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.
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!
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!
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.
If you're popping by Evolve today, you'll find a sampler of these goodies. They're crispy, crunchy, high in protein, high in good fats, dairy-free, gluten-free, and really easy to make. Your fridge will do most of the work.
You can use any combination of nuts/seeds that you want and mix it up with different dried fruits. I used dates but was really hoping for goji berries. Next time...
Here's how to make them:
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup almond-cashew butter (though you can use any nut butter)
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup dates
1/2 cup grated coconut
1/4 cup almonds
3 cups crispy rice cereal (gluten-free)
In a pot over low heat, combine honey and nut butter. Let it warm up and become runny for about a minute. While this is heating up, whiz together the bigger nuts in a food processor or blender until they're coarse. Do the same for the dates (which are surprisingly loud). Mix the nuts, seeds, dates, and cereal in a bowl and toss. Pour the honey/nutter butter mixture on top and stir until well combined. Press onto a greased or parchment paper
Yep, that's right. Healthy proteins and fats never tasted so good.
I considered calling this "the best brownies ever" but I'll leave that judgement up to you. I've seen the black bean brownie recipe making the rounds so I thought I'd share the one I've tweaked a few times and has brought sheer joy to my clinic coworkers.
2 cup black beans (cooked or canned)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
All ingredients into the food processor for about 2 minutes or until the black beans don't look like themselves anymore. Bake in a 350 oven for 30 minutes in a 9x9 pan.
*Note: I experimented with this recipe first when I was living with an electric oven and it only took 30 minutes to cook. With my gas oven, for some reason it takes upwards of 45 minutes (the same happened to my colleague). If the knife comes out gooey, keep baking.
Meanwhile, you can make the frosting (while trying not to eat it all).
1 large ripe avocado
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp honey
dash of vanilla extract (optional)
Mash altogether. I used my best kitchen bud the SmartStick to work out all the lumps. Spread evenly on the brownies once they've cooled. Share with all your loved ones!
It's a lean, green, inflammation-fighting machine! I recently bought a huge box of organic baby spinach and then, true to Toronto form, the weather dropped 20 degrees to bone-numbing cold the next day. My desire for fresh salads came to a grinding halt.
It was shortly before that when a patient of mine told me about adding spinach to smoothies. I was a bit surprised as it was something I had never tried before. I expected stringy and leafy bits to be left behind which I think is why I never gave it a whirl (ha ha... blender...whirl...!). Until this past week when I've been enjoying one of my favourite leaves a la Popeye! Almost.
Spinach is amazingly rich in nutrients, specifically folate, vitamins K and A, and a whole range of trace minerals. It's high in fibre and low in calories. It's anti-inflammatory, filling, nutritive, and keeps you regular. It's great fresh in a salad, mixed with rice and beans, or wilted down in a curry.
But in a blender? Really? If I haven't lost you yet, here's the recipe for what I've been eating daily for the past 2 weeks. It's basically a super nutritious chocolate milkshake:
1 cup of baby spinach
1/2 cup vanilla almond milk
1/2 cup water
1 scoop unflavoured protein powder (I use a mixed vegetarian source)
1 tbsp organic cocoa powder (purely to beef up the antioxidants...)
1 tbsp raw honey
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
Calories: 290 Protein: 30g Fat: 10g (almost all unsaturated good stuff) Carb: 27g
You might already know that my favourite kitchen gadget is my Cuisinart SmartStick (no, I do not work for them!) so that's all I use to blend this up which works fantastically, as always.
Spinach for breakfast...who knew!?