1. living their lives with compassion towards animals and to prevent the unnecessary suffering of animals, 2. for their health, and 3. to prevent environmental degradation.

A while ago I probably had the same feelings about vegans as most non-vegans. I thought they were too pushy about their beliefs and many of them came across as hacky-sac playing hippies (no offense). More recently I’ve learned that although I still don’t appreciate the pushy vegans, I completely understand their message and have chosen to live my own life similarly. I have met many, many wonderful caring, quiet, humble, fun and fashionable vegans who don’t want to push anything on you, but just want to live their lives as they choose.

Living as a vegan isn’t necessarily easy and you do need to put in time to ensure you are fulfilling all of your nutritional needs, but it has been shown to promote many health benefits as well as weight loss.

Whole Foods Plant Based

This diet is exactly as it sounds. It emphasizes eating whole foods (meaning not processed) that are plant-based (similar to being a vegan). Therefore, it tries to move away from what is considered ‘vegan junkfood’ such as tofu, tempeh, ground-round, and other meat-like alternatives that have been processed, to whole foods such as vegetables, legumes, fruits, and grains, that are minimally or not processed at all. Some plant-based eaters are vegans but just don’t want the hassle of being labeled a vegan.

Side note – A very interesting and motivational whole-foods plant-based athlete, author, and podcaster is Rich Roll. He is a very well known athlete (running, biking, swimming), motivator, and podcaster. I recommend checking out his site here (http://www.richroll.com/) to read about his journey, how he came to eating plant-based, and listening to his podcast.

Vegetarian

Ask any vegetarian what they eat and you will probably get a different answer from each one. Some don’t eat meat, some don’t eat fish (like fish is any different than meat), or eggs, or dairy, or radishes. It’s like they become a class of diet because they don’t have defined limitations on foods they will or will not eat. They become the IBS of the diet world: a catch-all due to their non-specific food restrictions. If you actually look up the definition of vegetarian, you’ll find that they are “a person who does not eat meat, and sometimes other animal products, especially for moral, religious, or health reasons”. Wikipedia says that vegetarianism is the practice from abstaining from the consumption of meat (red meat, poultry, seafood and the flesh of any other animal), and may also include abstention from by-products of animal slaughter. See here all Vegetarians – by definition, meat includes seafood. IF you eat seafood, you are called a pescatarian. IF you eat eggs and dairy, you are called a lacto-ovo-vegetarian (lacto means milk and ovo means egg in Latin). IF you don’t eat radishes, then you’re totally normal because I think radishes taste awful. Although, most other people don’t care what type of vegetarian you are, I do find specific terms useful, since cooking for a ‘vegetarian’ can be like a game of Russian roulette.

Gluten-Free

Gluten is a protein composite found in various grains and wheat. It gives dough elasticity and breads a chewy texture. The protein gliacin, which is found in gluten, is the culprit behind the crappy, bloated feeling you can sometimes get after eating foods with gluten in them. Taking things to the extreme, people who have been diagnosed with Celiac disease are gluten intolerant because eating gluten will physically damage their small intestines.

Dr. Perlmutter in his book Brain Maker, explains how gliacin acts to increase the permeability of your gut. This increase in permeability is known as leaky gut and occurs in almost everyone who eats gluten. Wheat eaters, even if you feel fine, be aware!! (For even more specifics on this topic, read his book Brain Grain, which is about how eating gluten affects the body). Leaky gut occurs when the tight-junctions between cells in your gut let through compounds or molecules they shouldn’t. In response, your immune system attacks the unknown invaders and an inflammatory response occurs. Long term and chronic inflammation within the body can cause serious health consequences (I will write about this issue in a separate post).

The problem these days is that gluten is hidden in many foods, including very surprising items, and sometimes it takes an expert to figure out if it’s in something or not. Many people are sensitive to gluten, so if you feel like you’ve tried everything to feel better after eating, maybe you should remove gluten from your diet for a while and see how you feel. There’s no harm in trying.

Paleo

Oh-Paleo. How much I’ve heard about you lately. This diet feels like it has taken over North America, especially in the cross-fit community. The Paleo diet is based on eating similarly to a Paleolithic person who lived during the Paleolithic era (approximately 2.6 million years ago to approximately 10,000 years ago). This pre-agricultural, hunter-gatherer period is distinguished by the development of primitive stone tools. The Paleo diet of today emphasizes high protein intake in the form of animal products, lower carbohydrates with lower glycemic index values such as non-starchy fruits and vegetables, high fiber, moderate to high fat intake, high potassium and lower sodium. Sounds pretty reasonable…However, when I’m around Paleo dieters, I’m always shocked at how much meat they eat as a proportion of their total meal. After looking on the paleodiet.com website, this becomes less surprising, as they state “Protein comprises 15% of the calories in the average western diet, which is considerably lower than the average values of 19-35% found in hunter-gatherer diets”. Whaaat?!? This means that with all of the meat consumption in the “average” western diet, we’re still supposed to actually eat MORE to be Paleo??? That seems like a lot of meat. And from my understanding it’s supposed to be organic and grass-fed. I can tell you right now that this type of diet is not going to be sustainable for our world now and moving into the future unless the organic and grass-fed meat that is eaten is a vastly smaller amount of our total food consumption.

If you currently eat a Paleo diet, please be very careful and understand what you’re putting into your body and understand that there is controversy regarding this diet. Don’t just do it because everyone around you is. This diet has not been proven to confer health benefits in the long term.

Side note (here comes a rant!) – I’ve never quite understood how a diet claims to represent a time period of over 2 million years. That is a freaking long time!! I mean, even in the last 200,000 years there has been two big ice ages. The world is a dynamic place and I can only imagine how vegetation and animals have changed in spatial extent and composition throughout 2 millions years. How do we condense 2 million years of eating to what is now known as the Paleo diet? I also don’t understand how thinking that eating like someone from prehistoric times is supposed to promote health in people of today. The world is a completely different place! One example I get frustrated with is the argument that Paleolithic people didn’t get cancer or arteriosclerosis or dementia, ergo, the Paleo diet must be good for us. The average life span of a Paleolithic person is estimated as only 35 years for men and 30 years for women. These people weren’t necessarily old enough to have had time to develop these types of diseases! Additionally, they most assuredly exercised more than we do, having to actually hunt for food and potentially migrate throughout the year. In conclusion, we can’t currently make claims that Paleolithic people were in any way more healthy than we are in the long term, with the exception that at least their foods weren’t covered in pesticides or originated from GMO crops.

Mediterranean Diet

I actually tried this diet in my youth when I came across the Blue Zone book because I was extremely inspired by the number of centurions (people who live to be 100 years old) alive who ate a Mediterranean style diet. It is based on the traditional living habits of people from Mediterranean countries such as Italy, France, Greece, and Spain. The Mediterranean diet varies by region, but emphasizes plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and fish. Olive oil replaces butter and herbs and spices are used to flavor foods instead of salt. However, ensure you realize that although you may be eating like a Mediterranean, they are very active people, often walking many miles a day and living off of what they grow themselves.

Glycemic Index

The glycemic index (GI) is a measurement carried out on carbohydrate-containing foods and their impact on our blood sugar. The lower the GI value, the less it impacts blood sugar and insulin levels. A low GI diet claims that you’ll digest food slower so you’ll eat less because you’ll remain full for longer.

It’s probably not surprising for you to hear that low GI foods include vegetables, certain fruits, legumes and beans, and minimally processed wheat or starchy products such as breads, cereals, and pastas, and dairy. Apparently, meats do not have a glycemic index because they do not raise blood glucose levels.

This seems to be an older fad-diet that is still emphasized a lot for diabetics due to the problems they face with blood glucose. I still think that this diet allows for far too much starchy food, regardless of the GI, and doesn’t emphasize eating non-processed foods.

Raw Foods

So this diet is an interesting one to me. I’m actually glad I had to read about it, because apparently I didn’t know much of what it means to eat as a raw foodie. I assumed it was basically a vegan who only consumed raw and non-processed foods. Although this is a subset of Raw foodism, it is not the whole story. Raw foodism is far more expansive than I had originally thought. There are four main types: raw vegetarians, raw vegans, raw omnivores (eating both plants and animals), and raw carnivores (those who eat primarily meat).   Food isn’t heated about 40°C and is eaten fresh, dehydrated using low heat, or is fermented.

I have been to a number of raw food restaurants and am impressed that people can eat that way for the majority of their diet. Not that the processing is an issue, it’s more that I don’t feel satisfied when all of my food is raw and either cold or lukewarm. I love cooked mushrooms. Same goes for broccoli and cauliflower. In fact, I love many vegetables cooked over raw and I think I would miss more than anything the physical heat of cooked foods. Who doesn’t relax when you first taste a bowl of hot soup, or have a sip of tea or coffee that’s close to burning your mouth?

There is a lot that is still unknown in the realm of cooking foods versus eating foods raw (Subramanian, 2009), with my conclusion being that you should just eat veggies and fruits regardless of if they are cooked or not. Eating a broader range of these items, both cooked and/or raw, exposes you to the greatest number of good-for-you compounds that will keep you as healthy as possible.

Side note – want more information about a raw vegan diet? I just heard about Fully Raw by Kristina in one of Rich Roll’s Podcasts and really fell in love with her spirit and devotion to the raw and vegan lifestyle.  I visited her site and her food looks amazing!! Opening a not-for-profit co-op with local farmers contributing makes me wish we had more here in Vancouver.

Fully Raw Kristina and for some awesome recipes you can watch her YouTube channel Fully Raw Kristina YouTube Channel

References:

1. Katz, D., & Meller, S. (2014). Can we say what diet is best for health? Annual Reviews , 35, 83-103.

2. Subramanian, S. (2009, March 31). Fact or Fiction: Raw veggies are healthier than cooked ones. Retrieved June 21, 2015, from Scientific American: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/raw-veggies-are-healthier/

The Importance of the Microbiome

Before heading on a much-needed trip to Hawaii for two weeks after finishing school, I decided to stock up on a few books for reading on the plane and on the beach. It’s one of my favorite things to do actually. Walking into a bookstore to pick out what I’d like to read. I feel like it’s how some might feel when they walk into a wine store. So much selection…might be good, might be bad…will enjoy it either way. However, I always feel a little regret because I find it hard to part with my money for books I’ll only take a day or two to read. I actually started and finished one of the books I chose on the plane. That’s what happens when there is no longer in-flight tv!!!

I just finished my second book and haven’t wanted to start the third one until I managed to write a post about it. The book I read is called Brain Maker and the author is Dr. David Perlmutter. The book discusses the burgeoning topic of gut microbes and their potential effects on your brain. Sexy, I know. However, I have heard about these little beasties before in various podcasts, but had never really paid too much attention to the topic. To my detriment, apparently. Although, I found the punch line of the book to be very repetitive, this may help increase the impact of the message for people less knowledgeable about the subject matter. What would I know though, I’ve never written a book. Regardless, I enjoyed learning about the importance of gut microbes when it comes to health and not just what types of conditions they can improve, but more important to me, HOW they come to help these conditions. Since the science is fairly new, not all of the answers are found in this book (or in current literature), and you’re just going to have to take your lumps with that. What I really appreciated though was the fact that this book makes you feel like you can actively DO something about your current health and potential future health. There are relatively inexpensive (and non-pharmaceutical) ways to help promote a healthy gut and that makes me excited!!! This is a very new and exciting area of science and I definitely feel that it’s worth picking up this book in order to gain even one more way you can beneficially impact your health.

Here is a general list of the types of problems that Dr. Perlmutter says can be helped by promoting or balancing gut microbes:

  • ADHD
  • Asthma
  • Autism
  • Allergies and food sensitivities
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Mood disorders, including depression and anxiety
  • Diabetes
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Memory problems and poor concentration
  • Chronic constipation or diarrhea
  • Colds or infections
  • Intestinal disorders (celiac, IBS, Crohn’s disease)
  • Insomnia
  • Arthritis or join pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Yeast problems
  • Acne and eczema
  • Bad breath, gum disease, and dental problems
  • Extreme PMS or menopausal symptoms

With the increased prevalence of every single one of these conditions, I think looking at the importance of gut microbes may be a very significant first step to helping those who suffer from them (or for preventing them). At first glance this list looks pretty extensive. How can gut microbes affect diabetes, autism, and acne? Well, it all simplifies to a few significant points:

The type and quantity of various microbes in your gut

The various strains and numbers of microbes in your gut can generally be an indication of how you’ve lived your life up to that point. Three different “forces” are thought to promote ‘bad belly bugs’ (as Dr. Perlmutter refers to them)

  1. Exposure to substances that may kill or adversely affect the bacteria. These can include: having taken antibiotics (which are meant to kill bacteria), exposure to environmental chemicals (pesticides, residual chlorine in water), and dietary factors such as eating gluten or sugar.
  2. Lack of exposure to substances that promote good belly bugs (found to be a number of fermented foods)
  3. Stress

Inflammation

This is a biggie and is a cause for more health problems than only those listed above. Inflammation can be a double-edged sword when it comes to health. It is most notably known to be the body’s healing response, and is associated with responses such as redness, swelling, itching and heat (think mosquito bites or a sore throat). However, it has been shown that inflammation can continue to exist in the body after it is necessary and it is this inflammation that can lead to illness instead of healing.

As an example, Dr. Perlmutter explains how recent scientific literature shows a very strong correlation between high blood sugar and the development of dementia. How is this related to inflammation, you might ask? Elevated blood sugar levels cause inflammation in the bloodstream since excess sugar can be toxic to the body. Additionally, elevated blood sugar triggers a reaction called glycation “the biological process by which sugar binds to proteins and certain fats, resulting in deformed molecules that don’t function well”. These deformed molecules are not recognized by the body, resulting in an inflammatory response.

“Leaky Gut”

This term didn’t show up in my vocabulary until about 2 years ago. I had no idea what the term meant and assumed it had to do with increasing the permeability of your gut, but what I didn’t understand was why this was bad (call me behind the times if you want). Dr. Perlmutter does an excellent job of explaining leaky gut. To define it simply, it is when the junctions between your intestinal cells aren’t functioning properly (ie. they aren’t as tight as they should be), thereby letting through molecules, pathogens, or what-have-you into your blood that shouldn’t be there. Again, since the body may not recognize some of these over-sized or unidentified compounds, they react using an inflammatory response. There are a number of causes for this condition, including gliadin, a protein found in gluten as well as antibiotics, steroids, and pain relievers (like aspirin and acetaminophen).

Ultimately, leaky gut and inflammation can cause negative impacts on the brain. I have, admittedly, only provided a very simplified and non-encompassing overview of the book and it’s contents, since I feel that it is for you to read and would take far too long to write about it a blog post. I have written this in an attempt to promote interest in the subject matter, since it is so new and exciting to think about. I am not saying this book has the equivalent to a vaccine for every health problem. It provides potential solutions that, unlike pharmaceuticals, you can try and which may not work, but will at least not cause negative health effects. It is also for those of you who don’t suffer from any of the listed conditions but who just want to ensure that your guts are as healthy as the rest of you.

Ways that you can promote a healthy gut

A few of the suggested ways in which you can feed your healthy microbiome are mentioned below:

Consume foods high in probiotics. These foods include fermented foods such as Kimchi, yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles (in brine, not vinegar), tempeh, and kefir (to name only a few). What makes fermentation so special? Well, the fermentation process converts carbohydrates (like sugars) into either alcohols and carbon dioxide or organic acids. This process requires the presence of bacteria, yeast, or both, which proliferate and which you then consume (awesome!). The most common type of fermentation is called lactic acid fermentation.

You can also take probiotics by capsule, but if you do, ensure they contain the following strains: Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus brevis, Bifidobacterium lactis, and Bifidobacterium longum. Try to consume probiotics as capsules in addition to a diet rich in probiotic foods.

Remove gluten from your diet, as the protein gliadin acts to increase leaky gut (for further information I would suggest reading his book Grain Brain, which I myself haven’t read).

Drink filtered water to remove the chlorine. Or, if you’re like me and too cheap to buy a filter (also an environmental problem if you think about the disposable ones) or have good quality water with chlorine as the only concern, you can leave drinking water in an open container for at least 30 minutes to let the chlorine evaporate and then drink or use it or boil it and used when cooled.

Wow. This was a long one folks. I hope you took something from this post and I hope you go out and buy the book or borrow it from a friend. Just so you know I don’t have an affiliation with any companies or individuals and both bought and read this book for my own personal interest. Let me know what you think of it and if it has helped the health of you or someone you know. I, for one, have started making my own kombucha and water kefir and plan on making pickles and kimchi soon.

Acai Berry Kombucha

An excellent blog post on making homemade kombucha is found here:

honest beans – kombucha

Some of my favorite flavors are ginger, mint, hibiscus, orange spice, chai, pineapple, and basil. The list is endless.  With a little imagination you can try any mixture of fruits, herbs, and spices.

A website where you can order water kefir or kombucha SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) if interested is found here:

poseymom – order kefir or SCOBY

 

I had no idea….

Have you heard of the Framingham Heart Study?

I had, but I still didn’t know what it was.

Since the time I started learning more about health, and specifically plant-based eating, I have heard many a reference to the Framingham Heart Study. You may or may not have heard about it, but apparently it is considered a groundbreaking study of cardiovascular disease (CVD). I thought I’d take you on my journey of learning more about this important study. Apparently, it is like no other study conducted and is one of the most important epidemiological studies of American medicine (sounds pretty serious). The Framingham Study was conducted in an attempt to identify common factors or characteristics (environmental and genetic) that contribute to cardiovascular disease. It did this by following the development of cardiovascular disease in a large group of participants over a long time period (and is still ongoing).

Since the turn of the 19th century, death due to cardiovascular disease had increased steadily and was becoming a serious problem. At the time the study was started in 1948 [1], the majority of doctors still did not understand the relationships between lifestyle, risk factors, and heart disease and stroke.

The Framingham Heart Study is so named because the cohort they recruited and followed for nearly 50 years originated from the town of Framingham, Massachusetts. The original cohort included 5,209 men and women, aged 30-62 with no prior or current symptoms of cardiovascular disease, heart attack or stroke. This was the first major cardiovascular study to recruit women participants (go women!).

The original generation of participants had extensive physical examinations, lifestyle interviews, and laboratory tests conducted every 2 to 4 years since 1948. In 1971, a second generation (the offspring cohort) of 5,124 of the original participants adult children and their spouses, were also included.

Since that time, a third generation (2002) cohort has been added, as well as two minority cohorts (called Omni Group 1 [in 1994] and Omni Group 2 [in 2003]). Who is in charge of coming up with these names? Anyway, the Omni cohort was established due to the need to reflect a more diverse community within the study. Around 200 people are still alive today from the original cohort [2]. Over time these cohort tests were expanded to collect additional data about other diseases such as cancer, dementia, osteoporosis, as well as hearing and eye disorders.

So what did all of this research determine? Actually, a lot of the current knowledge we take for granted. It identified major CVD risk factors such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, smoking, obesity, diabetes, and physical inactivity. It’s hard to imagine that before this study smoking had not been fully accepted as a hazard to the development of heart disease.

The study up until today has provided an important role in the prevention of heart disease and stroke. It has inspired numerous awareness campaigns of the disease risk factors so that detection and treatment can be implemented as early as possible. As this study continues into the future, further details may be able to be extracted from the large amounts of data that has been collected.

Who knows what else this study may determine in the future, but I do want to thank the participants in this study since it takes dedication to participate in this type of study for so many years and because what would our state of knowledge be regarding CVD without them?

Reading all of the websites about the Framingham Study has actually made me want to participate in something like it. Maybe I’ll try calling those participation numbers on the colored pin-up requests I see at school for psychological testing…..or maybe not.

Works Cited

1. Framingham Heart Study. (2015). History of the Framingham Heart Study. Retrieved May 24, 2015, from Framingham Heart Study: https://www.framinghamheartstudy.org/about-fhs/history.php

2. Wei, G. (2014, July). The Framingham Heart Study (FHS). Retrieved May 24, 2015, from National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/research/resources/obesity/population/framingham.htm

 

 

Answering the Why

This entire project started out from a seed of frustration brought about as I was trying to find information about water related topics during school.  Instead of finding a wealth of easily accessible information, I found a lot of pretty important stuff either shelved behind unrelated stuff, or not discussed at all.  Where is all of this missing information and why is it so hard to find???!!!!

I came to realize that the internet is generally full of pretty extreme environmentalist sites and green living sites.  I categorize green living sites as those that recommend you turn off the tap while brushing your teeth or provide you with recipes for making your own laundry detergent, soaps, toothpaste, and bath scrubs.  Now don’t get me wrong, there are a place for these types of sites and I’ll be the first to admit that I make my own bath scrub and bathroom cleaner.  However, what was missing in all of these sites was WHY all of this was important.  WHY would anyone in Vancouver care about taking shorter showers when we get rain more often than sun?  WHY would anyone want to take the time out of their day to make homemade dinner, let alone bath scrub, and WHY would anyone jump on the next project that an avid environmentalist feels is the most destructive to the leaf cutter ant (the ant is not actually endangered or at risk so don’t fret)?

As I was setting up this website, I didn’t think anyone would understand what I was trying to accomplish.  I didn’t quite know what I was trying to accomplish either, except I wanted people to have access to all of the important information that took me an inordinate amount of time to find, so that they could make up their own minds about the direction the world is taking.  I had a very close relative say this to me after I had mentioned the destruction of the rainforest for cattle grazing, “My beef comes from Colorado so why do I care what the Brazilians do with their rainforest? How is the rainforest even related to water?” I was absolutely shocked that someone so close to me would so easily dismiss the impact of the rainforest because they were not located near it.  It made me angry, but it also made me understand that what people need is the why.  Why should we care? Well, answering that is what I’m hoping to accomplish with this website.

My goal is to minimize negative feelings that you as a reader may have towards change.  Most people are very attached to certain aspects of their lives, including material objects, wastefulness, bananas from Ecuador, or expensive cars and houses.  Yes, we will discuss things that make people uncomfortable.  Just remember, I’m not telling you you HAVE to change.  I’m providing you with information for YOU to be able to implement change if you decide.

It is inevitable that along the way I will touch on controversial topics.  There is no way around this, since for every person who feels the same way I do, I feel that 5-10 people feel the opposite way.  There will always be disagreement in the world (which can be good!) and what I hope for is that if you choose to leave a comment, you do so with respect for others.  Fostering change through positivity I find is far more effective than change through anger or rudeness.

And finally, I will write a separate post on this topic, but wanted to bring it up here because I am aware this will be one of the most difficult issues to discuss.  What could it be, this terrifyingly, controversial, and hate-inspiring topic?  Why, food of course! Food is extremely emotional to us as people and between the cultural differences and moral differences, food can become TNT.  I ask that everyone tries to keep an open mind about topics related to food on this site.  As I mentioned, I will only provide information for you to make up your own mind about how you choose to eat, I will not tell you how to eat.   However, as we continue down this path I’m sure you will pick up on a recurrent trend that is undeniable when it comes to the future success of humans and how they eat on the Earth.  And since I personally eat a whole-foods, plant based diet I’m sure most of the recipes or food blogs I post will be either vegetarian or vegan.  Take no offense.  I just don’t visit other food blogs too often (except for Jamie Oliver’s site.  In his case I may take a meat-based recipe and make it meat and dairy free).

I’m so excited and hope you all are too!

Remember, be the change you want to see in the world.  Revolutions can occur one person at a time.