Getting a common cold doesn’t have to be so… common. There are things you can do naturally to make getting sick less likely.
But, if you do happen to get sick, there are things you can also do to help support your body to fight it off.
Good hand hygiene and overall healthy habits can reduce your risk of getting sick in the first place. And good nutrition can help your immune system fight off a cold quicker. Imagine your germ-fighting immune cells all hungry and tired, versus them being nourished and full of energy.
And that’s what this post is all about.
First I’ll give you some tips to reduce your risk of getting sick in the first place. Then, I’ll let you in on some of my strategies to recover from that cold you may still get from time to time.
Natural tips to reduce your risk of sickness
Here are some great ideas to incorporate into your daily life to reduce your risk of getting sick.
1 - Wash your hands. A lot. Your hands can trap and transport all kinds of microbes that cause sickness. And I’m not just talking about colds here, but lots of different germs.
NOTE: Antibacterial soap is not recommended! Not only is it no more effective than regular soap and water, but it can contribute to antibiotic resistance.
2 - Get enough nutrients. I know this is way oversimplified, but I would be remiss to exclude it. Every cell in your body, including your immune cells, need enough of all the essential nutrients. The more nutrition you have, the better and stronger you will be, especially with vitamins A, C, and E. Vitamin A-rich foods include carrots, sweet potato, and organ meats. Vitamin C-rich foods include bell peppers and citrus. Vitamin E-rich foods include nuts, seeds, and leafy greens.
3 - Probiotic foods. Helping our health-promoting gut microbes with more of their probiotic friends is in order here to help keep the immune system strong. Try 1-2 servings/day of fermented foods and drinks like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kefir, and kombucha.
4 - Prebiotic foods. Feeding those friendly gut microbes their favourite foods can help them to grow and flourish. They love fibrous foods like onions, asparagus, berries, bananas, sweet potatoes, whole grains, and seeds. Aim for 2-3 servings/day.
5 - Get enough sleep. Did you know that our immune system cycles with our circadian system? When we sleep our immune cells produce antibodies to fight infections. Try to get at least 7 hours every single night, even when you're feeling great.
Natural tips to recover from that sickness
When you do get an infection, not only do you need more nutrients to fight it off, but your body also has a harder time absorbing and using the nutrients you take in. Sometimes this is because of reduced hunger, sometimes due to gastrointestinal reasons. Either way, nourishing your body is even more important. When you do get sick, make sure you are implementing tips 1-5 plus the tips below that are crucial for getting over a common cold.
6 - Drink lots of fluids. Being sick can be dehydrating. Fluids like water, chicken soup, and green tea are warm, hydrating comfort drinks. Chicken soup is a source of electrolytes, especially if homemade from a real chicken with lots of vegetables. Green tea has been shown to boost some of our immune cells, and this can help to better fight off the invading germ.
7 - Rest and recover. When your body is fighting an infection, it’s busy working hard for your health. Give it a break and relax while you’re feeling under the weather.
There are lots of things we can do to stay healthy and reduce infections naturally. Washing your hands is a proven way to reduce your risk. And staying healthy in all other ways helps a lot. Getting enough nutrition, eating probiotic and prebiotic foods, and getting enough sleep are key year round.
If you do get sick, keep up all of your good habits above, and make sure to add some warm, healthy fluids, and extra rest.
What do you do when you get sick? Let me know in the comments below.
Recipe (Throat soothing): Honey Lemon Ginger Cough Drops
½ cup honey
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp freshly grated ginger root
Put ingredients into a small saucepan.
Stir frequently until it becomes foamy. Be careful because the honey can burn easily.
Remove from heat and continue to stir until the foam reduces.
Put the saucepan back on the heat.
Repeat this until a candy thermometer reads 300F.
Drop a bit into a glass of ice water. If the mixture forms a hard, crunchy ball, it's ready! If not, keep stirring and heating for another minute or two and try with the ice water again.
Once a hard ball forms from a drop into the ice water, let the saucepan cool until the foam has reduced.
Drizzle the candy into a candy mold or onto oiled parchment paper.
Let cool at room temperature until the cough drops are hard.
Pop out of the mold or break into pieces, and store in an airtight container.
Tip: You can sprinkle them with vitamin C powder to keep them from sticking together.
Hormones are like chemical messengers, and govern nearly every cellular action in our body.
While very important, our sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, are actually not essential for our survival.
They’re responsible for sexual functioning and fertility, as well as in more of a “beauty” capacity - keeping our skin, hair & nails vital and youthful looking.
On the other hand, stress hormones (like cortisol & epinephrine, also known as adrenaline) are critical to our survival because they synthesize proteins, maintain cellular electrolyte balance, regulate heartbeat and blood pressure, and transport glucose into our cells - essentially feeding our brain.
These hormones are so crucial, that in times of chronic stress, cortisol (the “hormone of stress”) will be made at the expense of sex hormones. No wonder we can start feeling whacked out at certain stages of life!
So what happens when hormones stop playing well together?
We can often experience a ripple effect, even when there’s a slight hiccup in hormone function.
Also, due to the fact that the interconnected nature of your endocrine system, one hormonal imbalance can lead to an additional one, causing multiple symptoms and overlapping health issues.
The 10 most common signs that you probably have a hormonal imbalance
Be sure to eat fresh over packaged foods, including plenty of vegetables, fruits, and quality sources of free range and grass fed meats and eggs. Also, if tolerated - nuts, seeds, and legumes in moderation.
Grains and dairy may cause or exacerbate hormonal problems for some people.
Eat more good fats: Good fats are essential for hormonal health because sex hormones need fat as a building block - and your body can only use the ones you give it.
Opt for sources of good fats from whole foods, such as avocados, raw nuts & seeds, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, real butter or ghee (grass fed preferable), wild-caught salmon, and free range eggs - yes, you can eat the yolks!
Exercise daily: Working out on a regular basis, engaging in resistance (or strength) training, and incorporating a specific workout called HIIT (high intensity interval training) has been proven to be especially beneficial for keeping our bodies AND our hormones fit.
Better sleep: getting deeper, more restorative sleep can be the key to supporting your hormones, above all other measures (but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the other ones!)
Stress management & self-care: the truth is - stress can be devastating for hormonal health.
We need to equip ourselves to manage the stress and “business” of everyday life through the actions that bring back balance and wellbeing to our bodies AND our minds - like good nutrition, exercise and sleep!
Learn better coping mechanisms (like breathing techniques), practice mindfulness and be sure to engage in daily self-care.
Hormone-friendly Cho-Coco Fat Bombs
½ cup almond or other nut butter, no sugar-added (if nut-sensitive, use sesame tahini or sunflower seed butter)
½ cup virgin coconut oil
3 Tbs raw, unprocessed cacao powder
stevia, xylitol or monk fruit to sweeten to taste
silicone candy mould or mini-muffin pan
How to prepare:
Be mindful that each fat bomb is considered a full serving of fat - great for curbing the appetite, satisfying a sweet tooth and supporting your hormones with the building blocks they need!
Do you love your breakfast? Do you have a short list of “go-to” recipes? Do you need a bit of inspiration to start eating breakfast again?
Getting some protein at each meal can help with blood sugar management, metabolism and weight loss. This is because protein helps you feel fuller longer and uses up a bunch of calories to absorb and metabolize it. So I'm going to show you how to get the protein, as well as some veggies and healthy fats for your soon-to-be favorite new “go-to” breakfasts.
Breakfast Food #1: Eggs
Yes, eggs are the “quintessential” breakfast food. And for good reason!
No, I'm not talking about processed egg whites in a carton. I mean actual whole “eggs”.
Egg whites are mostly protein while the yolks are the real nutritional powerhouses. Those yolks contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats.
Eggs have been shown to help you feel full, keep you feeling fuller longer, and help to stabilize blood sugar and insulin.
Not to mention how easy it is to boil a bunch of eggs and keep them in the fridge for a “grab and go” breakfast when you're running short on time.
And...nope the cholesterol in eggs is not associated with an increased risk of arterial or heart diseases.
One thing to consider is to try to prevent cooking the yolks at too high of a temperature because that can cause some of the cholesterol to become oxidized. It's the oxidized cholesterol that's heart unhealthy.
Breakfast Food #2: Nuts and/or Seeds
Nuts and seeds contain protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Nuts and/or seeds would make a great contribution to breakfast.
You won't be fooled by “candied” nuts, sweetened nut/seed butters, or chia “cereals” with added sugars – you know I'm talking about the real, whole, unsweetened food here.
Nuts and seeds are also the ultimate fast food if you're running late in the mornings. Grab a small handful of almonds, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds as you're running out the door; you can nosh on them while you're commuting.
Not to mention how easy it is to add a spoonful of nut/seed butter into your morning breakfast smoothie.
Hint: If you like a creamy latte in the mornings try making one with nut or seed butter. Just add your regular hot tea and a tablespoon or two of a creamy nut or seed butter into your blender & blend until frothy.
Breakfast Food #3: Veggies
Yes, you already know you really should get protein at every meal including breakfast; but this also applies to veggies. You know I would be remiss to not recommend veggies at every meal, right?
Veggies are powerhouses of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber, and water. You can't go wrong adding them into every single meal of the day so if you don't already you should definitely try them for breakfast!
And no, you don't need to have a salad or roasted veggies for breakfast if you don't want to but you totally can! You wouldn't be breaking any “official” breakfast rules or anything like that.
Adding some protein to leftover veggies is a great combination for any meal. Including breakfast.
I've included a delicious recipe below for you to try (and customize) for your next breakfast.
Recipe (Eggs & Veggies): Veggie Omelet
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 or 2 eggs (how hungry are you?)
¼ cup veggies (grated zucchini and/or sliced mushrooms and/or diced peppers)
dash salt, pepper and/or turmeric
Add coconut oil to a frying pan and melt on low-medium heat (cast-iron pans are preferred).
In the meantime grab a bowl and beat the egg(s) with your vegetables of choice and the spices.
Tilt pan to ensure the bottom is covered with the melted oil. Pour egg mixture into pan and lightly fry the eggs without stirring.
When the bottom is lightly done flip over in one side and cook until white is no longer runny.
Serve & Enjoy!
Tip: Substitute grated, sliced, or diced portion of your favourite vegetable. Try grated carrots, chopped broccoli or diced tomato.
Tea is said to be the most popular beverage in the world. It’s been consumed for thousands of years by millions, perhaps billions, of people.
Tea has also been shown to have many health benefits. And some of these benefits are thought to be related to tea’s antioxidant properties. These properties are from its flavonoids known as “catechins.” Flavonoids are anti-inflammatory and have a range of health benefits that I talk about in this post.
Green tea vs. black tea - What's the difference?
What do green and black teas have in common?
First of all, they both come from the camellia sinensis shrub that’s native to China and India. Green tea contains slightly more health-promoting flavonoids than black tea. How is this?
The difference lies in how they’re processed.
If the leaves are steamed or heated, this keeps them green. The heat stops oxidation from turning them black. Then they’re dried to preserve the color and flavonoids which are the antioxidants.
Hence you have green tea.
If the leaves are not heated, and are crushed and rolled, then they continue to oxidize until they’re dry. This oxidation uses up some of the flavonoids’ antioxidant power, so black teas have slightly less ability to combat free radicals than green tea does.
PRO TIP: Adding milk to your tea reduces the antioxidant ability.
Both green and black teas contain about half of the caffeine in coffee. That translates to about 20-45 mg per 8 oz cup.
Green tea vs. black tea - Health Benefits
Tea drinking, in general, seems to be associated with good health.
Heart health - For one thing, both green and black tea drinkers seem to have high levels of antioxidants in their blood compared with non-tea drinkers. Green and black tea drinkers also have lower risks of heart attacks and stroke. Drinking green tea, in particular, is associated with reduced triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL oxidation, all of which are risk factors for heart conditions.
Overall, drinkers of green and black tea seem to have a lower risk of heart problems. Green tea has also been shown to reduce risk factors (i.e., blood lipid levels) a bit more than black tea has.
Cancers - Antioxidants also reduce the risk of many cancers. Studies show that both green and black teas can reduce the risk of prostate cancer (the most common cancer in men). Also, green tea drinkers have a lowered risk of breast and colorectal cancers. Black tea is being researched for its potential to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.
Overall, antioxidant flavonoids in tea seem to help reduce the risk of some different cancers. Green tea may have a slight edge over black tea, but both seem to be associated with lower cancer risk.
Diabetes - Both green and black teas can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. They also reduce diabetes risk factors, like elevated blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. For example, some studies have shown that both green and black teas can help reduce blood sugar levels. Other studies have shown that green tea can also improve insulin sensitivity.
Once again, green tea seems to have a slight edge over black tea, but both are blood sugar friendly (just don't overdo the sweetener).
Both green and black teas are from the same plant, but are processed differently. Green tea retains more of the beneficial antioxidants than black tea does; but both are associated with better health than non-tea drinkers.
Overall, both green and black teas are healthy drinks, and tea drinkers, in general, seem to have fewer health conditions than non-tea drinkers. Green tea seems to have a slight edge over black tea when it comes to measurable risk factors of some common diseases.
When you enjoy your tea, try to minimize or even eliminate adding milk and/or sweeteners; these reduce some of the health-promoting properties of tea.
I’d love to know: Are you a tea drinker? Which tea is your favorite? How do you like to enjoy it? Let me know in the comments below.
Have you joined my free online Women's Wellness Community where women can feel connected, inspired, and guided through turning midlife into a metamorphosis, not a crisis? No?! Just click here for free weekly "mini challenges," wellness tips and tricks and other resources!
Recipe (Green tea): Matcha Energy Bites
Serves 6 (makes 12-18 bites)
1 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
4 tbsp almond flour
1 tbsp matcha green tea
2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
1 tbsp coconut oil
Add all ingredients into food processor and pulse until blended.
Shape into 1-1.5" balls.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: If you use sweetened coconut, then you can eliminate the honey/maple syrup.
Vitamin what? K?
Why’d they skip vitamins F, G, H, I & J?
That's because the "K" stands for "koagulation" which is the Danish spelling for "coagulation." Vitamin K is the vitamin that helps the blood to clot or coagulate. And that's just the tip of the iceberg of what this amazing, underappreciated vitamin does for our bodies.
It’s one of the four fat-soluble vitamins: Vitamins A, D, E & K.
Let me tell you about all those functions this little powerhouse does for us. Then I’ll list out some vitamin-K rich foods.
Once you read this post, you can consider yourself officially in the know about this little-known vitamin.
Vitamin K’s amazing functions
As I mentioned earlier, the “K” stands for the vitamin’s ability to help clot our blood. And this is a critical life-saving measure to prevent blood loss from cuts and scrapes.
Vitamin K also works hand-in-hand with calcium in the blood. It helps to shuttle the calcium to our bones and teeth where we need it. This reduces our risk of fractures and cavities. Having too much calcium in our blood can lead to kidney stones and hardened arteries (atherosclerosis), so vitamin K helps to reduce our risks of those too.
It also helps with insulin. Not only is vitamin K critical for making insulin, but also to keep your cells sensitive to it. This means that vitamin K can help you better regulate your blood sugar levels.
Vitamin K has a few other functions too. It can help to regulate your sex hormones. In men, it helps to maintain good levels of testosterone. In women with PCOS, it helps to reduce certain hormones.
Finally, vitamin K can help protect against cancer by switching off cancer genes.
It’s a pretty amazing and versatile vitamin.
What to eat to get vitamin K
There are two main types of vitamin K: K1 and K2.
The type depends on which foods you eat. Vitamin K1 is found in plants; while vitamin K2 is found in animal foods and fermented plants.
Vitamin K1 supports blood clotting (remember "koagulation?"). Vitamin K1 is found mostly in cruciferous vegetables (e.g., as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts), dark leafy greens (e.g., spinach, collard greens, parsley, and Swiss chard), as well as asparagus.
Vitamin K2 also supports blood clotting and had additional health benefits. Bone mineralization and effects on cancer genes and sex hormones are primarily from the K2 version. Vitamin K2 is found in egg yolk, cheese, butter, meat, and fermented foods like sauerkraut. Two of the best sources of vitamin K2 are natto (fermented soy) and goose liver.
Since vitamin K is one of the four fat-soluble vitamins, it’s best to eat it with a bit of fat. This helps to increase absorption from the food into your body.
If you do want to supplement, make sure you follow the label directions. Some of the cautions include the fact that Vitamin K can interact with several types of medications, so make sure it’s right for you before taking it.
Vitamins K1 and K2 are essential fat-soluble vitamins. They help our blood to clot, our bones to get strong, and regulate our sex hormones, just to name a few.
Vitamin K1 is found in green veggies, like cruciferous and leaves. K2 is found in egg yolks, meat, cheeses, and fermented foods.
I hope you now feel like you're in the know about this amazing (but not-so-well-known) vitamin. Did you learn something new? Did you want to add something I missed?
Let me know in the comments below.
Recipe (Vitamin K2-rich): Natto
2 cups dried soybeans, rinsed (choose organic)
6 cups water
1 package natto starter culture (or leftover natto from the last batch)
Soak soybeans overnight in 6 cups of water.
Drain soaking water. Place beans in fresh water to boil until soft (up to 9 hours).
NOTE: Because we’re going to be fermenting, the recipe from here on needs to use only sterilized equipment and pre-boiled water.
Drain soft soybeans and place in a pot with natto starter culture (per directions on the culture package). Gently stir.
Place beans/culture mixture in a thin layer in as many casserole dishes or baking trays as necessary.
Cover each with sterilized cheesecloth and place the lid on top.
Place covered dishes in oven or dehydrator set for 100F for about 24 hours. The culture should eventually grow to look like a white film around the soybeans.
Let cool. Remove cheesecloth and refrigerate (or freeze).
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: If you save some of the natto, you can use it as your starter culture for future batches.
So much of health is all about habits and actions, but where do these all stem from? What if we don’t have to make as many changes as we think we do? What if there was one powerful thing that makes a lot of difference?
That thing is mindset.
Mindset is sometimes called “the story we tell ourselves.” It’s our attitude toward things in our life. And we have control over our mindset.
And research is showing that it may be far more powerful than we thought.
Very interesting health mindset study
Here’s a quick story about a fascinating study.
Researchers at Stanford University looked at a bunch of people's health and wellness lifestyle habits, as well as health markers.
What they found was that the people who thought they were a lot less active had a higher risk of death than the general public. And, they also had up to 71% higher risk of death than people who thought they were more active. Even if they actually weren't less active!
How is this even possible that people who simply thought they were less active had higher risks, even if it wasn’t true?
There are a couple of ideas why. One is that maybe if we feel like we're less active, it may make us feel more stressed. And stress isn't good for our mental or physical health. Second, there may be a bit of a mind-body connection where the body embodies what the mind visualizes.
Researchers don't know why, but what matters is that there is a good mindset. So, let me give you a couple of strategies to boost your mindset for health.
Health mindset strategy 1 - Aim for good enough.
Almost no one eats perfectly seven days a week. It's inevitable that obsessing over the quality and quantity of everything we eat or drink isn't necessarily a great mindset to have.
It can bring on binging, shame, and guilt - none of these are great ways to get healthy. We want to get healthier by making better choices and building better habits. And these are usually best done incrementally - one step at a time.
So, instead of having a black and white approach where everything is good or bad, why not try aiming for good enough to empower ourselves to make better choices, instead of perfect choices.
Health mindset strategy 2 - Stop making tradeoffs
When you try to earn a gluttonous weekend by eating clean during the week, you're making a tradeoff. You're telling yourself that, as long as you're good most of the week, you can go wild on the weekend.
And that's not awesome because the mindset is jumping from one extreme to the other. You're controlling what you do all week, and possibly thinking about how to indulge over the weekend. Just live as though you're trying to do well every single day. Like you care about your health and wellness. You're doing your best, and that's good enough.
Mindset for health can be a powerful tool for better physical health. There’s a proven mind-body connection that research can measure.
Thinking positively, and dropping the black/white and good/bad labels, can help you reach your health goals.
How is your mindset for health? Which of these tips resonate with you the most? How are you going to implement them in your life? Let me know in the comments.
Have you joined my free online Women's Wellness Community where women can feel connected, inspired, and guided through turning midlife into a metamorphosis, not a crisis? No?! Just click here for free weekly "mini challenges," wellness tips and tricks and other resources!
Recipe (Morning mindset refresher): Chia Lemon Water
1 tbsp chia seeds
½ lemon, sliced
Add the chia seeds & lemon to your favourite water bottle. Fill to top with water.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Shake before drinking.
A food preservative is a substance added to foods to make them last longer; to "preserve" them. Preservatives are added to foods that go bad quickly and have found themselves in all kinds of products in our grocery stores.
Preservatives work to preserve food in a few different ways. Some prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Others prevent delicate fats from going rancid.
There are so many preservatives out there. While preservatives added to foods should be “approved,” this doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to be safe for everyone always. And it doesn’t mean that the food is healthy.
Foods with preservatives are more-processed, less-nutritious foods to begin with - not exactly health foods. So, even if you don’t mind preservatives, you probably should cut down on these kinds of foods, anyway.
So, let’s learn more about a few common food preservatives.
That’s right - salt.
FUN FACT: The term “salary” is from the Latin word for salt. It’s thought that it came from the ancient Romans who would pay employees, allowing them to buy salt. Either that, or it was for their work conquering and/or guarding salt mines/roads. Either way, salt was sought because of its ability to preserve food before the advent of refrigeration.
In today’s day and age, with fridges and freezers in every home and grocery store, and refrigerated trucks, salt is not needed for food preservation as much. But our taste buds still seem to crave it on an epic scale. The average American eats over 3,400 mg of sodium per day, well over the recommended 2,300 mg/day. Much of that is because it’s found in processed foods.
According to Harvard Health:
"... reducing dietary salt (table salt that is only sodium, chloride and iodine) will lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, and save lives."
So, salt is one of those all-too-common food preservatives that most of us will do better with less of.
Nitrites (nitrates and nitrosamines)
Nitrites are preservatives added to processed meats. They're not bad in and of themselves, but they do turn into harmful chemicals called nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are carcinogens found in cigarette smoke. Nitrites form nitrosamines when they're cooked at high heat, and sometimes even when exposed to the high acid environment of the stomach.
Nitrites are added to meats to keep the pink-red colour and prevent “browning.” Mostly in bacon, ham, sausages and lunch meats. Since nitrites can change into nitrosamines, nitrites are one-step away from being the “bad guys.”
Another interesting thing is that processed meats have been linked with colon cancer. Because of the nitrites? Perhaps, but either way, nitrosamines are a confirmed health-buster.
Since nitrosamines (from nitrites) are the bad guys and are formed by cooking nitrites at high heat, what are nitrates?
Nitrates are naturally found in many healthy foods like vegetables. They’re especially high in beets. Sometimes our enzymes or gut bacteria change these healthy nitrates into nitrites. However, they rarely form nitrosamines because they’re two-steps away from becoming these “bad guys.”
BHA & BHT
Have you seen on packages “BHA/BHT has been added to the package to help maintain freshness?” Perhaps on cereal packages or in gum? Guess how these compounds maintain freshness? Because they’re preservatives.
BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are antioxidants added to many processed foods. The main way BHA and BHT work is by preventing fats from going rancid.Are they safe? Well, they're approved for use as a preservative at small doses. However, some studies show they can cause cancer in animals at high doses. Again, they're added to processed pre-packaged foods, so it's wise to avoid them nonetheless.
There are a lot of preservatives in our food supply. These compounds work by preventing the growth of bacteria and mold, or by preventing fats from going rancid. And they're mostly found in processed foods. If you want to avoid them. Eat fresh foods.
Does this information make you want to read all your food ingredient labels now? Let me know in the comments below.
Want to learn more about how preservatives in our food effect us? Join my FREE 7 day Ditch the Junk Challenge that starts on Monday! Click here for all of the details!
Recipe (preservative-free): Kale Chips
1 bunch of kale, washed and dried
1 tbsp olive oil
2 dashes salt
2 dashes garlic powder
Preheat oven to 300F and place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet.
Take the washed and dried kale and rip them into "chip" size pieces and place in a large bowl.
Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and garlic powder. Mix until the kale pieces are evenly covered.
Place kale onto prepared sheet in an even layer. Bake for 10 minutes.
Flip over the kale to cook the other sides of the pieces. Bake for another 10 minutes until the edges just start turning brown. Monitor them well, or you'll have burnt kale chips.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can use any spice, so try onion powder, paprika, or even turmeric.
Don't forget to join me for my FREE 7 day Ditch the Junk Challenge to learn more about how preservatives impact our health! We start on Monday! Click here for all of the details!
The Nutrition Facts table is on the side of most packaged foods. It’s often found close to the ingredient listing.
The purpose of it is to help consumers make better nutrition decisions. When people can see the number of calories, carbs, sodium, etc. in food, they should be able to eat better, right?
Whether you like the Nutrition Facts table or not, let’s make sure you get the most out of it, since it’s here to stay!
Here’s my four-step crash course on reading the Nutrition Facts table.
Step 1: Serving Size
The absolute most important part of the Nutrition Facts table is to note the serving size. Manufacturers often strategically choose the serving size to make the rest of the table look good. Small serving = small calories/fat/carbs. So, it's tricky.
All the information in the table rests on the amount chosen as the serving size. And, since every manufacturer chooses their own, it’s often difficult to compare two products.
In Canada in the next few years (between 2017-2022), serving sizes will be more consistent between similar foods. This will make it easier to compare foods. The new labels will also have more realistic serving sizes to reflect the amount that people eat in one sitting, and not be artificially small. Let's hope the US will follow suit!
Let’s use an example - plain, unsalted walnuts from Costco.
As you can see, right under the Nutrition Facts header is the serving size. That is a ¼ cup or 30 g. This means that all the numbers underneath it are based on this amount.
FUN EXPERIMENT: Try using a measuring cup to see exactly how much of a certain food equals one serving. You may be surprised at how small it is (imagine a ¼ cup of walnuts).
Step 2: % Daily Value
The % Daily Value (%DV) is based on the recommended daily amount of each nutrient the average adult needs. Ideally, you will get 100% DV for each nutrient every day. This is added up based on all of the foods and drinks you have throughout the day.
NOTE: Since children are smaller and have different nutritional needs if a type of food is intended solely for children under the age of 4, then those foods use a child’s average nutrition needs for the %DV.
The %DV is a guideline, not a rigid rule.
You don’t need to add all of your %DV up for everything you eat all day. Instead, think of anything 5% or less to be a little; and, anything 15% or more to be a lot.
NOTE: Not every nutrient has a %DV. You can see it's missing for things like cholesterol, sugar, and protein. This is because there isn't an agreed "official" %DV for that nutrient. The good news is that the new Nutrition Facts tables will include a %DV for sugar. Keep your eyes out for that.
Step 3: Middle of the table (e.g. Calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, carbohydrates, and protein)
Calories are pretty straight forward. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts has 200 calories.
Fat is bolded for a reason. That 19 g of fat (29% DV) is total fat. That includes the non-bolded items underneath it. Here, 19 g of total fat includes 1.5 g saturated fat, (19 g - 1.5 g = 17.5 g) unsaturated fat, and 0 g trans fat. (Yes, unsaturated fats including mono- and poly-unsaturated are not on the label, so you need to do a quick subtraction).
Cholesterol, sodium, and potassium are all measured in mg. Ideally, aim for around 100% of potassium and sodium each day. It's easy to overdo sodium, especially if you grab pre-made, restaurant foods, or snacks. Keep an eye on this number if sodium can be a problem for you (e.g. if your doctor mentioned it, if you have high blood pressure or kidney problems, etc.).
Carbohydrate, like fat, is bolded because it is total carbohydrates. It includes the non-bolded items underneath it like fiber, sugar, and starch (not shown). Here, 30 g of walnuts contain 3 g of carbohydrates; that 3 g are all fiber. There is no sugar or starch. And as you can see, 3 g of fiber is 12% of your daily value for fiber.
Proteins, like calories, are pretty straight forward as well. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts contains 5 g of protein.
Step 4: Bottom of the table (e.g. vitamins & minerals)
The vitamins and minerals listed at the bottom of the table are also straightforward. The new labels will list potassium, calcium, and iron. Yes, potassium will drop from the middle of the table to the bottom, and both vitamins A & C will become optional.
Manufacturers can add other vitamins and minerals to the bottom of their Nutrition Facts table (this is optional). And you'll notice that some foods contain a lot more vitamins and minerals than others do.
I hope this crash course in the Nutrition Facts table was helpful. While you can take it or leave it when it comes to making food decisions, it’s here to stay. And it will change slightly over the next few years.
Do you have questions about it? Have you seen the new labels with a %DV for sugar? If so, leave me a comment below.
Recipe (walnuts): Delicious and Super-Easy Walnut Snack
8 walnut halves
4 dates, pitted
Make a "date sandwich" by squeezing each date between two walnut halves.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Try with pecans instead.
When we think of "vitamins," we know they're super-important for health.
But vitamin D is special.
It's difficult to get enough vitamin D; vitamin D is, therefore, a very common deficiency.
So, let's talk about how much of this critical fat-soluble vitamin we need, and how you can get enough. The three ways to vitamin D are exposure to the sun, consuming vitamin D containing food, and through supplements.
Why is vitamin D important, and how much do we need?
Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium from our food and acts like a hormone to help us build strong bones. Vitamin D can also help with immune function, cellular growth, and help to prevent mood imbalances such as depression and seasonal affective disorder.
Not getting enough vitamin D can lead to bone diseases like osteomalacia. Inadequate vitamin D can also increase your risk of heart disease, autoimmune diseases, certain cancers, and even death. The "official" minimum amount of vitamin D to strive for each day is merely 400-600 IU. Many experts think that this is not nearly enough for optimal health.
To ensure you get adequate amounts of vitamin D, you can implement any combination of the three vitamin D sources mentioned above on a weekly basis.
How can I get enough vitamin D from the sun?
Your skin makes vitamin D when it's exposed to the sun; that's why it's referred to as the "sunshine vitamin."How much vitamin D your skin makes depends on many things. Location, season, clouds, clothing, all affect the amount of vitamin D your skin can produce from the sun. One standard recommendation is to get about 5–30 minutes of sun exposure between 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. to the face, arms, legs, or back. This should be done without sunscreen, at least twice a week.Of course, we should always avoid sunburns and of course in some locations (and seasons of the year) it's not easy to get sun exposure. So, how can we get enough vitamin D in other ways?
How can I get enough vitamin D from food?
Vitamin D is naturally found in fatty fish, liver, and egg yolks. Some mushrooms make vitamin D when they're exposed to the sun.
Some foods are "fortified" (which means vitamin D has been added) with vitamin D. These include milk, some orange juices, breakfast cereals, and yogurt. It will say on the label how much vitamin D has been added per serving.
Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, you can increase absorption of it from your food if you eat it with some fat (healthy fat, of course).Between sun exposure and food, it still may be difficult to get even the minimum of 400 IU of vitamin D each day; this is why vitamin D supplements are quite popular.
How can I get enough vitamin D from supplements?
It's easy enough to just "pop a pill" or take some cod liver oil (which also contains vitamin A). Either of these can ensure that you get the minimum amount of vitamin D, plus a bit extra.
But before you take vitamin D containing supplements, make sure you check that it won't interact with other supplements or medications you may be taking. Always read your labels, and ask a healthcare professional for advice.
Do not take more than the suggested dosage on the label of any vitamin D supplement, except under medical care.
The maximum amount recommended (for the general population) is 4,000 IU/day. Too much vitamin D can raise your blood levels of calcium (to an unsafe level), and this can affect your heart and kidneys.
The best thing, if you're concerned, is to ask your healthcare professional to do a blood test and make a recommendation about how much vitamin in supplement form is right for you. Your healthcare practitioner may recommend higher amounts of vitamin D supplementation for a short time while under their care.
Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin which; many people have a hard time maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D. There are three ways to get enough vitamin D: sun exposure, through certain foods, and in supplements.
I've given you some ideas how you can get the minimum 400-600 IU or vitamin D daily.
If you're concerned, it's best to request a blood test that tests your vitamin D levels to be sure what's right for you. Always take supplements as directed.
Recipe (vitamin D): Super-Simple Grilled Salmon
4 wild salmon fillets
1 bunch asparagus
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 black pepper
1/4 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp. dried dill
4 tbsp olive oil
Preheat the oven broiler and raise the oven rack. Place parchment paper on a baking sheet and place fish on top, skin-side down. Surround with a single layer of asparagus.
Sprinkle the fish and asparagus with sea salt, pepper, parsley, and dill. Drizzle with olive oil.
Broil for 8-10 minutes until fish flakes easily with a fork.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Serve with a side of rice or quinoa.
Exercise. It can improve your health on all levels. We’re not just talking about being fitter and stronger. We’re talking about overall health and longevity.
Regular exercise improves your heart health, brain health, muscle and bone health, diabetes, and arthritis. Beyond those, it also reduces stress, boosts moods, increases your energy, and can improve your sleep. And exercise prevents death from any cause (“all cause mortality”).
The benefits of exercise come from improving blood flow, and reducing inflammation and blood sugar levels. They come from moving your muscles (including your heart muscle) and pulling on your bones.
You don’t need to go overboard on exercise to get these amazing health results. As little as 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days/week is enough.
And you don’t have to do a particular kind of exercise. All four types of exercise have health benefits. They are:
Don't forget, all exercise counts, even if it's not doing a sport or in a gym. Weekend hikes, walking to the store and doing household chores also count towards your weekly exercise goal.
Let me take a minute to prove to you how healthy exercise really is. Here are a few key points.
Exercise for heart health
Exercise reduced cardiac mortality by 31% in middle aged men who previously had a heart attack.
Regular exercise reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension (high blood pressure).
Exercise for brain health
Exercise can improve physical function and quality of life in people with Parkinson’s disease. It also reduces changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Exercise improved mental functions by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is involved in learning and memory. It also increases the size of the part of the brain for memory and learning (the "hippocampus"); this was shown mostly with aerobic exercise.
Exercise for muscle and bone health
Regular physical activity can help maintain strong muscles and bones; this is particularly true for strength exercises. As we age, we naturally start to lose muscle mass and bone density. So, to prevent osteoporosis, exercise regularly.
PRO TIP: And don’t forget that balance exercises and Tai Chi can help prevent falls.
Exercise for diabetes
People with diabetes who exercise have better insulin sensitivity and HbA1C values (the marker of glycemic control).
Exercise does this because by contracting your muscles, you’re fueling them with sugar in your blood. This helps to manage blood sugar levels better than without exercise.
These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the health benefits of exercise. By doing just 30 minutes 5 days/week, you can vastly improve your health. Since there are different benefits for different types, try mixing up what you do throughout the week. You don’t even need an “official” workout. Walking to the grocery store or doing household chores can count too.
If you’re just starting, then pick something you enjoy, get some accountability (exercise tracker or a buddy), and start.
What’s your favorite exercise and how often do you do it?
Recipe (exercise recovery): Coconut Water Refresher
1 cup coconut water
2 cups watermelon
½ tsp lime juice
1 dash salt
1 cup ice
2 tbsp chia seeds (optional)
Blend the first four ingredients until well mixed. Add ice and pulse until ice is crushed.
Pour into glasses or water bottle and add chia seeds. Shake/stir before drinking.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: The chia seeds add extra fiber, protein, and omega-3s.