I don't recommend multivitamins, except in isolated cases such as baby making and the very random special circumstance. Either way, they are short-term solutions made for boosting nutrition to meet specific needs for a specific time frame.
Daily use of a multivitamin long-term is a bit of a hot topic due to recent evidence showing that they not only don't do anything good for you, they may actually do harm. We won't get into the specifics of that controversy here, but instead I'll show you a delicious, whole-food way, to get your entire multivitamin in. The best part: it's delicious and only good for you.
My patients often tell me that a multivitamin is a great way to cover your nutritional bases. As a result, a lot of people end up self-prescribing a crappy multivitamin with low doses and poor bioavailability, meaning the doses of the nutrients in there are quite small and are poorly absorbed. The other issue with these multivitamins is the excellent binders they use, meaning your body can't break it up too well, not to mention the extra ingredients such as FD&C Blue #2 Lake, FD&C Yellow #5 (tartrazine) Lake, FD&C Yellow #6 Lake, Polyethylene Glycol, Silicon Dioxide, and Titanium Dioxide (colour). Sounds delicious and so healthy, right?
Here's a better way: Start your morning off with a smoothie or work it into your day as a snack or your 3pm mental booster. Nutrients coming in via whole food absorb much better and provide lots of fibre as an added bonus. Plus, this nutrient-dense powerhouse smoothie is an amazing substitute for that bagel.
Here are some of my key smoothie ingredients and why they're awesome substitute for your multivitamin. Cover your bases, indeed!
Berries: Provide vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, potassium, and manganese.
Spinach: Vitamins A, B2, B3, B6, K, folate, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Carrots: Vitamin A, potassium, phosphorus.
Flaxseed: Selenium, magnesium, potassium, omega-3 fatty acids.
Pumpkin seed: Iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, selenium, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, folate.
Unsweetened coconut: Selenium, copper, manganese, potassium, vitamin B6.
I like to blend this with a great mixed-source vegetarian protein powder, though whey is also great if you're okay digesting it. Add some water and blend away! I tend to sweeten with a tab of maple syrup or raw, local honey from just down the street. All natural colour. All natural vitamins and minerals. Pure liquid awesomeness.
Each time I speak at the local Running Room, we always talk about chocolate milk. Is it or isn't it? Should you or shouldn't you?
Back in 2008, the ISSN (International Society of Sports Nutrition) made a research-based statement that the optimal ratio of carbohydrate to protein will help stimulate glycogen synthesis as well as muscle protein synthesis. That ratio is 3-4:1.
The chocolate milk people then gasped and shouted this imaginary quote, "Hey, that's us!" And the rest is marketing history. Yes, the ratio is correct with its 192 calories per 250ml yielding 27 grams of carbohydrate and 9 grams of protein. But what about the quality?
There are few nutritional components more pro-inflammatory than good ol' sugar. Guess what's used to sweeten up milk to result in that chocolately goodness? Now, milk does have naturally occurring sugars which those of us lactose-intolerant people know all too well. Lactose is milk sugar. There are also a lot of other added ingredients in chocolate milk extending far beyond its ideal carbohydrate-to-protein ratio and these are mostly stabilizers and thickeners, but also artificial flavour and sometimes even 'modified milk ingredients'. The CBC wrote an article about it a few years ago and broke it down wonderfully (milking meaning from the ingredients label).
Since many people that I see in my clinic don't do well with milk on the digestive front, this is clearly not a very good option. For everyone else, leave this as a treat. There are better options out there for regular use.
Alternative Delicious Chocolate Recovery Drink - natural style.
Two options exist here: A chocolate-banana one, or my personal go-to: a PB-chocolate one which is like drinking a peanut butter cup. Mmm....
For 1 serving (~320 calories)
1 cup almond milk, unsweetened
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp raw honey (or maple syrup)
1 tbsp all-natural (nothing added...check the ingredients label) peanut butter OR 1 tbsp hemp hearts
Blend, drink, recover.
This mix will give you:
~10 grams of protein
~40 grams of carbohydrate
~13 grams of fat
Electrolytes: 180 mg sodium, 450 mg potassium, 40 mg magnesium.
[The exact numbers will vary depending on if you're using PB or hemp, banana size, brand of almond milk, etc, but you'll land in the same ballpark.]
And won't give you: crazy inflammation, antibiotics, gas, bloating, or excess mucous. In other words, a winning combination.
Kerksick, C et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Nutrient timing. JISSN 2008, 5:18.
Nutritiondata.com for nutritional information on ingredients.
I made this the other day for a potluck, literally by throwing everything I had in a bowl. I always love the taste of barley in a salad and think it adds such a delicious texture and taste.
Health benefits: This salad is very high in fibre which will help lower your cholesterol, keep blood sugar stable, and help with weight loss. It's also protein-packed which is wonderful for you veggies & vegans out there. Nutrient-wise, it's high in b-vitamins, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, and a handful of other trace minerals.
Have on it's own or on a bed of mixed greens or baby spinach. SO GOOD.
Black beans, cooked, drained, and rinsed
Hulled barley, cooked
Quinoa, rinsed and cooked
Finely chopped red pepper, green onion, green beans, roasted Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, roasted sweet potato, avocado, etc (whatever veggies you like/have on hand!). Make it colourful!
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lime juice (the real kind, not from a plastic lime)
1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
1 tsp each: cumin, sea salt, pepper
Optional: dash of cayenne for a kick
Toss all ingredients in a bowl. This recipe makes a whole lot as it's great for leftover salads and snacks.
I don't eat much meat, maybe only a few times per month. I have developed some simple yet pretty high standards for animal products: ethical and nothing-added. And no pig. In the process, I've become quite adventurous in the kitchen and have learned some pretty amazing recipes, including my all-time fave Meatless Meatballs. Heaven.
Switching to a veggie diet can be a daunting task so starting small can help. Enter Meatless Mondays. Probably due to my veggie-loving influence, we've been meatless weekdays (Dan's idea, believe it or not) for about 6 months, but even he started out small and it grew from there. When asked how he feels from then to now, here's what I got: "Definitely better. Less logey." The latest addition is the morning smoothie (thank you, dear Vitamix) and I can't wait to tell you about that later. What a wonderful guinea pig.
Here's why a meatless day might be a good addition to your schedule.
1. Health Benefits. From reduced cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer risks to reduced all-cause mortality, there's a fair body of evidence showing the benefits of a more plant-based diet. Now, whether or not going veggie one day a week will provide drastic results is hard to say, but it's certainly a step in the right direction. It's all part of adopting healthier habits and a healthier lifestyle. Unfortunately, it probably won't undo the Big Mac you had yesterday.
2. Gets you exercising your culinary cleverness. Who knew you could make meatballs with walnuts or gooey nacho cheese sauce with potatoes and carrots? Tempeh is a great meaty substitute, or try seitan if you're okay with gluten. Invest in a nice and thick vegan or vegetarian cookbook to give you ideas you never new existed. There's tons of ideas out there. I even made fake ribs the other day which were meat-lover approved! What?!
3. Your children and children's children will thank you. The environmental impact of raising factory-farmed animal sources is huge. Sustainable veggie diets can reduce nitrogen footprints by a substantial amount, though dwarfed by pollution, industry, etc. But still, it's something.
4. You'll get to go on vacation sooner and more often. Beans, lentils, quinoa, millet, brown rice, barley, and chickpeas: all mainstays in our kitchen. I probably spend about $60 every 6 months at the bulk store stocking up on these staples. Yes, you read that right. Fresh veggies are, of course, stocked more frequently but you get the idea of the savings. Much cheaper than what our future medications would cost.
Apple season is in full swing here in Toronto and I am lucky enough to have free pickings of 6 wonderful trees full of organic apples up in Port Perry (thanks, Judy!).
Apple crisp, salads, pies, crumbles - you name it, it's been made over the past month. Today, it's chips and they're hanging out at Evolve with us!
It's a complicated recipe, so I'll try and be as clear as possible. You will need:
Slice apples as thinly as you can and spread in a single layer on a parchment papered baking sheet (or 3... make lots!)
Dust with cinnamon.
Bake at 200F for about 2 hours. I suggest knitting a nice scarf while waiting. It's getting cold out there.
Got it? Enjoy!
Many people are taking fish oil for cardiovascular concerns, inflammation, neurological function, mood, pregnancy, or just because they don’t eat fish in their diet. It’s one of the most common supplements I see self-prescribed and I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. But, not all brands make comparably therapeutic fish oil, meaning the components in it, namely the EPA and DHA, aren’t up to snuff. Here’s what to look for.
The label on a fish oil will be divided into a few things: Total fish oil, EPA, and DHA. The total fish oil just says how much is in there.
EPA is what you want for inflammation, cardiovascular health, or mood and mental disorders such as depression. The dose here varies depending on what the concern is but the range is about 1,000 to 2,000 mg of EPA alone (always ask your healthcare provider when dosing the higher end of the range to see if it’s right for you, or if you’re on other meds or supplements). To compare, a typical generic brand has about 300-500mg of EPA per dose or serving.
DHA is often used for neurological support and growth, so in pregnancy a higher DHA supplement can help build babe’s brain. Use of DHA in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s prevention can be beneficial, though the evidence is conflicting. In most supplements, DHA is in a lower ratio than EPA so keep that in mind if you want a supplement beefed up (er, fished up?) with DHA.
Many of the generic brands will have a high amount of total fish oil and boast a high content of ‘omega-3s’ however they combine the total of EPA and DHA to make this number meaning the actual amount of those omega-3s are quite lower than that. Make sure you check the actual nutrition label as opposed to sticking with the health claim on the bottle!
Aside from dosing issues, there's quality and contamination issues to be aware of. Mercury is something a lot of people ask me about which thankfully isn't an issue with fish oil supplements. Contamination with PCBs is, unfortunately, a bit more common.
If you decide to go the fish-eating route, ensure you're actually relying on cold-water, fatty fish. Use the acronym SMASH: Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovy, Sardine, Herring. I tend to think sushi. Consult SeaChoice for help on choosing sustainable and healthy fish options!
I give vast amounts of gratitude to my friends at The SportLab in Huntsville for posting this on their facebook page today. So good, just had to share. I may have had one for breakfast this morning...
High fibre, high protein, gluten-free, can be dairy-free, egg-free... but don't let that scare you. These things are easy and so, SO tasty. Oh, and they're actually pretty good for you.
1 ¼ cups chickpeas (or 1 can, drained and rinsed)
½ cup natural peanut butter
2 tsp vanilla
¼ cup honey
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch or two of salt
2/3 cup dark chocolate chips (dairy-free if you need)
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. Puree chickpeas in a food processor. Scrape down the edges, and pulse again a few times until the "dough" is completely smooth.
3. Add all the remaining ingredients (except the dark chocolate chips). Puree!
4. Simply stir in the chocolate chips - no more whizzing.
5. Scoop out heaping spoonfuls of dough and drop them onto the parchment. Flatten them slightly with a fork.
6. Bake for about 15 minutes. Allow to completely cool before trying to move them or they might squish a bit or fall apart.
I adapted this recipe from one I found on www.happyhealthymama.com, but not much as the original recipe is SO delicious and simple. Rave reviews in the office so far! They're entirely fresh, natural, and fake-free. Whole food chips... yes, please!
Finely chopped rosemary
Slice the potatoes and beet super thin - as thin as you can sanely manage. A freshly sharpened knife or mandoline work well. Toss in a generous dousing of olive oil and lay in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt, pepper, and rosemary on the red potato. Let your culinary creativity (and chip flavour craving) flow and flavour as you like. Bake at 350 for 12 minutes on the first side, then flip, and bake for another 6-10 minutes, watching closely. I had to remove a few early to prevent burning but over the course of 5 minutes, they were all done. Allow to sit out of the oven for a couple of minutes as they will crisp up. If they don't stick them back in for another couple minutes. Enjoy!
One of my all-time favourite recommendations for digestion...and maybe a few other reasons! Let's get to it.
1. Heartburn. Wait, acid for acid? Yep. Sometimes there is too much acid production in the stomach. Sometimes there's not enough. The lower esophageal sphincter, or the top door of the stomach, runs on a negative feedback mechanism. This means when there's enough acid, it shuts, and when there isn't enough, it doesn't get that signal and stays open causing the little acid that's there to splash up. Next time you have heartburn, try a bit of ACV and wait about 5-10 minutes. That's about how long it takes for the signals to get working.
*If this worsens things, an antacid should neutralize everything. Or, try deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) tablets which will coat the esophagus and protect from acid.
2. Gas and bloating. Sometimes we don't digest enough of our food ourselves and smaller particles make it through to the large intestine where bacteria get to feast...and output gas. Making sure your digestive cascade is working starts in the mouth with chewing properly. The next step is the increase in stomach acid in response to food. This signals the release of enzymes from the stomach and pancreas, and triggers bile release from the gallbladder. Ramping up your body's own digestive juices is one key to a healthy belly.
3. Itchy dermatitis. ACV can act as a topical counter-irritant leaving itching to subside. Make sure there's no broken skin first. If it's itchy dandruff, ACV doubles as a wonderful conditioner. And no, you don't smell afterward!
How to take it:
I recommend half a shotglass of ACV and topping up with water. That's your dose. Rinse out your mouth though so that any residual acid doesn't break down enamel, or have straw handy so that the regular dose of vinegar goes straight down the hatch.
[Disclaimer: this is a stock photo. I don't actually know this brand, though I'm sure they're great, but any ACV will do!]
Easy, healthy, raw, awesome. Gluten-free, dairy-free, processed-free, fake-free. What more could you ask from a tasty, chocolatey morsel?
12 medjool dates (pitted)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup each of sunflower, pumpkin, and flax seeds
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
Throw all of the nuts and seeds into the food processor first and blend until the nuts are a coarse flour. Add all of the other ingredients and blend for another minute or two until a thick dough forms. Roll into balls and refrigerate. The whole process will take you less than 10 minutes. Awesome, indeed.
*If you use honey dates, make sure you soak them overnight and you'll need a bit more because they're smaller. Medjool dates are much softer so they'll blend up easier.