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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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How To Get Enough Vitamin D

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 as 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, excess fat and genetics 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 yoghurt. It will say on the label how much vitamin D has been added per serving.

Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, you can increase the 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.


Other Factors To Consider

The more fat tissue you have, the poorer you’ll be at storing vitamin D. Often those who are overweight need to supplement continuously to keep their vitamin D at a healthy level.

There are also genetic variations that can result in poor vitamin D storage and this is why it’s important to monitor your vitamin D level to ensure that you are supplementing enough to make a difference.

If you have a magnesium deficiency, you’ll likely struggle to maintain healthy vitamin D levels as these nutrients work synergistically. Vitamin K2 is also important for support vitamin D absorption.

Remember that a normal vitamin D blood test result is not necessarily optimal. Normal is often considered to be >50 nmol/l. However, the is plenty of research that indicates 75 nmol/l is the minimum safe level and that in fact, the higher your vitamin D, up to a level of 250 nmol/l, the more health benefits there are, especially for cancer prevention.


Conclusion:

Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin and many people have a hard time maintaining adequate levels.  There are three ways to get vitamin D: sun exposure, through certain foods, and in supplements.

I’ve given you some ideas on how you can get the minimum 400-600 IU or vitamin D daily but many people will need more than this especially if they are already deficient. 

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.

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