The Skinny on Carbs

Carbohydrates, or Saccharides, are sugars and starches, which provide us with energy.

There are two types of Carbohydrates, Simple, or Monosaccharides and Complex, or Polysaccharides.

Simple Carbohydrates (a.k.a. Bad Carbs) are often found in processed and refined foods such as white sugar, pastas, white bread and baked goods. Because Simple Carbohydrates are smaller molecules of sugar unlike the long chains in Complex Carbohydrates they are digested quickly leaving you hungry sooner.

Bad Carbs = Body Fat
The liver digests carbohydrates by breaking them down into simple sugars, or glucose, which stimulates the production of insulin in the pancreas. The insulin functions to get the sugar into the body’s cells to be used as energy. The two different types of carbohydrates affect the production of insulin differently—when digesting simple carbohydrates, insulin levels spike faster, and the carbohydrates are used up more quickly for energy. This explains why many who turn to a chocolate bar for a quick supply of energy find that their energy levels crash when the “sugar high” comes to an end. Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest, resulting in longer lasting energy, and less of an insulin reaction in the body which in the end keeps you fuller longer.

If the body produces too much glucose, it will be stored in the liver and muscle cells as glycogen, to be used for when the body needs an extra burst of energy. Any leftover glycogen that isn't stored in liver and muscle cells is stored as fat. The body uses the immediate store of glycogen for short bursts of exercise. For extended periods of exercise such as long distance running and more strenuous workouts, the body will turn to its fat reserve to draw extra energy.

Complex Carbohydrates (a.k.a.Good Carbs), which take longer for the body to digest, are most commonly found in fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads and pasta, brown rice, and legumes. Because of its complex chain form, your digestive enzymes have to work much harder to access the bonds to break the chain into individual sugars for absorption through the intestines. Because of that, the digestion of complex carbohydrates takes longer. The slow absorption of sugars provides you with a steady supply of energy and limits the amount of sugar converted into fat and stored. Eating a serving of whole grain cereal such as oatmeal will fill you up and give you longer lasting energy than a bowl of sugary cereal due to the way the body processes and uses the carbohydrates.

Low Carb Diets = Bad Health
The body needs a certain amount of carbohydrates to function properly, and insufficient intake may cause fatigue, muscle cramps, and poor mental function. Although carbohydrates are an important part of our diet, the body can produce energy from fat and proteins alone. While this may do for short periods of time, avoiding all carbs will adversely affect your body. Many low-carb diets have been labeled as healthy, but if taken to the extreme, they can be very dangerous to a one’s overall well-being.

It's important to remember that "low-carb" doesn't mean "no-carb." Be sure to eat moderate amounts of the right type of carbohydrates to keep your body fueled properly.

Daily Recommendation
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 55-75% of an adult’s “dietary energy” should come from carbohydrates; no more than 10% of carbohydrate consumption comes from simple carbohydrates.

Complex Carbohydrates
• Dried apricots and prunes
• Beans: Navy, Kidney, Romano, Pinto, Garbanzo, Soy
• Peas: Split peas, Lentils
• Whole Grains: Buckwheat, Barley, Millet, Quinoa, Brown rice, Wild rice, Oats, Ezekiel, Spelt.
• Fruit: Apples, Pears, Berries, Plums, Citrus (oranges, grapefruit)
• Cruciferous Vegetables: Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Radishes, Kale, Collard Greens, Bok Choy, Rapini. Arugula.
• Night Shade Vegetables: Eggplant, Zucchini, Tomatoes, Potatoes, Peppers
• Other Vegetables: Carrots, Celery, Cucumbers, Leafy greens (spinach)
• Sprouts

Simple Carbohydrates
• Table sugar
• Fruit juice
• Candy
• Cake
• Bread made with white flour
• Pasta made with white flour
• Soda pop
• Candy/Chocolate
• All baked goods made with white flour
• Most packaged cereals
• Honey
• Milk
• Jam

Benefits of Whole Grains
Whole grains are excellent foods which are rich in complex carbohydrates, protein, fiber and essential nutrients. Here are some of the many benefits of whole grains.

1) Weight Loss – Whole grains are Complex Carbohydrates; Complex Carbohydrates keep you satisfied for a longer period of time than simple carbohydrates thus making you eat less. Complex Carbohydrates also don’t have the same insulin effect as simple carbs do. Simple carbs release excess insulin which your body stores as fat.
2) Beautiful skin and beautiful mood– Whole grains are high in B Vitamins. B Vitamins are known to help kick depression and give you glowing skin.
3) Elimination – Whole grains contain a large amount of fiber. Your body needs fiber to move waste out of the intestines and into the toilet where it belongs.
4) Basic bodily functions improve – Whole grains help your body metabolize protein, release energy from muscles, protects your cells, keeps your bowel movements regular, provides heart health and helps relax your nervous system.

Some Whole Grains to consider introducing to your diet
1) Barley – Highly nutritious with high values of niacin and thiamine. Known to lower bad cholesterol.
2) Buckwheat – Contains all 8 essential amino acids making it a complete protein. Good source of calcium, B Vitamins, iron and fiber.
3) Kamut – High energy grain and easily digested.
4) Millet – Gluten-free. Great source of magnesium, potassium, phosphorous and B-complex vitamins.
5) Oats – Known to lower bad cholesterol. Mildly laxative. Contains good level of protein, B vitamins and minerals.
6) Quinoa – Contains all 8 essential amino acids making it a complete protein. Rich in iron, calcium and phosphorous.
7) Brown Rice – High levels of B Vitamins and fiber.
8) Rye - High in B vitamins, protein and iron. Highest of all grains in the essential amino acid, lysine. Whole grain flour is best, then dark and light flour.
9) Spelt – More easily digested than wheat for most people. Higher in nutrients – protein, minerals, vitamins than wheat as well.
10) Amaranth– High in protein, Vitamin C, calcium and iron. Great source of fiber. Gluten-free. High level of lysine, essential amino acid.

The information presented here is not intended to replace professional medical care when needed. Consult a qualified healthcare practitioner for disease diagnosis, therapy choice, medicine selection and dosage.

Recipe - ABC Chicken Soup -

I can win $250 if you vote for my 'ABC Chicken Soup' recipe in Mixing Bowl's 'Your Best Baby Food Contest'!

My family's chicken soup recipe but with a toddler twist.
Nutritious, delicious and fun to eat!

Recipe - ABC Chicken Soup -

Week 2 of My Vegan Challenge

It's Week 2 of My Vegan Challenge and I must say this is easier than I thought it would be. I guess it's because I have been religiously following a whole foods diet for 5 years. I've been enjoying some scrumptious foods. Handmade nori rolls packed with fresh veggies, hummus, homemade guacamole, brown rice...pretty much anything leftover in my fridge. Lots of whole grains to keep my belly satisfied. Quinoa, brown rice, millet, buckwheat and spelt, just to name a few. Homemade minestrone, bean soups and vegan burritos. My mouth is watering just thinking of the delicious foods I've been eating.

Since starting my challenge 9 days ago I've learned the key to transitioning to a vegan diet is to:
a) Eat frequently (I've been eating small meals every 3 hours) to avoid blood sugar drops which equals: bitchiness, cravings, tiredness and more bitchiness.
b)Eat a variety of foods to make sure you are getting enough nutrients and to prevent cravings.
c) Include a ton of whole grains to keep you satisfied. Meat and Dairy give you that "full" and "heavy" feeling after you eat and often when people stop eating these foods they think they need to feel "heavy" and "full" for your body to actually be satisfied. When in fact that "heavy" and "full" feeling is your digestive system being overloaded with too much food and/or the wrong combination of foods and/or working extra hard to metabolize the meal.
d) Have a support system! The last thing you need is your significant other waving a juicy steak in front of you while you are eating your veggie ground (luckily and a little surprisingly, Chris has been super supportive).

Speaking of significant others....

My hubby loves my non-vegan banana bread (I don't blame him, it rocks!) but I just knew it would be such a tease if I made it and couldn't enjoy it myself. So, I searched the internet for a vegan banana bread recipe and came across quite a few. I wasn't very happy with a lot of the ingredients being used so I substituted a few ingredients here and there and came up with my own Vegan Banana Bread recipe. It is delicious and a MUST to try! Do it! You won't regret it!

Melissa's Vegan Banana Bread

3 large ripe bananas
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup canola oil or vegan margarine
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons amber agave nectar
1 cup all-purpose spelt flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or vegan chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas really well. Add the sugar, applesauce, oil and agave nectar. Mix well by hand or in mixer on low speed.

Sift in the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Fold in walnuts or chocolate chips (optional)

Transfer batter to prepared loaf pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes.

Insert toothpick in center of loaf. Toothpick should come out moist but NOT gunky or sticky.

Remove from oven and let cool before enjoying your masterpiece.

Don’t hate me because I’m Tofu-tiful

Shawn Costanzo thinks eating tofu is like eating wet tastes like nothing!

That was my friend’s facebook status today which has inspired me to write my blog entry on the misunderstood Soybean and its by-products.

Soy and its by-products have gotten a lot of attention in the media over the past few years, positive and negative. It’s been stated that soy has the potential to lower the risk of breast cancer and heart disease. On the flip side it has also been suggested that soy plays havoc with your body causing problems such as hypothyroidism, reproductive disorders and even Cancer.

Consider this?
Animal studies are at the very foundation of many of the accusations against soy. But animals are not the same as humans, so foods that affect them in one way may well affect us differently. Even those that seem quite closely related, often function quite differently at a molecular level.

Source: What about Soy? John Robbins:

Soybeans have been used for many years, by Asian cultures, as a high quality plant-protein source that has numerous health benefits. But of course, modern agricultural and food industry methods had to step in and screw with nature! These mafiaoza’s of the food industry have created more and more processed, refined, chemically altered, convenience products that do contain soy but in an extremely altered state containing almost none of the original ancient health benefits.

Yay or Nay?
Like with anything you ingest, whether you include soy and its by-products in your diet is your choice. If you are including soy in your diet or would like to, consider these tips before your next shopping trip.

  1. Choose organic – Soy harvests are heavily sprayed with pesticides, herbicides and other nasty chemicals. Soy is also the MOST Genetically modified crop thanks to the food industry mafiaoza’s. Don’t mess with nature, buy organic if you can.
  2. Moderation - Even too much of a good thing, like Soy, is still too much. Like anything you eat, don’t eat it every day. By rotating your foods it will help your body ward off food sensitivities.
  3. Good Quality products - Do you wear cheap, poorly made shoes on your feet? Probably not. So why would you buy cheaply made food only to have negative effects to your precious body. My favourite inexpensive high-quality Organic Tofu:

My Top 5 Soy products:
Tofu - has a bland taste and like my friend Shawn said, “tofu is like eating wet styrofoam”. True, true if it’s not cooked properly. The key to cooking tofu is to add lots of flavour that way the tofu, like a sponge, soaks up all the delicious flavours. Pick-up Alicia Silverstone’s book; The Kind Diet and try “Black Soybean and Kabocha Squash Stew.”

Miso - is a paste made from cooked soybeans that are fermented with rice or other grains like brown rice. Most commonly known as a base for soup, Miso Soup.

Tempeh - is a fermented soybean cake with a nutty and mushroom-like flavor that is high in protein and fiber. The Big Carrot makes a killer Tempeh Chili.

Edamame - You’ve seen these little green pods before at a Japanese restaurant. Traditionally served before the main meal with some miso soup. Fresh edamame is quite difficult to find unless you are in an Asian market. The frozen edamame are second best and you can find them in almost every major grocery store or your local health food store in the frozen food section.

Soy ice creams - I love Tofutti’s! However, Tofutti and similar soy ice cream bars are not the healthiest of choices. But everything in moderation, right? Right! It’s difficult not to eat a whole box in one night (been there, done that) but these little cutie's, when highly consumed, are not so cute for your hips or your insides.

Brownie points for Soy:
  • Soy contains, Isoflavones which prevent the growth of estrogen-dependent breast cancer cells.
  • Isoflavones can also slow prostate cancer cells from growing.
  • Studies have shown that Soy lowers LDL (the bad) cholesterol levels by as much as 14% and increase the HDL (the good) cholesterol levels by as much as 8%
  • Eating soy helps to replace animal products, which are loaded with saturated fats and cholesterol.

What about Soy? John Robbins:
CBC News:

My 4-week Vegan Challenge

I just got my copy of Alicia Silverstone's, 'The Kind Diet'. It is fabulous!
As a Holistic Nutritionist I have read hundreds of books on nutrition, good and bad. 'The Kind Diet' is an informative, no holds barred, easy read. A must in your home library.

For the last 7 years I have been very conscious of the food I put in my body. At the beginning, my food choices were based out of pure vanity. Over the years this has changed to wanting to physically feel better, to improve my health and now to do something wonderful for our planet. I know the health benefits of not eating meat and dairy and because of documentaries like Food Inc. and books like, Diet for a New America, (and now,'The Kind Diet')I know the negative affects the livestock industry have on the earth. As Alicia would say, I've "flirted" with not eating meat or animal products for nearly a decade. I enjoy whole organic foods, local, seasonal, anti-biotic free, hormone free, GMO free....but I feel, for myself, that is not enough. So as I dig into this book I am taking on a 4 week personal Vegan Challenge. Today is Day 1 of my "Vegan Meal Plan" and hope to graduate to "Superhero" status by the end of my 4-week challenge.

I will keep my followers updated on my adventure. I hope I inspire you to at least think of where your food is coming from. I'm off to the grocery store....can't wait to make Alicia's, Pumpkin Bread!

Boot Camp on the Beach

I am getting ready for my annual Boot Camp on the Beach which takes place in the Toronto Beach area starting Tuesday May 4th and running all the way to October every Tuesday and Thursday from

Great workout, great results, great people, great instructor (that's me) and its right on the beach!

Here is one of the exercises we'll be doing:

Squat Kickouts

Target Muscles:
Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings, Hip flexors and extensors, abdominals.

1) Step out with your right leg, so your legs are hip width apart. Stick your butt out like you're sitting in a chair and squat down to 90 degrees (thighs are parallel to the ground). Watch that your knees don't rotate in or out, keep them parallel. Relax your shoulders and clasp your hands in front of you.

2) Stabilize your left leg as you step firmly into your left foot, lift up to standing position and kick out to the side with your right leg keeping your right leg as straight as possible.

3) Bring your right leg down to the ground and than squat down again to 90 degrees.

Now do the same thing to the other side...

4) Stabilize your right leg and step firmly into your right foot, lift up to standing position and kick out to the side with your left leg keeping your left leg as straight as possible.

Repeat 10-12 times on each side

Bonus round:
To intensify the exercise add 10 little mini squats when you are down at 90 degrees. Feel the burn?

Tips for Squatting Safely

1. Keep the toes and heels on the floor throughout the movement
2. As you squat your knees never pass your toes
3. Try not to squat lower than 90 degrees
4. As you squat down watch that you don't rotate your knees in or out, keep them parallel.
5. Keep the shoulders back, spine in neutral (natural arch in the lower back) and the head and neck in line with eachother.
6. Engage your abdominals to avoid straining your lower back.

The information presented here is not intended to replace professional medical care when needed. Consult a qualified healthcare practitioner for disease diagnosis, therapy choice, medicine selection and dosage.