IronSister: Boston!

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!

Vancouver Marathon last year! Where IronSister qualified for Boston.

IronSister Says: Ph Balance

Acid/Base Balance:

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.


IronSister Says: Being Practical

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.


IronSister Says: Thoughts on Carbs

Much like fats, carbohydrates are another one of those macronutrients that have a bad reputation. These bad boys are, in fact: life giving, energy producing foods, our body’s primary and ideal choice of nutrient for fuel and energy.  Again, like fats, there are more desirable, and far less desirable versions of carbohydrates – which is probably why we often hear, and spend so much time trying to eliminate them from our diets.  With a little bit of education, we can adjust out diets, not to eliminate all carbs, but to eliminate the bad ones, increase the good ones, and give our body’s a break from trying to use secondary energy sources (proteins and fats).
Carbohydrates are macronutrients – macro meaning we need them in large quantities (eat your heart out Dr. Atkin), along with fats, proteins and water.  Carbs are single or mid/long chains of molecules made of Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen, they are broken apart during cellular respiration to essentially sugar in our blood, and with the use of hormones our cells mobilize and utilize these molecules to give us energy and keep our body well fueled.
Simple Carbohydrates are single sugar molecules, also known as monosaccharides.  When we eat these carbs, our body uses them immediately and without the need to break them down.  The good thing is that there is immediate energy available (useful for athletes or diabetic situations), the bad thing is that they are grossly over consumed leading to a host of many other problems.  When we eat simple carbs, our pancreas senses the large and immediate increase in our blood sugar levels and reacts by secreting the hormone insulin.  Insulin mobilizes the sugars from our blood to enter our cells where they are utilized to produce energy.  The issue that arises here is that large amounts of simple carb ingestion means large blood sugar level spikes, large doses of insulin doing their job, and then one big fat sugar low…. generally leading to “sugar coma” or the ingestion of more simple carbs for more energy.  With years of abuse, insulin may become resistant or less effective, and things like Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease are the result of that.
Complex Carbohydrates, on the other hand, provide us with longer and sustained energy as these are long chains of sugar molecules bonded together, also known as polysaccharides.  When eaten, our body wil break the chains apart, piece by piece, over a period of time, regulating our blood sugar increases and decreases, and providing us with the energy that we need to survive from meal to meal.
This may or may not be new information for you, but the key to increasing our complex carb intake and decreasing, or eliminating, our simple carb intake comes from proper knowledge of our food choices.  Simple carbs are generally refined, looking at grains for example, the bran (outer hull) and the germ (new seed) are removed to produce a lighter product which preserves for longer.  The refining process results in a loss of fibre, most vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, iron, zinc, copper, chromium, folic acid, magnesium and manganese.  As you can see, not only do these simple carbs mess with our body’s sugar regulating system, they also leave us with a nutrient deficit… all for the convenience of longer shelf life and ‘lighter’ food.  Whole grains on the other hand, complex carbs, non-refined, are low in fat, have no cholesterol and are high in fiber.  These foods will lower blood cholesterol and control blood glucose (sugar) levels, as well as increase elimination and decrease the risk of colon cancer.  For a little less cooking convenience, this seems worth it to me.
I am often asked about two things.  One thing being “enriched” grains.  This means that a few vitamins and minerals are added back into refined products including: iron, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin.  They could be considered “partially restored”.  This doesn’t really do anything about the blood glucose levels issue, nor does it restore all of the vitamins and minerals that were lost, you will still end up with a deficit in some form.  The second thing many people are curious about is fruit.  Fructose, or fruit sugar, is a monosaccharide, and therefore absorbed and used for immediate energy.  Fruit, however, is full of fibre, which aids in blood sugar regulation, and helps to control our glucose levels from rising too quickly.  Fruit would be the ideal food to be used for immediate energy, if needed, without the negative effects of a refined, simple carbohydrate type food.  This would be ideal for that afternoon lull that we often feel, or for athletes needing an additional energy boost during their training (as in – training for the Boston Marathon as one small example…)
If this leaves you hanging with nothing left to eat, let me encourage you to explore the wonderful variety of foods that are out there.  If you just don’t think you can survive without your breakfast bagel and Uncle Ben’s instant rice, I can assure there are many many substitutes, well worth the few extra minutes of preparation.  Consider experimenting with these grains in their whole form: Amaranth, buckwheat, corn, couscous, kamut, millet, oats, quinoa, brown rice, rye, spelt, and whole wheat. The less refined food you eat, the healthier you will be!
fig&fennel – IronSister mentioned to me yesterday that she has been asked to do a health segment on Breakfast TV in November. I’ll keep you posted as to when, so you can tune in!

IronSister Says: Thoughts On Protein

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…

Protein Requirements

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.

IronSister Says:

Thoughts On Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs):
Like I mentioned last week, I wanted to dedicate this week to talking about fats.  Fats are always categorized as the enemy and we spend much of our time finding ways to fight these bad guys.  In fact, Canadian food guidelines as well as most health care practitioners are constantly reminding us to reduce our fat intake.  Considering the sky-high obesity rate in North America, we can easily understand why we are constantly reminded that our fat intake should not exceed 15 – 20% of our daily caloric intake.  Unfortunately it is very rare that people take the time to differentiate the artery-clogging-heart-stopping fats from the life-giving-essential-nutrition fats that we need.  So for this week, let me challenge you to not focus on the quantity of fat in your diet, but the quality of fats.
The focus of “fat education” is generally geared towards saturated fats and cholesterol, and it is true, these are our enemies.  Briefly, saturated fats are stable molecues of fat that are “saturated” with hydrogen atoms.  This means there are no empty spaces for them to be altered, making them stable and less susceptible to oxidization and free radical production.  Unfortunately these saturated balls of blubber make our blood sticky, clogging arteries (atherosclerosis) and leading to heart disease.  Also, saturated fats increase “bad cholesterol” in our blood, which further aggravates heart disease issues.  Sources of saturated fats include: animal fats, dairy fats, tropical oils, cocoa butter and hydrogenated fats.  Although not all of these fats are created equally, essentially this is the fat that our bodies have no need for and are found in over-abundance in the Standard American Diet.  Any of the saturated fat that we eat and do not burn off is the fat that we are constantly being reminded to cut out.  The leftovers settle nicely on our hips or bellies or in the very important vasculature that pumps blood to and from our hearts.
The next bad one that we all hear about is cholesterol.  This fat is highly misunderstood, as it actually serves many purposes in our bodies.  Cholesterol is needed to produce hormones, vitamin D and bile acids.  Cholesterol is a necessary component in such things like our cell membranes and our brains and cholesterol cushions our organs.  The misunderstanding comes from the difference between “blood” cholesterol and “dietary” cholesterol.  Blood cholesterol (HDL), our bodies manufactor and are used for the important things stated above.  Dietary cholesterol (LDL) are the bad guys that tend to work like saturated fats.  Additional dietary cholesterol is not really needed and therefore must be limited or better yet eliminated.  Interestingly only animal-derived foods contain cholesterol, plant foods are cholesterol free.  (I suppose this fact alone will give us the answer to dealing with cholesterol if it is an issue for you.  If you aren’t ready to take the plunge into the vegetarian world – I can highly recommend it! – soluble fibre intake increases our body’s ability to remove cholesterol.  Some interesting facts: For someone with an elevated cholesterol 2x’s normal values, 1 month of a strict vegetarian diet will lower your cholesterol to below normal values.  Also an average meat eater has a 40-50% chance of developing heart disease, whereas vegetarians have only a 0-10% chance (Pass the lentils please!).
Enough about the bad guys, lets talks about the good guys!  Omega 3 essentail fatty acid and omega 6 essential fatty acid are 2 of the 50 essential nutrients that our body must have to survive but cannot make.  Therefore, we must find them in our diets.  This is a condensed list of what EFA’s do for us: essential for circulation, hemoglobin (blood) production, membrane (skin) function, recovery from fatigue, prostaglandin (hormone) synthesis, growth, cell division, brain development, immune function and anti-inflammatory response.  That’s quite a list!   Even further, there are other factors that add to our EFA deficiency, including: stress, caffeine, alcohol, drug usage, smoking and pollution.  An astounding amount of research has suggested that many of the symptoms of degenerative diseases (amoung many, includes heart disease and cancer) are due to a deficiency in either or both omega 3 and omega 6 EFA’s.
This sounds depressing…. but I am a firm believer in being well informed.  With this information it so much easier to make some changes!  Not quite ready to cut out all of those steak dinners?  At least make some adjustments to ensure that EFA’s are included in your diet.
What can you do?
I have eaten a vegetarian diet for nearly a decade, I do believe it is the best diet I can follow, however it may not be for everyone.  If that’s the case for you, then here are some examples of foods that are high in omega 3 and omega 6 EFA’s, it would be highly benefical to adjust your diet accordingly to increase these food items:
Omega 6: safflower, sunflower, hemp, soybean, walnut, pumpkin, sesame and flax oils, nuts, seed and wheat germ.
Omega 3: flax, hemp, canola, soy and walnut oils, nuts, seeds wheat germ and dark green leafy vegetables.
Also, keep in mind, EFA’s are considered to be “super-unsaturated” fats, meaning that unlike saturated fats, the molecular makeup is highly unstable.  There are lots of open spaces for their chemical makeup to be altered, and this will oxidize them and allow for free radical production.  These oils are heat and light sensitive, should be stored in the refrigerator and kept in a dark container.  If you bought it off the shelf at your local grocery store, it is likely rancid, so make sure you are shopping from the refrigerated section.  Furthermore, these oils can be affected by the heat that they are cooked at, the following temperature chart should be referred to when you are cooking:
Cold Prep: do not heat (120F/49C), super polyunsaturated (flax oil, walnut oil).  Uses: blender drinks, salad dressing, condiments
Low Heat Cooking: (212F/100C), polyunsaturated (pumpkin seed oil).  Uses: light sauteing, baking, salad dressings
Med Heat Cooking: (325F/163C), poly and monounsaturated (sesame oil), monounsaturated (extra virgin olive oil).  Uses: Light sauteing, baking, salad dressing
High Heat Cooking: (375F/190C), high in monounsaturated (sunflower oil), saturated (coconut oil, ghee).  Uses: browning, frying, baking

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!

IronSister Says:

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!

IronSister Says:

Thoughts on digestion:
Although the human body is composed of billions of little cells and a handful of vital organs, I believe the key to unlocking optimal health lies within the digestive system.  Often we look at our digestive system as the one thing that will never fail us, day in and day out we in our western lives consume anything within arms reach – food, nonfood, liquids, solids, chemicals, stimulants, relaxants, drugs, etc.  Somehow we then have heigthened expectations that our systems will magically mix it up, break it down, sort it into good and bad, use the good and get rid of the bad…. and never let us down.  When inevitably something in our body lets us down, we rarely look at our overloaded and exhuasted guts as the culprits.
When pondering digestion this past week, I was drawn back a few to years to my anatomy and physiology courses.  I loved these course, and I had the pleasure of taking it in 3 different programs; Nutrition School, University and Respiratory Therapy School (paying for it three times I did not care for).  Each time I took this course I was thoroughly astounded by the complexity of our digestive system.
Extremely briefly:
Digestion starts in our mouths, all those juices are there for a reason with an incredibly important role, moving downward, food passes through a tube called the esophagus located behind our windpipe (trachea).  Our esophagus penetrates through our diaphragm, to a special opening called the gastroesophageal junction and then it enters the stomach.  Moving on we go through the stomach to the duodenum or the small intestine which also houses the common bile duct, a pathway from the liver, gallbladder and pancreas.  After a marathon distance of football fields the small intestine ends and the ileocecal valve and the large intestine begins.  Five feet of cecum, ascending, transverse and descending colon brings us to the rectum.  From the rectum, we return to the earth what we have taken, in some way or another.
I say all of this because I think this is a very short, very condesnsed explanation of how our diet choices greatly affect our health.  There are a lot of body parts, organs, cells and kilometers of guts that are affected by the choices we make, inevitably poor choices over a period of time can overload a very large and complex system, which will likely manifest itself as a very large and complex ailment.    As an example, the liver is apart of our digestive system, after years of toxic overload, I would suspect it would become sluggish.  The liver also plays a large role in our blood detoxification, blood circulates through our body affecting various things like gas exchange and cardiac function.  A bad liver is garunteed to result in probles further on down the line as well.
I suppose ultimately this is just further to my interest in optimal nutrition.  In my last post I talked about food and nonfood items, and  when looking at the complexity of our digestive pathway, it becomes more clear how affected our health can be by our choices.
This week I will leave you one more healthy choice we can make: consider proper food combining.  This is a topic I spent hours learning about in school, so to sum it up in a few short sentences is challenging.  Mixing certain foods together is a problem because carbohydrates are first digested by alkaline juices from our mouthand proteins are digested by acid juices from our stomach.  If eaten together, the result is a neutralization of the digestive juices and a massive increase in the time it takes to digest food.  Extended digestion times increase fermentation and putrefacation of toxins being formed in our guts.  Seperating the food groups leads to simpler, quicker and more complete digestion and less time for pests to party in our guts.  Less toxic production means our body’s absorb nutrients, eliminate cell waste and maintain balance.
With all this said, I suppose it causes problems for our “meat and potatoes” western diet.  This may also mean that our whole way of living and eating needs to be revamped.  But we can also look at food combining more as a stepping stone to improving health rather than an absolute.  Ultimately the purpose will be to power up digestion to the point that intestines will have little (or less) time to produce new toxins.  If digestion is efficient then extra digestive energy is left over to go out to our blood stream and clean up the old accumulated toxins.  Surplus digestive efficency can do some much needed housecleaning for the body.
Food combining is kind of a complicated topic that maybe I will tackle here for you further in the future. But for now, if you do one thing for your body this week, attempt to fill it with food only, no chemicals, preservatives, or other non food items. The less processed or altered your food is, the healthier your guts will be!
fig & fennel – if you have topics or questions you would like IronSister to answer, leave them here in the comments and she’ll try to get you some answers!

IronSister Says:

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!