Taking a look at modern “food”

Getting back to basics: Taking a look at modern “food”

Written by: Michelle Armstrong, Registered Holistic Nutritionist

From an evolutionary point of view, as humans we are supposed to consume the foods that mother earth has provided; fresh water, vegetables and fruit, seeds, legumes and whatever protein sources we could catch. All these examples of foods free of pesticides, colourings, preservatives, herbicides, stabilizes, emulsifiers, bulking agents, sweeteners, flavour enhancers, thickeners, bleaching agents and trans fats.  These natural foods provide the perfect balance of vitamins, minerals and electrolytes, and it is this balance that we seem to have drifted away from. Most of us now search for balance in our busy days and find it in the convenience of processed foods. Quick, tasty and infinitely available, they seem to be the perfect answer. That is until we really look at what these ‘foods’ are and what affect they are having on our health.

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Canadians of all ages get more than 20% of their caloric intake from “other foods”, which are foods not recognized by the traditional food pyramid. These “other foods” are invariably fast foods, soft drinks and baked goods, foods that are not recognized by the human body as a source of nourishment. Consider these statistics:

  • On any given day 30% of kids living in North America will visit a fast food restaurant
  • Over 60% of the population 18 years and older are considered clinically overweight or obese.
  • According to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition conservatively 30,000premature deaths/year in the United States are attributable to consumption of trans fatty acids.

In addition to these man-made chemicals directly contributing to increasing rates of chronic conditions, they also impede the body’s natural ability to detoxify. The saying rings true, “you are what you eat”, studies show that those who consume large quantities of trans fats, subsequently have cells made up of these very same fats. These altered cells are arguably inferior as their ability to move nutrients in and waste out is compromised. If cells are affected, it would stand to reason that so would the rest of the body.

With all the research out there to support the health consequences of consuming man-made toxins such as trans fats, why not make the decision to start new today. Fresh vegetables and fruit are packed full of disease fighting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. In addition, whole grains and legumes provide a much needed source of fiber; these complex carbohydrates also help to regulate blood sugar levels and supply fuel for the production of energy.

No matter how you look at it, consuming foods that are whole and unprocessed are far superior than consuming “foods” that have been altered by man. Decide to make it a priority to find new balance in life by focusing on real, whole foods.

Michelle Armstrong RHN FLT

Registered Holistic Nutritionist

First Line Therapist

Antioxidants: What are they, and why do we need them?

Antioxidants: what are they and why do we need them?

Written by: Michelle Armstrong Registered Holistic Nutritionist

We have all heard rumors of these marvelous anti-cancer substances called antioxidants, but what exactly are they and how do we incorporate them into our lives?

Antioxidants are substances that help to prevent damage to cells caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unhinged or unstable molecules which are thought to be responsible for cellular damage or cell death[i]. Factors that cause free radicals to form include cigarette smoke, radiation, digestion, environmental pollutants and even breathing[ii].

In their article “Free radicals and antioxidants in health and disease”, Bagchi and Puri use the analogy of a free radical as a bachelor being let loose into a dance party that is all couples. As the bachelor starts cutting in, he leaves one man without a dance partner, breaking up couples as he moves through the dance floor. These now unstable couples (molecules) can be highly destructive; it is these damaged cells that are thought to play a role in disease processes.

The main purpose of an antioxidant is to help stabilize free radicals and counteract or prevent any damage they might have or will cause.  They are hugely abundant and take many different forms. They range from vitamins like A, C, E to bioflavoniods (plant chemicals found in foods like grapes, cherries, bright vegetables and buckwheat). Antioxidants also exist as minerals like selenium (found in foods like rice and sunflower seeds), and enzymes which are substances that speed up biological reactions. Carotenoids are another common example; these antioxidants represent a class of pigments found in foods such as tomatoes, carrots and sweet potatoes.

Although research on antioxidants has not yet been absolute, many studies have suggested that “consuming large quantities of fruits and vegetables reduces the risk for several types of human cancers”[iii].

In 2009, The Canadian Cancer Society published their annual report in which it states that 40% of women and 45% of Canadian men will develop cancer in their lifestyle; 1 out of every 4 Canadians will die. With statistics like these, maybe we should wake up and focus more on consuming whole, natural foods, high in beneficial properties, like antioxidants instead of processed foods that contain little or no nutritional value.

Example menu based on high antioxidant foods:

Breakfast– whole grain oatmeal with fresh blueberries and raspberries. Cinnamon and ground cloves sprinkled overtop

Morning Snack – small handful of walnuts, 1 plum

Lunch – Chicken breast, marinated in olive oil, paprika, chili powder and fresh ground pepper. This served over a fresh spinach and red cabbage salad.

Afternoon Snack – Quality protein shake blended with blackberries and ground flax seeds

Dinner – Fresh white fish baked with lemon and fresh dill served over a medley of sweet potatoes, red bell peppers and broccoli.

Michelle Armstrong RHN FLT

Registered Holistic Nutritionist

First Line Therapist

[i] Santosh k, Mukhtar H. Tea antioxidants in cancer chemoprevention. Journal of Cellular Biochemistry 1998; 67: 59-67.

[ii] Bonnefoy M, Drai J and Kostka T. Antioxidants to slow aging, facts and perspectives. Presse Med 2002; 31(25):1174-84

[iii] Khachik F, Beecher G and Smith C. Letein, Lycopene, and their oxidative metabolites in chemoprevention of cancer. Journal of Cellular Biochemistry 2004; 59 (S22): 236-246.

iv Bagchi k and Puri S. Free radicles and antioxidants in heath and disease. Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal 1998; 4 (2): 350-360.

Digestion 101

Digestion 101

Written by: Michelle Armstrong, Registered Holistic Nutritionist

The digestive tract is one of the hardest working systems in our bodies. It is constantly being put to work breaking down fats, carbohydrates and proteins. However, over the past several decades, the popularity of fatty and sugary processed foods in our diet has placed additional strain on our digestive tracts. Because of the addition of these unbalanced foods and lifestyle factors including stress and improper eating habits, we often turn to prescription and over the counter drugs to help relieve our symptoms of gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, flatulence, indigestion and reflux.The good news is that many of these common symptoms can be lessened or eliminated by incorporating a few simple changes into your day.

Drinking with meals dilutes the hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes in your stomach, causing impaired digestion. If you need to take medication or moisten your mouth, drink no more than 4 ounces of room temperature water.

Over consumption can be attributed to indigestion. Our brain signals the feeling of fullness about 10-15 minutes after we’re actually full. Do not continue to eat until you feel full. Eat slowly, main meals should take about 20 minutes to consume.

Incomplete chewing and talking while eating can cause premature swallowing which could lead to digestive upset (bloating, gas, cramps) Also, our bodies are not designed to digest large pieces of food, this puts a strain on our digestive tract.

Eating when you are rushed causes stress to the body and consequently slows down the digestive process. Give yourself enough time to sit down and enjoy a meal or snack in a relaxing environment.

Also known as “friendly bacteria”, these microorganisms are thought to break down fibers and large molecules allowing our bodies to assimilate nutrients more efficiently. They live in the gastrointestinal tract and are often associated with helping to relieve some digestive upset.

Written by: Michelle Armstrong RHN FLT
Registered Holistic Nutritionist
First Line Therapist