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What is the Glycaemic Index and Glycaemic Load?

Glycaemic this and glycaemic that. Does it matter?

You’ll notice that they both begin with “glycaemic.” That’s one tip that they have to do with sugars and carbs. Not only how much sugar is in foods, but more importantly, how it affects your blood sugar levels.

In general, diets that are high on the glycaemic index (GI) and high in glycaemic load (GL), tend to increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

FUN FACT: Starches like those in potatoes and grains are digested into sugar; this is because starch is just a bunch of sugars linked together. Digestive enzymes break those bonds so that the sugars become free. Then those sugars affect your body the same way that eating sugary foods do.


Glycaemic Index (“how fast”)

The most common of the two terms is “glycaemic index” (GI).

As the name suggests, it “indexes” (or compares) the effect that different foods have on your blood sugar level. Then each food is given a score from 0 (no effect on blood sugar) to 100 (big effect on blood sugar). Foods that cause a fast increase in blood sugar have a high GI. That is because the sugar in them is quickly processed by your digestive system and absorbed into your blood. They cause a “spike” in your blood sugar.

So, you can probably guess that pure glucose is given a GI rating of 100. On the other hand, chickpeas are right down there at a GI of 10.

Regarding GI: low is anything under 55; moderate is 56-69, and 70+ is considered a high GI food.

Remember, this is a measure of how fast a carbohydrate-containing food is digested and raised your blood sugar. It’s not a measure of the sugar content of the food. 

How the carbohydrates in food affect your blood sugar level depend on other components of the food. Things like fibre and protein can slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream, and this can make even a high-sugar food, low on the GI scale.

So, lower GI foods are better at keeping your blood sugar levels stable because they don’t increase your blood sugar level as fast.

FUN FACT: Can you guess which food has a GI of higher than 100? (Think of something super-starchy) White potatoes! They have a GI of 111.


Glycaemic Load (“how much”)

The glycaemic load is different.

Glycaemic load (GL) doesn’t take into account how quickly your blood sugar “spikes”, but it looks at how high that spike is. Basically, how much the food increases your blood sugar.

GL depends on two things. First, how much sugar is actually in the food. Second, how much of the food is typically eaten.

Low GL would be 0-10,  moderate GL would be 10-20, and high GL would 20+.

Example of GL and GI

 So, let’s compare the average (120 g) servings of bananas and oranges:

Food

GI 

Serving size (g)

GL per serving

Banana, average

48

120

11

Oranges, average

45

120

5

Excerpt from: Harvard Health Publications, Glycaemic index and glycaemic load for 100+ foods

As you can see, the banana and orange have almost the same glycaemic index.; this means they both raise your blood sugar in about the same amount of time.

But, the average banana raises the blood sugar twice as high (11) as the orange does (5). So, it contains more overall sugar than the same amount (120 g) of orange.

Of course, this is all relative. A GL of 11 is not high at all. Please keep eating whole fruits. 🙂


What does this all mean for your health?

Certain people should be aware of the effects that foods have on their blood sugar. People who have diabetes or pre-diabetes conditions like insulin resistance need to be aware of the glycaemic index and glycaemic load of foods they are eating regularly. Those who want to lose weight should also pay close attention.

The GI and GL are just two factors to consider when it comes to blood sugar. Some high GI foods are pretty good for you but if you want to reduce the impact on your blood sugar, have them with a high-fibre or high-protein food.


Conclusion

If you have blood sugar imbalances or diabetes, you should probably be aware of the GI and GL of your food.

If you are at risk of diabetes or heart disease, you might try swapping out some higher GI/GL foods and replacing with lower GI/GL foods.

Oh, and try this low GI recipe I have for you.


Recipe (low GI): Mediterranean Salad

Serves 2

  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • ½ cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup black olives
  • ¼ red onion, diced
  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1 tsp basil
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • 1 dash sea salt
  • 1 dash black pepper

Place first five ingredients together in a bowl.

Add remaining ingredients to a jar (to make the dressing) with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously.

Add dressing to salad and gently toss.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Add chopped avocado for even more fibre and healthy fat.

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How Stress Messes With Your Health [+ Calming Iced Tea Recipe]

We all have some level of stress, right?

It may be temporary (acute), or long-term (chronic).

Acute stress usually won’t mess with your health too much. It is your body’s natural reaction to circumstances, and can even be life-saving.

Then, when the “threat” (a.k.a. “stressor”) is gone, the reaction subsides, and all is well.

It’s the chronic stress that’s a problem. You see, your body has specific stress reactions. If these stress reactions are triggered every day or many times a day that can mess with your health.

Stress (and stress hormones) can have a huge impact on your health.

Let’s dive into the “stress mess.”


Mess #1 – Increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity

Why save the best for last? Anything that increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes (both serious, chronic conditions) needs to be discussed.

Stress increases the risk for heart disease, diabetes and obesity by promoting chronic inflammation, affecting your blood “thickness,” as well as how well your cells respond to insulin.

Almost all of my clients that are struggling to lose weight are being held back by (often hidden) stress!


Mess #2 – Immunity

Did you notice that you get sick more often when you’re stressed? Maybe you get colds, cold sores, or even the flu more frequently when you are stressed?

Well, that’s because stress hormones affect the chemical messengers (cytokines) secreted by immune cells and consequently, they are less able to do their jobs effectively.


Mess #3 – “Leaky Gut.”

Stress can contribute to leaky gut, otherwise known as “intestinal permeability.” These “leaks” can then allow partially digested food, bacteria or other things to be absorbed into your body.

The stress hormone cortisol can open up tiny holes by loosening the grip your digestive cells have to each other.

Picture this: Have you ever played “British Bulldog?” It’s where a row of children hold hands while one runs at them to try to break through. Think of those hands as the junctions between cells. When they get loose, they allow things to get in that should be passing right through.  Cortisol (produced in excess in chronic stress) is a strong player in Bulldog!


Mess #4 – Sleep Disruption

Stress and sleep go hand-in-hand, wouldn’t you agree? It’s often difficult to sleep when you have very important (and stressful) things on your mind.

And when you don’t get enough sleep, it affects your energy level, memory, ability to think, and mood.

More and more research is showing just how important sleep is for your health.  Not enough sleep (and too much stress) aren’t doing you any favours.


Stress-busting tips

Reducing stressors in your life is an obvious first step.

Can you:

  • Put less pressure on yourself?

  • Ask for help?

  • Say “no”?

  • Delegate to someone else?

  • Finally, make that decision?

No matter how hard you try, you won’t eliminate stress altogether. So, here are a few things you can try to help reduce its effect on you:

  • Deep breathing

  • Meditation

  • Walk in nature

  • Unplug (read a book, take a bath)

  • Exercise (yoga, tai chi, etc.)

  • Connect with loved ones


Conclusion

Stress is a huge and often underappreciated factor in our health. It can impact your physical body much more than you might realise.

Stress has been shown to increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes, affect your immune system, digestion and sleep.

There are things you can do to both reduce stressors and also to improve your response to it.

You can ditch that stress mess!


Recipe (relaxing chamomile): Chamomile Peach Iced Tea

Serves 1

  • 1 cup steeped chamomile tea, cooled
  • 1 peach, diced

Place both ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Add ice if desired.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can use fresh or frozen peaches.

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Reduce Inflammation With These Key Foods

Inflammation. It’s not just for health headlines.

It’s a fact.

Scientists are measuring levels of inflammation in our bodies and finding that it can be pretty bad for our health; this is especially true when it’s chronic (i.e. lasts a long time).

Inflammation has been linked to obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes, just to name a few.

But, instead of writing all about what it is, how it’s measured, and where it comes from; why don’t I focus on some foods packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants that are proven to help reduce it?


Here are my top anti-inflammatory food recommendations:

Anti-inflammatory Food #1: Berries, Grapes, and Cherries

Why save the best for last? Perhaps the most amazingly delicious anti-inflammatory foods are a sweet favourite of yours?

Berries, grapes, and cherries are packed with fibre, and antioxidant vitamins (e.g. vitamin C) and minerals (e.g. manganese).

Oh, and did I forget to mention their phytochemicals (phyto=plant)? Yes, many antioxidants such as “anthocyanins” and “resveratrol”  are found in these small and delicious fruits.

In fact, berries, grapes, and cherries may be the best dietary sources of these amazingly healthy compounds.


Anti-inflammatory Food #2: Broccoli and Peppers

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains the antioxidant “sulforaphane.” This anti-inflammatory compound is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.

Bell peppers, on the other hand, are one of the best sources of the antioxidants vitamin C and quercetin.

Just make sure to choose red peppers over the other colours.  Peppers that are any other colour are not fully ripe and won’t have the same anti-inflammatory effect.

I pack these two super-healthy vegetables together in this week’s recipe (see below).


Anti-inflammatory Food #3: Healthy Fats (avocado, olive oil, fatty fish)

Fat can be terribly inflammatory (hello: “trans” fats), neutral (hello: saturated fats), or anti-inflammatory (hello: “omega-3s), this is why choosing the right fats is so important for your health.

The best anti-inflammatory fats are the unsaturated ones, including omega-3s. These are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

Opt for fresh avocados, extra virgin olive oil, small fish (e.g. sardines and mackerel), and wild fish (e.g. salmon). Oh and don’t forget the omega-3 seeds like chia, hemp, and flax.


Anti-inflammatory Food #4: Green Tea

Green tea contains the anti-inflammatory compound called “epigallocatechin-3-gallate”, otherwise known as EGCG.

EGCG is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, and Alzheimer’s.

Drinking steeped green tea is great, but have you tried matcha green tea? It’s thought to contain even higher levels of antioxidants than regular green tea.


Anti-inflammatory Food #5 – Turmeric

Would a list of anti-inflammatory foods be complete without the amazing spice turmeric?  

Turmeric contains the antioxidant curcumin.

This compound has been shown to reduce the pain of arthritis, as well as have anti-cancer and anti-diabetes properties.

I’ve added it to the broccoli and pepper recipe below for a 1-2-3 punch, to kick that inflammation.


Anti-inflammatory Food #6: Dark Chocolate

Ok, ok. This *may* be slightly more decadent than my #1 pick of berries, grapes, and cherries.

Dark chocolate, with at least 70% cocoa is packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants (namely “flavonols”). These reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping your arteries healthy. They’ve even been shown to prevent “neuro-inflammation” (inflammation of the brain and nerves). Reducing neuro-inflammation may help with long-term memory, and reduce the risk of dementia and stroke.

Make sure you avoid the sugary chocolate bars. You already know those aren’t going to be anti-inflammatory!


Conclusion

There are just so many amazingly delicious and nutritious anti-inflammatory foods you can choose. They range from colourful berries, vegetables, and spices, to healthy fats, and even cocoa.

You have so many reasons to add anti-inflammatory foods to your diet to get your daily dose of “anti-inflammation.”


Recipe (Broccoli, Pepper, Turmeric): Anti-inflammatory Quinoa

Serves 2

  • 135g dry quinoa (pre-rinsed)

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil

  • 1 medium onion, diced

  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped

  • 1 dash salt

  • ½ tbsp turmeric

  • 1 dash black pepper

  • 350g broccoli, chopped

In a saucepan place 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the quinoa and simmer until the water is absorbed (about 10-15 minutes).

Melt coconut oil in a skillet. Add diced onions, turmeric, pepper and salt, and lightly sauté for a few minutes.

Add broccoli and lightly sauté for 5-6 minutes, until it becomes softened.

Add the cooked quinoa and stir everything together.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Add some cayenne pepper or curry spice for an extra spicy kick.

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How To Make Cooking Fun! [+ Frittata Recipe]

Here’s How to Make Cooking More Fun

If you don’t love cooking, maybe I can help to make it more fun for you?

I know that sometimes I don’t find cooking to be all that fun. I can get into a rut just like everyone else.

Sometimes I just feel completely uninspired and I feel like we eat the same things all the time.

So these are the things I do when I’m in that rut:


Fun Cooking Tip #1

Check out new recipes.

Sometimes just seeing the beautiful food photos and reading the recipe can spark some inspiration and fun in your kitchen.

You can head to your local bookstore. Or look up your favourite nutritionists, chefs, bakers, and other online foodies. Maybe do a quick search on Google or Pinterest to see thousands of new ideas.

Perhaps you have some ingredients in your fridge that are just waiting to be eaten.

Pro Tip: Searching through recipes can be so fun and inspiring, and can also end up taking waaaay longer than planned. So, consider setting your timer when you start browsing. The last thing you want is to take too much time looking, that you don’t leave enough time for cooking. I’ve definitely done that!


Fun Cooking Tip #2

Make food shopping fun and inspiring.

When you’re at the supermarket or market, try something that you haven’t had in a while. Is there a seasonal fruit or vegetable you haven’t had for months? What about a childhood favourite? Did you come across something totally delicious at a restaurant or get-together lately?

Or, browse around the store looking for something you haven’t had before; something that is completely new to you. Be adventurous and fun. Then you can go to tip #1 to find new and inspiring recipes when you get home.


Fun Cooking Tip #3

Keep it simple!

Sometimes when I see a great food picture, I immediately get inspired to make it. But if I look at the ingredients or instructions and they’re too long, I stop. While there are times when I’m inspired and dive into a new great recipe; when I’m not all that inspired, I need to keep things simple.

A few ways to keep things simple are to:

  • Search for recipes with 10 or fewer ingredients, and five or fewer instructions;
  • Search for recipes that can be made in one pot or pan;
  • Buy ingredients that are ready to cook with (pre-washed salad greens, diced squashes, frozen vegetables, etc.)

Fun Cooking Tip #4

Put on some music and invite someone to join you.

Do you have kids that need to learn the critical life skill of cooking? Perhaps your partner would love to join you? What about having a “cooking party” where everyone brings something and pitches in on the process?


Fun Cooking Tip #5

If none of the other tips work for you, invest in some kitchen swag!

Having proper kitchen tools makes cooking so much easier and faster. When’s the last time you sharpened your (or bought yourself a new) knife? Could dicing carrots with a dull knife be draining the fun from cooking? Or is blending a smoothie with a crummy blender, leaving it too chunky to enjoy, making you feel less excited to try new smoothie recipes? I know it does for me.


Conclusion

You know that cooking is key to healthy eating. And, yes, it does get boring from time to time.

Try one (or all) of my fun cooking tips to inspire you to get over to your kitchen and cook yourself some great dishes.

You already know your health will thank you.


 

Recipe (simple and fun): One Skillet Frittata

Serves 4

  • 8 eggs
  • 60ml almond milk, unsweetened
  • 1 tsp olive oil, extra virgin
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 handful baby spinach
  • 1 small courgette, sliced into thin coins
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 handful cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 dash herbs and spice to taste (parsley, sage, paprika, turmeric, etc.)
  • 1 dash salt and pepper

Instructions

Preheat oven to 190C.

Whisk together eggs and almond milk.

Heat an ovenproof skillet (e.g. cast iron) on the stove with the olive oil.

To the hot skillet add garlic, spinach, and courgette. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the spinach wilts and the courgette starts to soften.

Add the tomatoes, herbs, spices, salt, and pepper.

Pour in the eggs.

Place the skillet into the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, until eggs are set.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Feel free to substitute your veggies and use what you have on-hand. Try diced pepper instead of tomatoes, or chopped kale instead of spinach. Have fun with this!

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How To Balance Blood Sugar

Oh, the words “blood sugar.”

Does it conjure up visions of restrictive eating, diabetes medications, or insulin injections?

Blood sugar is the measure of the amount of sugar in your blood. You need the right balance of sugar in your blood to fuel your brain and muscles.

The thing is, it can fluctuate. A lot.

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Cinnamon Apples Recipe (for balanced blood sugar)

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 apples, chopped
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract

 

Method

Place chopped apples into a small saucepan with 2 tbsp water. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. After about 5 minutes the apples will become slightly soft, and water will be absorbed.

Add 1 tbsp coconut oil. Stir apples and oil together.

Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring every minute or so.

Add cinnamon, salt, and vanilla. Stir well.

Cook for another few minutes, stirring until the apples reach your desired softness! Serve and enjoy!


Tip: Keeping the peel on increases the fibre, which is even better for stabilising your blood sugar.

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