I’m off with IronSister today to Boston, where she will run her 21st marathon, the Boston Marathon! This is on her bucket list(and she’s 28 so I’m thinking she’s doing alright). We are there for 4 days of food, fun, shopping, sight seeing, oh and a little racing. I’m sure I’ll have lots of foodie stories when I return. Hope you all have a lovely weekend!
15 Apr 2011 1 Comment
27 Nov 2010 5 Comments
Alison and I were recently talking about our opinions regarding conventional medicine and holistic medicine. Personally, I believe in both, I care about both worlds. I work in acute care; I see the need for medicine, diagnostic imagining and procedures that may be very taboo to a Holistic approach to healing. I believe this is a luxury we have in the Western world, something that we should be very thankful for and not take for granted. But Holistic healing is extremely important and helps us to not overuse the luxuries of western medicine, such as medicating when we could be preventing. I do not believe we need to medicate absolutely every ailment that we face, and the key to optimal health is prevention. Nearly all of our greatest risks are preventable; sadly, our health care system is utterly exhausted by so many sick individuals who could have easily prevented their illness. Of course, this is not always the case, there are times when disease cannot be prevented, leading us to the real need for health care. If you follow this blog, chances are you are probably interested in living/eating a healthy way. This is preventative medicine!
As a Respiratory Therapist, I spend a large amount of time analyzing the gases in our blood, which determine and effect our pH, leading to a number of disease processes. Ventilation care is often determined and adjusted based on blood gas values. The pH of our body is a massive determining agent in our care, our chances of survival in an acute event and our recovery; this is probably something that few people are familiar with. Of course, in an acute event, our natural ventilation drive is adjusted subconsciously, and therefore we have no control over our acid/base balance, however from a nutritional view point, there are many lifestyle factors we can consider to control our body’s pH. In Nutrition school, I remember spending an exceptionally large amount of time learning about the essential need for our acid/base balance in healing. This topic is following me through my Respiratory studies, equally as essential to healing but looking at it from a different angle. This makes me believe that this is an important topic for our health.
pH is a measure of acidity or alkalinity of a substance on a scale of 0 to 14 with 7 being neutral and 0 totally acid and 14 totally alkaline, in between are varying degrees of acidity and alkalinity. Human blood should be 7.4 (7.35-7.45), slightly alkaline, even slight changes are not compatible with life (less than 6.8 and greater than 8.0). My medical physiology text book says that only slight changes in hydrogen ion concentration (which determine acid/base) from the normal value can cause marked alterations in the rate of chemical reactions in the cells, some being depressed and some being elevated. Basically this means that our survival depends on our blood remaining in the slightly alkaline state of 7.4, when our blood becomes slightly acidic, our body will buffer this acid with alkalizing minerals from other tissues, these minerals include potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium. After these minerals are oxidized, they will become carbon dioxide which is eliminated through our lungs and kidneys. Among a list of problems, this process is very fatiguing to our bodies and will likely leave you with a mineral deficit that must be replaced through our diet. In a crisis situation, this is not helpful.
This brings me to the topic of how are diets can relate to our acid-base balance. Due to the increased availability of produced, refined and processed foods, our whole grain consumption is decreasing. Fruit and vegetable consumption has decreased by 45% in the last 5 years while fat, salt and sugar consumption has increased by 100% in that same time period. Diets high in meat, fat and refined products will constantly push our body’s pH towards the acid state, whereas fruits and vegetables are the body’s main source of minerals or alkaline elements. Regardless of whether we are acidic (more common) or alkaline, stimulating our bodies continuously in either direction will eventually exhaust the body systems, changing its functions in order to adapt to new situations and eventually leading to degenerative changes. This makes me think back a few weeks ago when we talked about our excessive protein intake, likely changing your body to an acid environment, definitely not optimal for health. Some symptoms that can be associated to even a slightly acidic environment include: fatigue, stomach pain, allergies, insomnia, water retention, migraines, arthritis, alternating constipation and diarrhea, and pain upon waking in the morning. In general, fruits and vegetables are alkalizing and meats and grains are acidifying, however, here are a few more examples:
Acidic foods: Bread, eggs, fish, flours, grains, meats, most nuts, oatmeal, rice and shellfish.
Alkaline foods: Almonds, fruits, vegetables, beans, berries, millet, and potato
With that said, studies have shown that whole grains when chewed thoroughly can become alkaline by mixing with the alkaline salivary enzyme, however, will leave an acid residue if not chewed thoroughly. Also, acidic fruits like lemons and oranges have an alkalizing effect on the body because their acid is burned off by the body in the cellular respiration process. The tendency of our western diet is towards high acid forming foods and therefore a pH shift towards an acidic state. It is likely that the majority of us could benefit from increasing alkaline forming foods in our diet, and conveniently these foods tend to eliminate processed, refined foods and excess fats. For many other reasons, that we’ve already looked at, this only contributes to a far better way of eating anyways. If you do live in an acidic state, you can also benefit by increasing your alkaline food to return your pH to normal and create a healing environment for your body.
Obviously this is all a bit scientific and tedious. But a commitment to educating yourself on how best you can care for your body, will help you prevent many diseases down the road.
14 Nov 2010 2 Comments
in IronSister Says Tags: calgary food writer, daily caloric needs, daily water intake needs, effects of sodium, effects of stress, effects of sugar, food blog, healthy food blog, how to lose weight, IronSister Says, registered holistic nutritionist, weight loss strategies, weight loss tips
Weight loss is one of those issues that so many people are interested in; I am asked about this more often than anything else. I also feel as though this topic is near and dear to my heart because this is a battle that I’ve walked through as well. I enjoy learning about nutrition, I loved nutrition school, and I enjoy sharing with anyone interested. I’m not sure if it’s learned from years of writing papers for school, or if it’s just my style, but I find it much easier to write about a topic that I’ve researched and fill it with lots of information. It is far more challenging for me to sit and write from my heart: to be honest, not about facts, but about feelings.
I doubt my story is different than most, I struggled with my weight as a teenager. By struggled, I literally mean I struggled with obesity and I fear for what my future could have been. As a teenager, my concern was far from heart disease, type II diabetes and high cholesterol; however I am so glad that I felt motivated for whatever the reasons where to make some changes. I will be eternally thankful for my forgiving youth that has allowed me to be successful with my lifestyle changes, the education I’ve been able to get as well as the endless list of supporters and cheerleaders along the way. And although my previous obese life has been laid to rest, unfortunately there are emotional scars that come back to haunt me, sometimes I wonder if, for the rest of my life.
When I talk about nutrition, or more specifically weight loss, I can assure any friend, family member, blog reader or stranger that it truly makes up a huge portion of who I am. I don’t take it lightly, and I think it may be the absolute most difficult and potentially lonely journey anyone can go on. In the long run, it was worth it for me, the rewards were far greater than the sacrifices. Perhaps my initial motivation was to fit in to the western world’s idea of beautiful, but my rewards included a journey to conquer a lot of inner demons, and a better understanding of what beautiful should actually mean. I know what it’s like to be overweight and miserable, I also know what it’s like to have an obsessive weight loss motivation to the point of physical illness, also miserable. I know what it’s like to feel hopeless and loath my reflection in the mirror. I know what it’s like to avoid social gatherings, to eat in private, to feel shame. Until I found a practical, long term (permanent) lifestyle that was motivated by health and happiness, I was incapable of finding success. Perhaps coming across the perfect motivation only comes by trial and error, in my case anyways, but it was worth every detour I took on my journey. We all follow a different pathway in our lives, but I say all of this just to share that I do understand emotions – and this journey is likely the most emotional journey that I know of.
Instead of writing about some well planned out concept, instead of researching the chemistry and nutritional needs behind something, let me again write from my heart. Although these may be things I did learn in nutrition school, I researched in a text book, they are largely based on experience. Here is a list of changes you can make in your lifestyle to support your weight loss journey:
Water: It’s so interesting how more than half the world is dehydrated because they have no access to clean water, or any water, yet the people who do have an endless supply are equally as dehydrated. 8 glasses of water a day is a good start, but more accurately, take your body weight (in pounds), cut it in half and this is the amount of ounces your body needs of water as a baseline (me: 125 lbs, 62.5 ounces – 8.4 glasses of water). Add another 16 ounces of water for ever hour of exercise. Add another 16 ounces of water for every 8 ounces of alcohol, coffee, black tea or soda you have.
Sodium: We eat way too much of it! Packaged food is full of sodium, and very few people even know what the recommended daily limits are. Sodium intake has a huge list of consequences. The average standard American diet consumes 4000-5000 mg of sodium daily (that’s average!), the average British diet consumes 3500 mg of sodium daily, Health Canada recommends no adult should exceed 2200 mg of sodium daily, however many health care practitioners recommend that dietary sodium should not exceed 1300 mg in adults and 1000 mg in kids.
Sugar: Another killer. It’s refined, it’s acidic, and it messes with our energy, blood sugar, appetite, mood, digestive system and defense system. The average American diet consumes 46 teaspoons of sugar daily, and in theory, the amount really shouldn’t exceed zero (or very close to that).
Portion sizes: Learn to read your labels. There are some great laws that require food labels to list ingredients, calories and nutritional content per serving. Serving sizes vary with manufacturers; a package and a serving size are very different. Do your math; it’s worth it, and likely very enlightening. Caloric intake is easy to get hung up on, healthy choices are far more important than low calorie food, however this is a simple way to calculate your calorie needs: Your “ideal” body weight (be practical!) in pounds, multiplied by 10 (me: 125 lbs x10 = 1250 calories). This is basal metabolic needs, as in, what you need to live and breathe each day. Then take your activity level on a scale of 1 to 10, this is subjective, but a good start at estimating (me: 12 hour shifts, marathon runner, I say activity level of 9 or 10), multiply this number by 100 (me 900 – 1000 calories), this is your caloric needs for energy. Calculate the total (me: about 2250). This is one formula I like, there are others, but the important thing is deciding on your ideal body weight. If you are 200 lbs and you choose and ideal body weight of 100 lbs, you will be very miserable, you can readjust your ideal body weight over time (start at 175 lbs, then 150 lbs, etc).
Sleep: SO important for our bodies to recover and regenerate, and can only be done during REM sleep. Life is what it is, but we need 8 – 9 hours of sleep per night, and kids need 9-10 hours a night. Make it a priority, or else all that hard work might not reap its benefits if the body cannot recovery and start anew. The Respiratory Therapist in me also wants to point out that many people have disrupted sleep and do not spend enough time in REM sleep due to a condition called Obstructive Sleep Apnea. If you are tired due to disrupted sleep, you may want to talk to your doctor about this; it is easily treated with CPAP therapy. OSA is common in overweight people due to obstruction (large necks) on their airways, their sleep is disrupted, they feel more tired and sluggish, energy levels are low and weight loss is further challenged.
Stress: Another killer. Hormonal issues cause so many problems and so much fatigue on our body. Stress causes all sorts of hormonal releases, fatigue on our adrenal glands, effects our sleep, which effects our body’s recovery that is already hindered from weak adrenal glands and an over abundance of destructive hormones. I’m not sure what the answer is to this problem for everyone, but it’s worth exploring.
My list ends here, it would be easy to go on and on, but this is the starting the point. The above list excludes no one, each of the suggestions above are completely practical and attainable by everyone. You don’t have to be young, fit, or love to cook. But above all else, before you tackle anything on this list, you need to confirm that you are being practical. Unless your goals are realistic, and unless you can plan to make changes that will become permanent, sadly, you will fail. Living life is so important, and that involves social events, busy lifestyle, desserts, “off days” and a million other factors. However be conscious that living life and making excuses should be two different things. It is never too late or too difficult to start, in fact, every day that you delay, you could be missing out on something great. This is a long hard journey, but worth every painful step.
02 Nov 2010 2 Comments
in IronSister Says, Thoughts On: Tags: calgary food writer, cooking with whole grains, food blog, healthy food blog, IronSister Says, nutritional info on carbs, registered holistic nutritionist, which carbs are healthy
27 Oct 2010 5 Comments
in IronSister Says, Thoughts On: Tags: amount of protein in food, calgary food writer, cooking vegetarian, dietary protein requirements, food blog, healthy food blog, IronSister, meatless mondays, protein requirements, protein requirements for vegetarians, vegetarian diet
This post is a little bit fig & fennel and a little bit Ironsister.
fig & fennel – Usually my “Thoughts On:” section is about non food related topics. But I feel like I’ve had the conversation 50 times in the last few weeks, people saying things like, oh I can’t cook vegetarian, my husband plays hockey and needs protein. Or, well I’d eat vegetarian, but I work out so I need protein. So I wanted to address the topic of how to eat enough protein from non-meat products. It is, in fact, surprisingly easy to do! We do not eat exclusively vegetarian and I find no need to come up with an appropriate label for how we eat, but I usually cook a meal with meat in it about once a week, and we try to have fish once a week. So we eat mostly plant-based food. My personal motivations are as follows: health benefits, desire to be conscious of the environment, complete disgust of handling raw meat. There is a disgusting amount of animal cruelty out there, but I avoid these concerns by buying meat ONLY from local farms that are organic and provide a reasonable quality of life for their animals. This is a bit pricier, but we eat so little meat that I can afford to do so.
I know there is a substantial move out there among Foodies, which I embrace with a happy heart, to move towards more vegetarian cooking. I have some friends who cook pretty typical meat and potatoes type meals all week but plan a “Meatless Monday” meal. A number of smaller local restaurants I know have vegetarian meals one day a week. This is great because people can order something new, love it, or not, and realize that it’s not hard or intimidating to cook vegetarian.
I’m sure many of you have seen the video floating around Youtube and Facebook, about the benefits of eating less meat. The basic research of the mini doc is this: if everyone in Britain ate ONE less meat based meal per week, it would be the equivalent of taking 50 million cars off the road. This is MAJOR! How much more if all of North America did this?! Cows eat soya, which is unnatural to them and makes them produce more methane and it takes a skillion bags of soya and lots of energy to get ONE beef serving from a cow. Ridiculous.
You’d be surprised at how protein-frenzied and misinformed we are about the topic of protein needs. Here is some interesting info for you, brought to you by IronSister. We just did a workshop on all this stuff so I’m all fired up about it…
NOTE: Ideal body weight does NOT mean how much you should weigh, it is the scientific formula for determining your nutritional needs. Just before everyone freaks out…
Recommended protein requirements: 0.45 grams/kg of Ideal Body Weight per day
Ideal Body Weight for Women: 100lbs for 60 inches + 5 lbs for every inch over 60 inches
Ideal Body Weight for Men: 106 lbs for 60 inches + 6 lbs for every inch over 60 inches
So let’s take a woman who is 5’4″. That means their ideal body weight is 120lbs. 120lbs = 55kilos. 55kilos x .45 = 24.75 grams of protein in food.
Protein Serving size (grams)
Beef, lean 4 oz (24)
Chicken breast 3 oz (24)
Fish 3 oz (16-18)
Turkey, 4 oz (9)
Cheese 1 oz (8)
Cottage cheese, ½ cup (16)
Egg 1 large (6)
Egg white 1 large (4)
Milk, skim 1 cup (8)
Yogurt, plain 8 oz (12)
Peanuts 1 oz (7)
Peanut butter 2 tbsp (8)
Pumpkin seeds ½ cup (20)
Sunflower seeds 1 tbsp (3)
Soybeans, ½ cup (14)
Soymilk 1 cup (8)
Tofu ½ cup (20)
Beans, black ½ cup (8)
Beans, pinto ½ cup (7)
Chickpeas, ½ cup (20)
Lentils ½ cup (9)
Beans, kidney ½ cup (12)
Milk, skim 1 cup (8)
Isn’t that amazing!!!?? It does not take a lot of work to get our needed protein. And look how easy it is to get it in NON meat things! Sprinkle 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds on your salad and voila! almost all you need in a day! Or think of just normal stuff, 2 eggs for breakfast, one glass of milk, peanut butter sandwich for lunch and some kind of beans in your supper = 36. 50% more than you need!!! Please note, these numbers are relevant for active people as well. Unless you are doing some shocking level of physical activity, than the formula is a good guideline for you!
SO my friends…bottom line….eat more vegetarian and help save the world. Don’t forget mommies, YOU are Queen of the Castle, how you cook and how you eat is how your family will follow. Get creative and make some yummy vegetarian things and I bet you barely get any complaining.
14 Oct 2010 Leave a comment
in IronSister Says Tags: benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle, calgary writer, essential fatty acids, food blog, healthy food blog, healthy vs unhealthy fats, how to lower cholesterol, registered holistic nutritionist
Don’t forget…every day we make choices on how we live and the foods we will put into our bodies. We can make wins in every single little decision during the day. That can be a lot of wins!
04 Oct 2010 2 Comments
Superimmunity for the Next Generation
What can we feed our children now to prevent disease in their futures?
I feel as though I am noticing young families and new babies every where I turn! This could be for a number of reasons, but primarily two: I sincerely hope to start my own family in the near future, (however in the mean time, this is my Boston Marathon year, so that will be on hold for just a little longer…) But more so, I am surrounded by growing children, my nieces and my friends children, and I am daily reminded of what our future; society, health care and my own personal future, will look like.
There are astounding and devastating statistics in regards to teen obesity and somehow every year the average age of an increase in obesity-related health problems becomes younger and younger. What could this possibly mean for our already exhausted health care system? As a senior, when my needs for health care are increased, will there even be anything available? Or will it be the generations behind me that require even more care and consume the very small amount of workers who are healthy enough to work. Do I sound paranoid? Maybe. Or perhaps my mind just cannot accept a problem, potentially a massive crisis, that is completely preventable.
Somehow, maybe we can turn this around!
So this week, let’s consider nutrition and our childrens immune systems. Children have a remarkable immune system that is kept strong through optimal nutrition. If we optimized early childhood nutrition, it is very unlikely that allergies would be on the rise, like they are, and recurrent ear infections would not be a yearly epidemic each winter. A child’s health begins with their mothers health before they are born. After birth, infant nutrition is very important. Breast feeding, when possible, provides all the nutritional needed to support our children’s developing immune systems. Toddlers and school age children learn habits that may influence their health and eating habits for the rest of their lives. The information and attitudes we pass on to our children in these early years, about healthy food, will stay with them for their whole lives.
Much research suggests that the key to a strong immune system lies within Essential Fatty Acids. EFA’s can reduce cholesterol and protect against heart disease, and this wonder-nutrient is actually absolutely necessary for our health. This is because 1. It maintains our immune system and 2. Our bodies cannot make it, so we MUST find it in our diet. EFA deficiency is linked with serious health conditions, such as heart attacks, cancer, insulin resistance, asthma, lupus, schizophrenia, depression, postpartum depression, accelerated aging, stroke, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s Disease, among others.
EFA’s are found most richly in nuts, seeds and fish. The highest amounts of EFAs are found in: Flaxseed oil, flaxseeds, flaxseed meal, hempseed oil, hempseeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, sesame seeds, avocados, some dark leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach, purslane, mustard greens, collards, etc.), canola oil (cold-pressed and unrefined), soybean oil, wheat germ oil, salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, albacore tuna.
EFA’s have nearly been eliminated completely from our diets. EFA’s are delicate, fragile oils that are easily damaged by air, temperatures and processing. Furthermore, if we (or our children) are nutrient deficient, or eating the wrong types of fats, then even the minute amount of EFA’s that we do consume may not be used properly in our bodies. This issue is further to our deficiency in an “essential” dietary need.
Each piece of information we talk about is another very small piece of the puzzle that represents the artistic masterpiece that we call optimal nutrition. The encouraging thing is that whatever our age and whatever our children’s ages, optimal nutrition can be achieved. Past mistakes can in fact be remedied. Next week I’m going to take an indepth look at fats in our diet. This should hopefully allow us to act further on our need for EFA’s. Perhaps in preparation “one” might provide us with some tasty fish and cold pressed oils recipes (hint, hint….)
fig & fennel – hint taken, stay tuned!
20 Sep 2010 5 Comments
13 Sep 2010 3 Comments
Healthy living requires a relatively large commitment, but with such a huge reward. There are so many factors that contribute to our overall health, because we are complicated creatures! It has been speculated (or proven depending on who you are and what you believe) that we evolved from apes. From my vast experience with primates (during Calgary Zoo field trips in grade school), it would appear to me that apes have a pretty laid back life, not a lot of things to worry about, nothing but time. In fact, it makes me think about The Jungle Book and Baloo’s “bare necessities” of life mandate – not a care in the world (now that I think about, Baloo is a bear, but I think of him as an Ape…random). I may have either proven Darwin wrong, or proven evolution right – because most the humans I know don’t feel like they live a simple life. Our lives involve so much and it requires a 4G network and at the very least 8 gigs of space to prevent heart attacks. Grocery stores must be open 24 hours to accommodate our needs, and it’s actually more time efficient to send a text message (written completely in abbreviations – obviously) than to muster up the strength to engage the muscles of our vocal cords. But yet we’ve managed to incorporate into our busy and technical savvy lifestyle an element of concern for our health. Seriously, you can look like a super model if you take one single pill, and all it takes is one universal workout machine to have a 6 pack. Or perhaps even our idea of health has “evolved” over the years.
I have been on a journey with my health and it has been a primary goal in my life to understand and appreciate a truly healthy lifestyle. Perhaps healthy isn’t even the correct word anymore, and maybe whole is a better word. After 27 years, a lot of tuition payments and a lot of experiences, I’ve learned a lot of things. Somethings are book knowlege, and I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to go to school, but far more useful are the experiences I’ve had. I may not have all things figured out, but I’ll always continue on my journey, because I am certain it will take one full lifetime for me to write my book. But when it’s written, I’d like it to say that I lived a healthy, wholesome life. I look forward to sharing my tidbits of information, my thoughts, opinions - with hope that perhaps natural selection can slow down just a little bit.
I think people are often too intimidated to make lifestyles changes, partially because we are human, therefore we don’t like change, but mostly because we don’t even know where to begin. When people ask me about trying to become healthier, I often feel like they are inclining more towards a new exercise program or ramping up an exisiting exercise program than about changing their diet. Although incredibly important to our well being (and a HUGE personal interest), exercise really isn’t the first step I think the majority of people should be making. Don’t get me wrong… Health Canada recommends 60 minutes a day, 7 days a week, of activity for an adult, and more for children. If you’re not getting this minimum activity level, then yes, you need to incorporate excercise into your life or ramp up your activity level. However, our bodies are 70% affected by our diets and only 30% affected by our activity level, so our primary concern should be our diet. We’ve all heard the motto “everything in moderate”. Well, I love it and I hate it. When looking at our diets, it is absolutely true, we could have 100% perfect health if we followed this phrase. All foods in moderation will supply us with the nutrients, vitamins, minerals, energy, and enzymes that we need to survive. The issue is what we consider food. If you are interested in making changes in your life, then the first and foremost thing you need to do is completely eliminate all non-food items from your diet. Perhaps this is easier said than done, but this is the key to your success. Non-food items include these: All artificial sweeteners, perservative, dyes and nitrates (ALL of them). These are chemicals, proven carcinogens and foreign to our bodies. It is impossible for our bodies to digest them or use them, and incredibly challenging for our bodies to eliminate them, therefore they turn into toxic waste. The same thing can be said for any altered oils/fats. This would include hydrogenated oils, which are easy to eliminate from our grocery shopping now that legally they must be listed on all food labels, this also includes cooking or baking with fats and oils that are heat and light sensitive (perhaps a good topic for the future). This also means eliminating ALL refined foods. Unfortunately, when we look at this very short list of non-food items, it is devastating to think that they comprise the base of the standard North American diet. This would mean that no, not everything is healthy in moderation, there are, in fact, things that need to be taken out of your life and diet, and eliminated permanently and completely. Luckily, with some education and research, it’s very easy to learn about alternatives, for example replacing your Splenda with agave nectar and your table salt (sodium chloride) for sea salt – just to name a couple. It’s also very convenient when your sister delivers fresh baking and prepared healthy meals in a basket on your door step (but perhaps that is only me…).
We’ll look at the challenges, and how to find some victory in the future!