All Aboard the Gluten-free Bandwagon

This post is inspired by Beauty FIT Beast's 5 for 15 Challenge. You can view my posts for the challenge here. Participants have cut out gluten, sugar, fake sugar, alcohol and preservatives. As the Nutrition Specialist for the challenge and for Beauty FIT Beast its my responsibility to inform and inspire participants during their 15-day challenge. This week it's all about gluten. 

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a special type of protein that is commonly found in rye, wheat and barely. Therefore, it is found in most types of packaged foods, cereals, energy bars and in many types of bread. Not all foods from the grain family contain gluten. Examples of grains that do not have gluten include brown rice, wild rice, corn, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, quinoa and oats.

For people with celiac disease (an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine) cutting gluten can relieve a host of symptoms, including bloating, cramps, nausea, anemia, irritability and depression. But many other people who haven't been diagnosed with the intolerance are jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon.

Here's why...

Tip: Try millet flour as a wheat flour substitute when baking.

Gluten-free Grains and their Benefits 

Brown Rice  and Wild Rice: High levels of B Vitamins and fiber can be found in both brown and wild rice. Brown rice products can be easily found not just in health food stores but major grocery stores as well. You will find a variety of pastas, breads, tortillas and chips all made with brown rice. My Favourite: Brown Rice Bio-Buds by: Sha Sha Bread Co

Corn: Shocking, I know.  Not all corn has been converted to ethanol. Not only can you eat corn, but you can eat anything made from corn flour.  Tip: Buy Certified Organic corn and corn products as corn crops are generally GMO and sprayed heavily with pesticides.

Buckwheat: Despite the name, buckwheat does not contain wheat. Buckwheat contains all 8 essential amino acids making it a complete protein. Good source of calcium, B Vitamins, iron and fiber. My Favourite: Buckwheat Soba Noodles by: Eden Foods

Millet: Considered one of the first cultivated grains, millet is a great source of magnesium, potassium, phosphorous and B-complex vitamins. My Favourite: Millet Puffs by: Natures Path

Amaranth: High in protein, Vitamin C, calcium and iron. Great source of fiber. Gluten-free. High level of lysine, an essential amino acid. I like: Organic Amaranth Flour from: Bulk Barn for baking as well as Millet Flour.

Quinoa: This is a nutty, rice-like grain from South America that can be used as a substitute side for rice, couscous and pasta. Quinoa contains all 8 essential amino acids making it a complete protein. Rich in iron, calcium and phosphorous. TIP: Instead of water, cook quinoa in chicken, beef or vegetable stock for added flavour.

Oats: There has been some debate as to whether people with the digestive intolerance can eat oats. Research in this area continues. What I know is that oats are delicious and insanely nutritious. Oats are known to lower bad cholesterol, are mildly laxative and contain excellent levels of protein, B vitamins and minerals. My NEW Favourite: Cavena- Naked Oats by: Wedge Farms

Top 5 Benefits of going Gluten-free

1) Weight loss as sugar and fat intake is drastically reduced.

2) Increase in energy levels, lower bad cholesterol levels and even assist the body’s digestive processes.

3) Eliminate symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating,  and excessive gas.

4) Decrease congestion, sinus and skin problems.

5) Since consuming processed foods will be virtually eliminated and replaced with fresh whole foods, overall health and well-being sky rockets!

Savory Grain-free Crackers by: Gluten-free Goddess

You can find many gluten-free recipes on-line. For the BEST source for delicious, inspiring gluten-free recipes visit Karina, The Gluten-free Goddess’ blog:

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.

Top 5 Immune Boosters

The furnaces are on, the heavy sweaters are out and today we attended The Toronto Santa Claus Parade. We have been very lucky here in Toronto with warm, sunny weather but the coughing kids on the subway were a reminder that cold and flu season is upon us! Greaaaat.

Did you know? 80% of the body’s immunity lies within the digestive system. Therefore proper food choices and supplementation is of utmost importance now more than ever.

Staying away from refined and processed foods will help your immunity, but there are certain foods and things you can do to be sure to add into your daily life to build a strong immune system.

Here my Top 5 Immune Boosters:

A - Vitamin A reduces the severity and occurrence of colds. It can be found in pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, kale, and spinach all of which are in season right now.
C - The most popular immune booster is vitamin C, which enhances immune cell activity and can be found in guava, kiwi, and citrus fruits.
 E - This important antioxidant and immune booster doesn't get as much press as vitamin C, yet it's important to a healthy immune system. Vitamin E stimulates the production of natural killer cells, those that seek out and destroy germs and cancer cells. Vitamin E enhances the production of B-cells, the immune cells that produce antibodies that destroy bacteria.Vitamin E can be found naturally in nuts, seeds and whole grains.

Zinc is Vitamin C’s partner in crime also boosting immune cells while reducing the duration and severity of the common cold.  Zinc rich foods include garbanzo and lima beans along with green peas.

CoQ10 (Co Enzyme Q10)
One immunity underdog is CoQ10, which all of our body’s cells need, and although we can make CoQ10 in the presence of a healthy diet, unhealthy diets zap this nutrient out just when we need it most.  Good thing CoQ10 can also be found in nuts and broccoli. Aiming to get a good source of these nutrients daily during cold and flu season, along with a healthy balanced diet, will give your immune system the strength it needs- and can help you save on tissues too.

Stephanie Joanne seasoned health and fitness entrepreneur says, Exercise will reduce those symptoms linked 
to a weak immune like stress, poor diet, sleep etc. It also increases production of bacteria fighting cells! 
Keeping our immune systems functioning better with moderate exercise. But warns us that, Too much 
however (over training) can do the reverse. 
Ai-Linn Chua Henderson Natural Healing Practitioner and Teacher at The Modern Mystery School says, The practice of meditation helps to relieve stress my helping to relax the physical and mental body. Research has shown that just 15 minutes of meditation a day is equivalent to 4 hours of sleep! By having a regular meditation practice the individual will notice a decreased stress response to normal everyday stressors and a much clearer out look on life and improved mental function. Follow Ai-Linn's guide to easy, stress-free meditation here

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.

Top 5 Healthy Sugar Substitutes

This post is inspired by the challenge I am about to embark with a group of individuals, some who I know and some who I hope to get to know a bit better. If you've been living under a rock and haven't heard of Beauty FIT Beast's 15-day Challenge here's what it's all about.

For 15 days participants will give up the following 5: Gluten,  Sugar, Artificial Sweeteners, Processed Foods and Alcohol (Cigarettes as well, if you smoke) and whatever else they want to give up (example: I am giving up coffee) or do something to enhance your health (example: I promise to sweat everyday). For more information on this free challenge and the professionals leading the challenge (I am one of them) simply follow this link and sign-up. 

One of the most challenging things to give up is sugar. As most of us know, sugar is found naturally in fresh fruit and vegetables. This is the most clean and natural source of sugar. Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals needed for us to maintain optimum health.

There are five other healthy sugar substitutes that are clean, tasty and lower on the glycemic-index when compared to refined sugar and have health benefits.

Stevia is believed to have anti-bacterial, anti-septic, anti-microbial, anti-oxidant, anti-glycemic, and anti-hypertensive properties which may help with hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, chronic fatigue, indigestion, upset stomach, heartburn, weight loss cold and flu and candidiasis. It may also improve energy levels, strengthen immune system, stimulate mental activity, and may also help in withdrawl from tobacco and alcohol addiction.

Honey contains a variety of flavonoids and phenolic acids, which act as antioxidants, eliminating free radicals. Darker honeys have higher antioxidant content than lighter honeys.

100% Pure Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is an excellent source of manganese and zinc. Zinc and manganese are important allies in the immune system. Manganese is an essential co-factor in a number of enzymes important in energy production and both act as antioxidant defenses.

Agave Nectar
Agave nectar's sweetness comes primarily from a complex form of fructose called inulin. Fructose is the sugar that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables. The carbohydrate in agave nectar has a low glycemic index, which provides sweetness without the sugar rush and blood sugar spike caused by refined sugars.

Dates are an excellent source of dietary fiber which prevents dietary LDL cholesterol absorption in the gut. It is also a good bulk laxative keeping you regular.

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.

Sports Nutrition: Post-Workout

The goal of the post-workout meal is to quickly and efficiently refuel the muscles and  provide them with the raw materials they need to rebuild themselves to grow.
There are two anabolic windows in which you should be feeding your body.
Post-Workout Window #1  (within 45 minutes of completing workout – however the sooner you refuel the better) – During this window a liquid source is ideal because it can be processed and utilized by the body quicker. This is especially recommended for people with an underactive digestive system.  A high quality whey protein or plant protein powder. One which includes BCAAs and Glutamine will fit the bill as well.
Post-Workout Window #2 (within 90 minutes to 2 hours of completing workout) – During this window you are fuelling your body with food sources. The meal should be heavy on protein and complex carbohydrates. While protein builds muscles the carbohydrates spike your insulin levels providing the body with a transport system for the nutrients to reach the muscle cells. For women a minimum 20 grams of protein is recommended and for men a minimum of 30 grams of protein is recommended. 

Gaining mass?
If your goal is to gain mass your post-workout meal should be approximately 15-25% of your daily caloric intake. For example: If your diet calls for 3000kcal/day, your post-workout meal should be 450-750kcal.  Don’t be shy, eat!
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.

Sports Nutrition: Pre-workout

What you eat and when you eat it can increase or decrease the effectiveness of your workout. Recovery, anabolism and results depend on two key meals: Pre-workout and Post-workout.

Pre-Workout Nutrition
Your pre-workout meal is the second most important meal second to only the post-workout meal. The goal of this meal is to prepare the body from the stress it is about to endure. The pre-workout meal isn’t much different from one of your normal meals. It should be focused on protein and complex carbohydrates. It is important that both these macronutrients be present and consumed 60-90 minutes before exercise. Eating too close to exercise doesn’t give the body enough time to digest and make the nutrients available to the body during exercise.

So what do I eat?

Complex Carbohydrates in your pre-workout meal will help ensure you have adequate energy levels for your workout. 

Bananas are packed with potassium which aids in maintaining proper nerve and muscle function. Your body doesn’t store potassium for long periods of time therefore during an intense workout your potassium levels will drop. Pair the banana with a handful of raw almonds and yogurt and you have yourself a quick, complete and easy pre-workout meal. 

A bowl of oatmeal is another great choice. Oats are full of fiber and are low on the glycemic index meaning the carbohydrates are released into your bloodstream gradually, keeping your energy levels constant during your workout. Oats also contain B vitamins which lower stress, increase energy and convert carbohydrates into energy. 

A study led by the University of Exeter, published in 2009 in the "Journal of Applied Physiology," reported that beet juice may have the most benefits when it comes to improving athletic stamina. Not only has beet juice been found to help boost athletic performance, but the vegetable has also been linked to helping those with lung and heart problems and aiding in general overall health. 

The Exeter-led study pointed to the benefits of nitrates, concluding that they boost a cyclists's endurance by 16 percent. Nitrates are helpful to athletes because they quickly bring oxygen to muscles, essentially making the hard efforts easier. Consider a glass of beet juice as part of your pre-workout meal.

Check out Sports Nutrition: Post-Workout for what, when and how much to eat after your workout.

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.

Top 5 Nutrition Myths

Here are the most common nutritional myths I am asked on a daily bases. Let’s clear it up once and for all, shall we?
Myth #1: All fats are bad.  

We all need fat in our diets as they help us absorb certain nutrients.  

Fats make up an important part of every cell membrane in our body and help with proper nerve function, among other things.  

Some fats are good for us and of course some are bad for our health. The key is to replace bad fats (saturated, hydrogenated and trans) with good fats (mono- and polyunsaturated).  

Good fats include: Olive oil, flax oil, fatty fish like salmon and sardines, avocados, raw nuts and seeds, natural nut butters, legumes, leafy green vegetables and lean cuts of meat.  

25 to 30 percent of your daily diet should come from healthy fats.

Myth #2: Avoid carbohydrates to lose weight.
Severely limiting carbohydrates will result in the loss of muscle and water along with only a small amount of fat.  

It is important to limit the amount of carbohydrates in your diet that come from simple carbohydrates (refined flour and sugar).  

Cutting carbohydrates out completely deprives your body from essential nutrients found in wholesome carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. These are called, complex carbohydrates.  

Allow 45 to 50 percent of your diet to come from complex carbohydrate sources (half of those from vegetables). Good fat should make up 25 to 30 percent of your daily diet, and 15 percent to 20 percent from lean animal and plant protein.

Myth #3: To lose weight you must follow a very low-calorie diet.
Eating too few calories puts your body in starvation mode. This actually does the opposite of what you are trying to achieve by slowing down the rate at which you burn calories.  

A better approach is to eat smaller, more frequent meals and snacks.  

A slower, more gradual weight loss will lead to loss of body fat without risking loss of too much muscle tissue and in the long run is easier to manage.  

Aim for a healthy weight loss of 1-2 pounds a week.  

Try cutting your total daily calories by just 500kcal a day for a 1-2 pounds loss per week.  

To maximize fat loss and help keep your blood sugar levels stable and metabolism operating at optimum speed aim to eat every 3-4 hours.  

The more muscle mass you have, the faster your metabolism works and the more fat you will burn.  Therefore incorporate weight training into your exercise regime along with a healthy balanced diet.

Myth #4: Eating eggs raises your cholesterol levels

Not necessarily. Yes, eggs are high in cholesterol, but the link between naturally occurring cholesterol and your cholesterol levels isn't clear-cut.     

The liver produces 80 per cent of the cholesterol that's in your body. The rest comes from the food you eat, mainly from foods high in saturated fat and trans fat (deep fried foods, pastries, chips, JUNK!).

Myth #5: Only eat when you're hungry

Your body works best when it's receiving a steady supply of fuel. The fuel in this case is food. 

Eating regularly helps your body regulate blood-sugar levels and keeps your body burning calories instead of hoarding them and saving them as fat.      

If you go long periods without food your blood sugar levels fall, causing you to crave a quick sugar fix. Your body wants glucose but more than often people will translate that to needing sugar, as in sweets. Feed your body something nutritious. It will give you the spike of energy it craves and will keep you fuller for longer.

Do you have a nutritional myth you would like cleared up? Leave it below and I will answer it for you!

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.  

5 Stress-free Stress Busters

Lately I have been feeling rather stressed. Blame it on the female cycle, the full moon, unfulfilled expectations, financial difficulties, starting a new job…argh, I can go on forever these days. Feeling this way I thought it would be a good idea to take some of my own advice. Gee, what a thought. Interestingly enough I wrote a blog post on the effects of stress on the Nervous System last year right around this time. Strange. But first a recap of last year’s blog post Supporting your Nervous System. What stress actually does to our bodies.

During stressful events, our adrenal glands release adrenaline, a hormone which activates our body’s defense mechanisms causing our hearts to pound, blood pressure to rise, muscles to tense, and the pupils of our eyes to dilate. The Nervous System is the master control center in the body. It is designed to allow rapid internal communication by detecting and responding to constant changes inside and outside the body. None of our body systems (Digestive, Cardiovascular, Immune, Lymphatic.etc) are capable of functioning alone as they all work together to maintain homeostasis (balance). The Nervous System is the chief of all the systems and that is the exact reason why we need to take care of this important body system.

Why we must reduce stress
Reducing stress also reduces your risk for heart disease, the number one killer of American women, and certain types of cancer. Many women experience PMS and menopausal symptoms will find the severity of these symptoms improved dramatically, once reduced stress level is achieved. Untreated stress leads many people to depression, anxiety, headaches, and a host of other complaints, making reduction of stress important factor in improving your total health.

So where do we start? 5 Stress-free Stress Busters


Physical exercise is one of the most effective ways of relieving stress. It improves blood flow to the brain and causes the body to release endorphins. Even just 7 minutes of intense exercise can get these little guys going and having you feel more energized and mentally relaxed. Beauty FIT Beast is an excellent source for fresh, new exercises to surely get the blood pumping. 

Keep a Journal

Reflect on your day, your emotions, and your personal goals. Include everything that stresses you, so you can start to recognize patterns and take appropriate action. Writing is also a great way to relax and put things into perspective.

Get Organized

Set aside a place for bills, paperwork, and important documents. Store items you use most often in accessible places. I  purchased some baskets from the dollar store to keep these loose papers in and out of the way. Spending five minutes straightening your office, purse/brief case or main living area at the end or beginning of your day will not only make your work more productive but also bring your mind to a sense of clarity. Keep a long-range calendar and a short-range to-do list. Check off items as you finish them for a sense of accomplishment.


Ai-Linn Chua Henderson, A Natural Healing Practitioner says, When we become aware of our thoughts, we are then able to see certain things about the way we make choices in our lives, or the way we react to things, and this awareness is powerful. Because this awareness gives us the power to change the thought patterns that hold us back, and allow us to consciously create new ways of thinking and patterning. Follow her easy meditation to help you de-stress, Meditation Made Easy: 10 Steps to finding your Inner Self. 

and of course……

Proper Nutrition

This photograph belongs to Melissa Macchione. Unauthorized use is prohibited. 

Eat breakfast within 1 hour of waking to break the fast will give your body the much needed glucose found in your food to give you energy. Lack of energy equals lack of motivation, attention and mood. Start off the day on the right foot. Try my Morning Glory Oatmeal which is packed with feel good ingredients such as whole grains, blueberries, nuts and seeds. 

Small more frequent meals – You want to avoid drops in your blood sugar levels. Eating small more frequent meals, every 3-4 hours, will help control blood sugar levels resulting in an overall better mood. When drops in blood sugar levels happen we tend to become more on edge and depressed. Try some of My Favourite Stress Busting Snacks in between meals to avoid the icky lows. 

Reduce or Eliminate Caffeine Intake – Avoid going for a coffee mid-afternoon for the increase in energy, instead go for a Stress Busting Snack. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system. Heavy daily caffeine use (4 to 7 cups of coffee per day) can cause: insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, nausea or other gastrointestinal problems, fast or irregular heartbeat, muscle tremors, headaches and/or anxiety. If you are missing the caffeine go for a green tea. Yes, green tea contains caffeine however the benefits of green tea out weigh the negatives when compared to coffee.

Eat Consciously to elaborate on yesterday’s post, Conscious Eating, here are a few tips to help you eat mindfully.

1) When preparing your meal enjoy yourself. Put on your favourite music, have a clean and today work space, take pictures of your creations and have fun doing it!

2) When sitting down the meal you just prepared with love really look at the food.Recite in your mind or out loud what it is you are about to eat.

3) Eat slowly. As hungry as you may be and as delicious as the food is slow down! Twenty minutes is the time it should take to consume your meal. Tip: put your fork/spoon/hands down in-between bites.

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.