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Green Smoothie Recipes

green smoothie

Green smoothies are a great way to get more vegetables into your diet to help you reach your recommended number of servings according to Canada’s Food Guide. Vegetables and fruit are low in fat and calories, but rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. They help to reduce the risk of heart disease and some types of cancer.  Green smoothie recipes using dark green vegetables such as spinach and kale are important sources of folate, a key nutrient responsible for cell division in developing babies.

Green Smoothie Recipes for Weight Loss

Green smoothie recipes are typically low in fat and calories depending on the ingredients. In contrast to high fat breakfasts such as eggs and bacon with buttered toast or pancakes, you’ll enjoy a fresher start to your day and some weight loss over time as you shave off calories every morning by making a healthy green shake versus eating out for breakfast. I don’t like using the term green smoothie diet and much prefer asking you to take the green smoothie challenge for the next 2 weeks to see how you feel and track whether you notice a difference on the scale as well.

As always, a good rule of thumb is to not weigh yourself daily and instead limit yourself to a weekly weigh-in. Our body weight fluctuates about 2 to 3 pounds a day depending on fluid shifts, and timing (before or after a meal or a bowel movement). Choose one day out of the week for your weigh-in. It’s best if you can weigh yourself in the morning after your first bathroom visit but before you eat or drink anything. Repeat on a weekly basis and record the number to track your trends.

Raw Green Smoothie Recipes

Try blending together the following combinations for a simple breakfast or snack:

Chocolate Jungle Monkey Shake

  • 2 dark kale leaves (green, purple, or black work just as well)
  • ¼ cup blueberries
  • 1 small banana
  • 2tbsp plain cacao powder
  • 1 cup milk (soy, almond, rice, or hemp milk are okay)
  • (optional) 1 tbsp honey or agave nectar for added sweetness

Forest Strawberry & Banana Shake

  • 2 cups loosely packed spinach leaves
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh strawberries
  • 1 banana
  • (optional) maple syrup for sweetness
  • Blend with water or milk to desired thickness.

Message for the Parents

For parents of young children, it’s important to remember that children model after what their caretakers eat. Even though we’re bombarded with messages on television and from peers and elders of what ‘normal food’ or kid-friendly foods are, ultimately you’ve got the power (and the responsibility) to encourage your kids to eat well. Why go the hard route of making separate foods for the adults and the kids? Use the same green smoothie recipes for kids! Consistently offering children the same foods gives them more opportunity to like it. Foster a commitment in your household to enjoy foods that are good for health, and not the mention, very tasty as well.

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Stevia Side Effects – How Safe is Stevia for Your Pregnancy?

stevia rebaudiana flowers

Artificial sugar sweeteners have been around for a long time. Until recently, sucralose (brand name: Splenda) dominated (and arguably still dominates) the sugar sweetener market. However, consumers are seeking more ‘natural’ sweeteners, such as stevia. Stevia rebaudiana (official name of the stevia plant) is native to South America and has been used for centuries to make medicine and flavor foods. Stevia is currently used in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Russia, Israel, Mexico, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela, Columbia, Brazil, and Argentina.

Canada approved the use of stevia as a table top sweetener and as a food additive in November, 2012. This means stevia may be used as a sweetener at coffee and tea shops and stevia recipes replacing sugar are safe as well. Just keep in mind that two-thirds of a teaspoon of stevia is equal to two teaspoons of table sugar in terms of sweetness.

 

Stevia Side Effects

The likelihood of stevia rebaudiana side effects is very low. However, some people may experience bloating, nausea, dizziness, muscle pain and numbness.

 

For pregnant women, Health Canada states that:

Scientists in Health Canada’s Food Directorate identified no toxicological concerns with the use of steviol glycosides and consider it safe for consumption in foods by the general population, including pregnant women and children, as well as individuals with diabetes, at dose levels not greater than 4 mg per kilogram body weight per day, expressed as steviol equivalents.”

 

However, given that Canada only recently approved stevia, if you are concerned that there has not been sufficient time or research related to stevia consumption during pregnancy or lactation, then exercise caution and avoid use.

 

SweetLeaf ® Sweetener is a brand name product that contains only stevia. This means that Sweetleaf stevia side effects should be minimal, if any, because unlike Truvia ®, it does not contain any sugar alcohols. Excessive consumption of sugar alcohols has been known to create unpleasant side effects such as diarrhea, cramping, and bloating. Thus, if you’ve heard of xylitol side effects or sorbitol side effects including gas and abdominal discomfort, it’s because some people are sensitive to sugar alcohols.

 

It’s worthwhile to mention that there are also reports of Splenda side effects including the same uncomfortable symptoms above as well as headaches and dizziness. Fortunately, these effects only occur in some people, but this means there will always be conflicting opinions as to what it good for your health and what isn’t. My best advice would be to figure out what you’re comfortable trying, experiment, then observe whether you experience any discomfort. You know your body the best so let that be your guide.

What About Other Sweeteners or Sugar Substitutes

According to HealthLinkBC

Health Canada has approved: aspartameacesulfame potassiumneotame,sucralose and thaumatin to use as food ingredients or sweeteners. They are safe for use, in moderation, during pregnancy. Be sure that foods made with these sweeteners do not replace more nutritious foods or drinks. Some natural health products contain Stevia, which is considered safe to use in moderation during pregnancy. Stevia currently is not approved as a sweetener or as food ingredient. Saccharin and cyclamates are not recommended during pregnancy.

Sweetener (Sugar Substitute) Safe During Pregnancy?
Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal) YES – in moderation
Saccharin (Hermesetas) NO
Cyclamate (Sweet’N Low) NO
Sucralose (Splenda) YES – in moderation
Acesulfame Potassium (Sunett) YES – in moderation

 

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Folate and Folic Acid Before, During, and After Pregnancy

peas

What is Folate or Folic Acid?

Folate and folic acid are (almost) the same thing. Folate is a B vitamin (B9) found naturally in foods. Folic acid is the synthetic (man-made) form of folate that you find in fortified foods and vitamin supplements. In Canada, folic acid is added to white flour, enriched pasta and enriched cornmeal. Other foods that may contain added folic acid include breads, buns, cookies, crackers, pasta, and ready-to-eat cereals. Folate and folic acid share the same function in the body, so you can get your daily requirement either naturally or via fortified foods and supplements without needing to worry that one is superior to the other.

Why Should Women Take Folate and Folic Acid Before, During and After Pregnancy?

Folate and folic acid is used by the body to make healthy blood cells to cell to help you and your baby grow. It is an extremely important B vitamin during the first four weeks of pregnancy to ensure that the baby’s spine, brain, and skull develop normally. Inadequate intake of folate and folic acid leads to an increased risk of the baby developing neural tube defects (NTDs), which in severe cases can lead to stillbirth or early infant death postpartum.

The Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of BC reports that 1 in every 750 children born each year in Canada are born with a NTD. The most common type of NTD is spina bifida, a condition where the baby is born with paralysis in one or more of their muscles (in the legs, bladder, and/or bowel). Babies born with spin bifida will require medical care their entire lives as the condition is irreversible.

The reason why Health Canada recommends that all women who can become pregnant  take daily multivitamin with 400 micrograms (may also be written as “mcg” or with the symbol μg or as 0.4 mg) of folic acid in it is because some women may not realize they are pregnant until after they’ve missed their period for one to two weeks. Since NTDs occur in the third and fourth week after conception, it’s highly possible that a pregnant woman (without knowing they were pregnant) did not take enough folate in their diet to meet the increased demands of their developing baby and as such, increased their risk of NTDs. Therefore, despite widespread folic acid fortification in common food products in Canada, it is still suggested that women of childbearing age (14 to 50 years old) take 400 mcg of folic acid per day on top of any folate they’re getting through food.

Some women are at a higher risk of having a baby with a NTD. This applies to women who:

  • have a family member with a NTD
  • have a medical history of diabetes, obesity or epilepsy
  • have already had a baby with a NTD or a pregnancy affected by a NTD

Women who fall under this category of increased risk should talk to their doctor or midwife to discuss whether a higher dosage of folic acid supplementation is necessary.

How Much Folate Does a Woman Need?

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Folate (Daily)
All women
(Age 14 to 50)
400 mcg
Pregnant women 600 mcg
Breastfeeding women 500 mcg

 

Most prenatal multivitamins contain 1000 mcg, which is the upper limit for folic acid supplementation (more details below). Most daily multivitamins contain 400 micrograms (also written as mcg or μg), which is equal to 0.4 milligrams (mg) of folic acid. This is sufficient for women before pregnancy without additional folate taken from the diet. For pregnant and breastfeeding women, continue taking  a multivitamin with 400 mcg folic acid and increase the dosage if you’re not getting enough folate through your diet to meet the recommended amounts of 600 mcg and 500 mcg respectively.

Do not exceed the daily limit of folic acid of 1000 mcg unless you’ve been advised by a physician to do so. Over-supplementation of folic acid can lead to other health problems. The upper limit of 1000 mcg applies only to supplements and folate fortified foods. According to HealthLinkBC, the amount of folate in enriched foods is given as a percentage of the daily value (DV) and the standard used is 220 mcg. For example, if a serving of cereal has 15% of the daily value, it has 33 mcg of folic acid (0.15 x 220 mcg = 33 mcg). It’s estimated that 100-200 mcg of folic acid is taken daily from fortified foods.

Naturally occurring folate does not have a upper limit as it has not been shown to have adverse effects.

Those who have folate deficiency from malabsorptive conditions such as Celiac Disease or inadequate intake of folate (such as in chronic alcoholism) should speak with a physician about how much folic acid supplementation is appropriate. According to Merck Manual, folate deficiency is usually treated with supplemental 400-1000 mcg of folate daily.

When choosing a multivitamin, choose one that also has vitamin B12, which works with folate to make DNA.

Good Sources of Folate in Foods

Good sources of folate include:

  • beans
  • peas
  • lentils
  • edamame (green soybeans)
  • asparagus
  • avocado
  • spinach
  • broccoli
  • romaine lettuce
  • beets
  • Brussels sprouts
  • green peas
  • gai-lan (sometimes called Chinese kale)
  • bok choy
  • oranges
  • orange juice
  • wheat germ
  • sunflower seeds
  • yeast extract (such as marmite)
  • peanuts
  • liver (do not eat more than 75 grams of liver per week because it is very high in vitamin A. Too much vitamin A can harm your developing baby and cause birth defects and/or liver toxicity.)
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Pregnancy Foods to Avoid – A New Mom’s Must Read!

oysters

As someone who wants to start a family one day, I’m often weary of just how many foods an expecting mom has to avoid. Many of these foods may be a routine part of the female’s diet, which makes 37 weeks (or up to 42 weeks) feel excruciatingly long. But, as you can imagine, “better safe than sorry” is a good rule to abide by if you are a mommy to be.

Following a well balanced diet, such as the one outlined by Canada’s Food Guide, is the first step to eating well for your pregnancy. However, today we’ll focus on what foods to avoid during pregnancy. Here’s a simple list of what pregnant women should avoid to protect their own and their unborn baby’s health:

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

  • Unpasteurized cheese and dairy products
  • All soft cheeses, even if they are pasteurized (such as Brie, Camembert, Feta)
  • Deli meats
  • Cured meats (such as salami, prosciutto, uncooked hot dogs)
  • Raw and undercooked meat and eggs (such as steak tartar, raw egg, runny egg whites or yolks, food dishes with undercooked eggs)
  • Raw and undercooked fish and seafood (such as sushi, raw oysters)

Listeria Bacteria

The reason why you should avoid the above foods during pregnancy is because they may contain the listeria bacteria, which grows on foods we often do not cook. Women who experience a listeria infection (also known as listeriosis) have an increased risk of stillbirth, premature labor, spontaneous abortion, and neonatal infection. If you’ve had any of the foods lists and are experiencing the symptoms of listeriosis (fever, headache, nausea, and vomiting), visit your family doctor immediately.

What About Other Food Bugs?

While listeria gets a lot of bad press (and rightfully so!), we must not forget that other bacteria (such as Salmonella, and E.coli) can be equally as devastating. Therefore, expecting moms must be diligent when preparing meals to ensure their food safety practices are up to par.

Food Safety Rules

  1. ALWAYS separate raw foods (meat, poultry, seafood, eggs) from other foods while cooking AND in the fridge. Keep raw foods at the bottom of the fridge where they cannot drip onto other foods. If this isn’t always possible, place these raw foods onto a bowl or plate with a raised edge to catch all the drippings and make sure they do not touch cooked or ready-to-eat foods nearby.
  2. USE a separate cutting board and knife for raw foods and cooked foods. If you don’t have two sets of cutting boards and knives, you may use the same board and knife ONLY IF you wash both of them thoroughly with hot soapy water between uses. If you’re using a wooden cutting board and you notice it’s got cracks in it, replace it with a new one. You want to avoid using cracked cutting boards because bacteria may be dwelling deep within those cracks, which are hard to clean properly. Consider using  plastic or glass cutting boards to avoid this issue or simply replace your wooden cutting board once it begins to crack.
  3. BEWARE of keeping foods within the DANGER ZONE of 4-60 degrees Celsius (40-140 degrees Fahrenheit) where bacteria can grow very rapidly. Keep cold foods in the fridge below 4 degrees Celsius (40 degrees Fahrenheit) and hot foods above 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit). Defrost frozen foods in the fridge overnight (or over several nights for large items like turkey) instead of on the counter at room temperature. After meals, cool hot foods down quickly and refrigerate as soon as possible. Remember that bacteria grows most quickly in room temperature, and more slowly at cold and hot temperatures.
  4. PRACTICE good hand hygiene by washing your hands with warm soapy water for AT LEAST 20 seconds (sing “Happy Birthday” in the your head twice) before and after handling food, touching pets, cleaning or working, and using the washroom.
  5. COOK all foods to their safe internal cooking temperature before consumption to kill off bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Using a food thermometer will be the easiest and safest way to check whether you’ve cooked something until it’s hot enough for food safety.

 

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Is Frozen the New Fresh?

foodmysteries-13

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, many people would argue that fresh is best. If you are a member of this school of thought, take a seat before reading any further. The truth is, frozen and canned produce can be just as nutritious as fresh produce. How is this possible, you ask? Well, it’s because frozen and canned produce is picked at the peak of ripeness when nutrient levels are highest. This means that you can enjoy all the goodness of nutrient rich produce all year round. Seal in the best of summer this year by freezing or canning all that delicious local produce from the farmer’s market so you can enjoy it all year.

Here are some reasons to celebrate!

  1. Convenience: Frozen and canned produce is usually peeled, pitted, and sliced, which means a lot of the work involved with cooking has already been done for you!
  2. Cost effective: Fresh fruit can be more expensive when it is sold outside of the local growing season.
  3. Year-round supply: Sometimes, transporting fresh produce to remote living areas can be difficult, so canned and frozen produce are a practical way for people to enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables all year round.

Now, I realize that the skeptic in you may be wondering whether frozen or canned produce is higher in sugar and salt. The answer is – not always. With today’s demand on healthy living, you can just as easily find frozen and canned produce without any added sugar and salt. Specifically, look for no-salt-added canned vegetables, fruit canned in its own juices instead of sugar syrup, and plain frozen fruits and vegetables. If you want to be extra careful, try rinsing your canned produce to remove additional sugar or salt before eating.

Jump start your way to having more fruits and vegetables!

Now that you know fresh, frozen, and canned produce can be nutritionally the same, there’s no hiding behind the excuse of “it’s too hard to enough fruits and veggies.” Sneak more produce in your diet with the following tips:

Toss a handful of frozen berries into fresh yogurt or hot cereal in the morning

  • Blend milk, yogurt, and frozen fruit together for a yummy smoothie treat
  • Build a tasty fruit salad with canned fruit mixed with some fresh seasonal fruit
  • Liven up your favorite soup, stew, or pasta sauce with a splash of color from canned or frozen vegetables
  • Power up your comfort foods by adding antioxidant-rich vegetables like frozen broccoli and cauliflower to macaroni and cheese
  • Tantalize your taste buds by adding fresh basil and ricotta cheese to canned tomatoes for a quick and easy pasta sauce 
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Can the FODMAP Diet really help with IBS?

fodmap diet plan

The FODMAP diet was developed in 1999 by Dr.Sue Shepard for people dealing with the uncomfortable symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, which includes abdominal pain or bloating, excessive wind (flatulence), changes in bowel pattern (constipation, diarrhoea, or a combination of both) and other types of gastrointestinal discomfort. Today, the FODMAP diet has been recognized as an effective diet therapy and consumers are able to easily access fodmap diet recipes or low fodmap diet books by searching online or visiting local bookstores.

 

FODMAP Diet Explained

FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable Oligo, Di and Monosaccharide And Polyols (sugar alcohols). These are molecules found in many foods that are hard to digest for some people. What happens is these FODMAPs do not get properly digested in the stomach, or small intestine. When they reach the large intestine, they become a source of food for the bacteria that normally live there. The fermentation and digestion that occurs as a result of the bacteria feeding off of the FODMAPs is what is responsible for the IBS symptoms listed above.

 

Therefore, for people suffering from IBS symptoms, there are two routes when it comes to following the FODMAP diet:

 

1) Take FODMAPs in smaller than usual amounts. You may see an improvement in your symptoms and this will be a sign that the FODMAP diet is working for you. You can then decide if you want to stay at this intake level or further adjust your diet to control your symptoms.

 

2) Try the FODMAP elimination diet and stop eating all foods containing FODMAPs. When you’re ready, reintroduce small traces of FODMAPs into your diet and track your IBS symptoms in a journal. Notice how your body reacts to these foods and find your balance between enjoying FODMAP containing foods and being IBS symptom free.

 

FODMAP List of Foods (not a complete list)

  • Grain Products:
    • wheat (in large amounts)
    • brown rice
    • kamut
    • spelt, rye (in large amounts)
    • barley (in large amounts)
  • Vegetables:
    • asparagus
    • artichokes (globe and Jerusalem)
    • sun chokes
    • avocado
    • broccoli
    • beetroot
    • cabbage
    • brussels sprouts
    • cauliflower
    • chicory
    • fennel
    • onions
    • garlic
    • leeks
    • radicchio
    • shallots
    • mushrooms
  • Fruits:
    • apples
    • apricots
    • cherries
    • grapes
    • mango
    • nectarines
    • peaches
    • pears
    • plums
    • prunes
    • pineapples
    • watermelon
    • fruit juices
  • Milk and Alternatives:
    • milk (fresh, powder, condensed, or evaporated)
    • custard
    • yogurt
    • ice-ceam
    • dairy desserts
    • soft unripened cheeses (such as ricotta, cottage, cream, marscarpone)
  • Meat and Alternatives:
    • legumes
    • lentils
    • chickpeas
  • Sugars & Sweeteners:
    • high-fructose corn syrup
    • corn syrup
    • honey
    • sorbitol
    • manitol
    • xylitol
    • maltitol
    • isomalt
    • inulin

 

Other Methods of Relieving IBS Symptoms (Non-FODMAP related):

  • Add more soluble fiber in your diet, especially at the start of your meals
    • try a bowl of oatmeal at breakfast and a cup of water
    • use a fiber supplement like Metamucil if that’s more convenient for you
  • Eat meals at regular times, spaced around 4-6 hours apart
  • Carry snacks with you to avoid getting hungry
  • Small frequent meals may be a better option if you tend to feel bloated after large meals
  • Choose lower fat foods
  • Enjoy cooked fruits and vegetables more often than raw, uncooked versions
  • Take carbonated drinks and caffeine containing drinks sparingly
  • Drink peppermint tea and chamomile tea throughout the day
  • Minimize your stress levels
  • Get adequate sleep daily
  • Try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, or tai-chi 

IBS Treatment for People Living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome

ibs symptoms

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition characterized by gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms such as abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and cramping. To date, the cause for IBS remains unclear. Some known risk factors include stress, poor immune system, medications, and hormones (such as serotonin) as these can aggravate the body’s GI system.

 

Some people with IBS with very sensitive large intestines that spasm as a reaction to stress and certain foods. These foods are highly specific to the individual, meaning the same food may trigger some people with IBS, but not everyone. And although the symptoms of IBS are often painful and uncomfortable, the good news is that the intestines are not harmed nor damaged (unlike how gluten damages the GI tract in people with Celiac disease). Also, contrary to what rumors may say, IBS does not lead to diseases such as cancer.

 

So how is IBS diagnosed? The truth is, many people may never get diagnosed because IBS symptoms can easily be associated with a bad case of food poisoning, catching the stomach flu, or work/life stress. More often than not, it’s only when symptoms are so frequent and severe that they can no longer be ignored that people seek professional help and lifestyle interventions. Health practitioners first run tests to rule out other potential diagnoses before concluding that IBS is the culprit for all the symptoms.

 

So what can you do if have IBS or IBS symptoms? Follow the steps below.

 

IBS Diet Treatment

  1. Keep a food journal. When you experience abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and/or cramping, write down what you ate and drank prior to developing these symptoms. These may be your trigger foods. Everyone with IBS will have unique trigger foods and require a customized IBS diet. However, generally speaking, high fat foods and gas-forming foods should be avoided. These include: fatty meats, whole milk, whole milk cheeses, fatty desserts, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, corn, onions, food with sweeteners (fructose, sorbitol), alcohol, caffeine. 
  2. Eat at regular times and drink fluids often to keep your bowels moving. Constipation should be avoided at all costs as it can cause or aggravate bloating, pain, and cramping.  
  3. If constipation persists despite eating at routine times and proper hydration, adults should increase their fiber intake to 25-35 grams per day to alleviate constipation. Try fruits and vegetables with the skin on, choosing higher fiber whole grain breads, pastas, and cereals. Include pulses (legumes, beans, peas) in your diet. And if you are struggling to get enough fiber through food, try a fiber supplement such as Metamucil® or Benefiber®. 
  4. Probiotics are a hot topic in the IBS community. However, there’s currently no evidence to support that probiotics will help with IBS symptoms. Having said this, there’s no harm in trying it unless probiotics upset your GI system or you are allergic/intolerant to the foods the probiotics are contained in (such as those in yogurt for people with lactose intolerance). 
  5. And the final strategy is…relax. I know, it’s not really food advice and it’s much easier said than done. But relaxation cannot be overstated. Keep an open mind about different relaxation strategies such as relaxation training and therapy, counseling, support groups, routine exercise, adequate sleep, and as much as possible, reduce and/or remove stressors in your life.

IBS Medication Treatment

IBS affects people differently. Based on your unique presentation, you may benefit from:

  • Laxatives to treat constipation
  • Antidiarrheals to treat diarrhea (does not reduce pain, bloating, or other symptoms)
  • Antispamodics to control muscle spasms and reduce abdominal pain
  • Antidepressants such as tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to reduce abdominal pain