Health

Ingredients To Avoid

I’m sure most of you know by now that just because a product is on your grocery store shelf, doesn’t mean it’s healthy for you.  We all try to avoid processed candy, cookies and foods we are absolutely certain are not healthy for us or our children.  But what some of you may not know is that many ingredients found in packaged and processed foods are REALLY bad for your health and in some cases downright scary!

Many packaged foods contain additives and preservatives; are made with genetically modified ingredients (always look for the non-GMO-certified label if you are not sure).  These items have detrimental effects on the body, especially if consumed in excess.  It is important to not only read nutritional labels for protein, carbs, sugar and fats, but to read the full list of ingredients as well.  In this way, you will learn which foods are beneficial to your health and which are not.  There are almost always healthier versions of your favorite packaged foods that do not contain these harmful ingredients.  By shopping at health food stores such as Whole Foods or online at www.Vitacost.com you have the ability to make better choices for you and your family. While they may be a little more expensive, the health benefits you will get are well worth it.

The following, while not a complete list, are common food additives to avoid whenever possible:

Additive: 

            Used in:

           Possible Effects:

Acesulfame Potassium, Acesulfame-K (Ace-K)  

Protein powders, Bodybuilding powders, “diet” products.  Usually combined with Aspartame to mask its chemical aftertaste.

Due to containing methylene chloride, may cause nausea, headaches, mood problems, impairment of the liver and kidneys, problems with eyesight, hypoglycemia and possibly cancer.

Acacia Gum (Gum Arabic)

Chewing gum, candies, frosting, soft drinks & related beverages

Asthma attacks, skin rashes, pregnancy and fetal development problems.

Alginic Acid

Ice cream and other frozen desserts, salad dressings, cheese spreads and dips

Pregnancy complications and birth defects.

Aspartame (brand name Nutrasweet), E951

Diet and sugar-free soft drinks, gum, candy, instant desserts (Jello, puddings), sugar-free gum, drink mixes (Crystal light, Kool Aid), cough syrup

Mental confusion, rashes, depression, anxiety, headaches, nausea, seizures, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, insomnia.

Benzoic Acid

Margarine, beer, pickled vegetables, soft drinks, jelly, jams, fruit juice, barbecue sauce

Asthma attacks, rashes, irritation of eyes and mucuos membranes, hyperactivity in children, neurological disorders

BHA and BHT

Chewing gum, candy, enriched rice, most major grocery store brands of cereal, shortening, desserts & deli meats.

Elevated cholesterol, liver and kidney damage, infertility, sterility, immune disorders, increased susceptibility to carcinogens, behavioral problems in children.

Calcium Chloride

Dairy products

Gastrointestinal irritations

Calcium Disodium EDTA

Mayonnaise, dressing, canned beans, canned potatoes

Blood in urine, intestinal upset, kidney damage, muscle cramping.

Common Food Dyes/Food colouring, especially Yellow #5 (Tartrazine; E102)

Candy, cereal, soft drinks, sports drinks, fruit cocktails, maraschino cherries, cherry pie mix, ice cream, ices, bakery products, American cheese, packaged macaroni & cheese

Hyperactivity & behavioral problems in children (ADD/ ADHD), asthma, migraine headaches, kidney and adrenal damage, allergic reactions

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

Most processed foods, breads, candy, flavored yogurts, salad dressings, cereals, cookies

Increases LDL “bad” cholesterol levels, contributes to the development of obesity and diabetes.

   

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), autolyzed yeast extract

Chinese food, salt substitutes, soups, condiments, bouillon cubes, spices & seasonings, potato chips, frozen dinners, lunch meats

Allergic reactions, headaches, eye inflammation, brain edema, central nervous and vascular system problems, obesity (shuts off the feeling of being full), depression and fatigue.

Potassium Bromate

Some breads

Cancer

Sodium Benzoate & Potassium Sorbate

Soft drinks, packaged spreads such as hummus, tahini, etc., Yogurts

Allergic reaction; “chemical” taste in foods.

Sodium/Potassium Sulfite or Metabisulfite or Sulphites

Dried fruits (if does NOT contain, label must state “sulphite free” or “unsulphited”), wine

Headaches, asthma attacks, allergic reactions such as flushing, redness, itchiness.

Sodium Nitrate/Nitrite

Hot dogs, smoked fish, smoked meats & luncheon meats ie. Pastrami, salami, corned beef

Birth defects, cancer – nitrates can combine with chemicals in the stomach to form nitrosamine, a highly carcinogenic substance.

Splenda/Sucralose

“Diet” foods, cake mixes and snacks, low-calorie beverages, diet soft drinks

Shrunken thymus, enlarged liver/kidneys (shown in lab rats who consumed Splenda)

Sulphur Dioxide, E220

Beer, soft drinks, dried fruit, juices, wine, vinegar, potato products

Bronchial problems, asthma, flushing, tingling sensations, destruction of vitamins B1 & Vitamin E in the body.

Tertiary butydroquinone (TBHG)

Candy bars, baking sprays, fast foods

Childhood behavioral problems.

Trans Fat, Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil

Margarine, chips, crackers, baked goods & fast foods

Increases LDL “bad” cholesterol levels while decreasing HDL “good” cholesterol, increased risk of heart attacks, heart disease, and strokes, contributes to increased inflammation.

www.RealHealthFit.com

Please feel free to print this list and take it with you when shopping at you local grocery store; look through the food items in your fridge and pantry to see which items contain these ingredients and slowly switch them for healthier products.  Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions regarding this list or if you think other ingredients should be included. 

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HIGHEST QUALITY FISH AND OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS

We all know that salmon is good for you and for your heart.  This is because salmon contains high amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA, which are essential to human life and support optimal health in key organs, systems, and life stages*:

  • Aging
  • Vision
  • Metabolism
  • Inflammation
  • Cardiovascular
  • Fetal development
  • Skin, hair, and nails
  • Joints and movement
  • Cognition (thinking), attention, mood, and memory

The only problem is, most salmon – especially at your local grocery store –  is farm raised.  This means that the fish are fed a diet that contains high levels of contaminants which actually cause a lowering of the salmon’s Omega-3 levels, in addition to the threat of mercury, PCBs, and other toxins.

If that doesn’t sound disturbing enough for you, consider this: Farm raised salmon become so unnatural looking that fish farmers often inject them with an orange-colored dye to make them look like “real” salmon.  They can literally choose from a color wheel, similar to what you would find at a paint store, to decide how orange they want the fish to look.  Ew.

In 2004, the Los Angeles Times reported a study that “focused on commercially raised salmon in both the Atlantic and Pacific. It found roughly 10 times more PCBs, dioxins, and pesticide residues in farmed salmon than in the wild variety.”

Finding unpolluted sources of salmon is becoming more and more difficult; that’s why I’m happy to tell you about Vital Choice, a company that is not only committed to providing consumers with high quality wild fish and other organic foods, but also manufactures what many Nutrition experts believe to be the highest quality fish oil available on the market in the form of pure wild caught Alaskan salmon oil.

Lets take a look and see why I recommend Vital Choice Salmon Oil over other brands.  It is:

  • Gluten-free
  • Made with fish gelatin capsules
  • Virgin, whole, natural, unrefined
  • Purity and potency certified by NSF
  • Pure Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon Oil
  • Certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
  • 600mg omega-3s per serving (with 240mg EPA + 220mg DHA)
  • Contains no artificial preservatives, color, dairy, starch, wheat, yeast, sugar, or soy

Their whole, unrefined, certified-pure virgin Omega-3 Sockeye Salmon Oil is extracted from wild Alaskan sockeye within hours of harvest. The brilliant orange color, which you won’t find in other Salmon Oil supplements, comes from astaxanthin: a potent antioxidant pigment that wild sockeye acquire by eating krill and other zooplankton.

Standard Omega-3 supplements contain oils from different types of fish which vary widely purity and fat composition. The oils have to undergo chemical refinement to ensure their safety and to consistently provide predictable levels and ratios of omega-3 EPA and DHA. In contrast, because it comes from extraordinarily pure fish, Vital Choice Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon Oil does not need to undergo chemical refining.  This is not to say that other fish oil brands are “bad.” There are excellent brands of different types of fish oil on the market; I simply believe that its whole-food attributes make Vital Choice Salmon Oil a rare and powerfully health-promoting omega-3 supplement.  It’s also the one I now personally use on a daily basis  and hope you will consider it to benefit your health as well!

You can purchase Vitality Choice products HERE.  While as of now they only ship their food products to the US, their specialized supplements can be shipped to Canada as well.

Please note:  The links above, as many on this site, are affiliate links of which I receive a small commission from sales of certain items, but the price is the same for you. If I post an affiliate link to a product, it is something that I personally use, support and would recommend without an affiliate link and I have not been compensated in any way for review of this or any other product recommended on this site.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 

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HOLISTIC NUTRITION AND SUPPLEMENT RECOMMENDATIONS

“I have been getting these headaches lately, what can I take?” Or, “I don’t know why, but my stomach has been bothering me lately I need a supplement to fix it.”  These are a couple of examples of the questions I get asked on a daily basis.  Many people are under the assumption that a Holistic Nutritionist can offer a quick fix to their health problem or a band-aid solution to whatever ails them.  Then again, maybe I should feel honored that people believe I can cure them on the spot!  Unfortunately, it’s usually not as easy as that.  You see, while there are a number of supplements and remedies that can offer quick relief of symptoms, typically the issue has been going on for a while and we need to uncover the cause of the problem in order to find a long-term solution .

When you go the Doctor, his or her main job is to get you out of your discomfort or pain and to make sure you don’t have a serious illness.  A Holistic Nutritionist works in a completely different manner.  Of course, we also want to make sure you don’t have a serious illness, but since we are not trained to determine that, (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked to “diagnose” things) it is always best to consult with your Medical Doctor if you are concerned about a persistent symptom.  On the other hand, if you have had the same symptom(s) for years OR you have already received a diagnosis of your condition, that’s where we come in.  For example, your Doctor may tell you that you have gastric reflux or chronic migraine headaches or high cholesterol, and he/she will want to give you prescription medicine to take every time your “issue” comes up, or even daily to prevent the problem in the first place.  Unfortunately, too often those medicines simply block the problem from surfacing and don’t really “fix” anything; many times, they actually make the problem worse in the long run, or cause new health issues to emerge, as in the case of antacids, corticosteroids, blood pressure lowering medication and others.

medicine-side-effects

So why are so many people tempted to go this route?  Usually because (a) it will get them out of their discomfort quickly, which is certainly understandable so I’m not diminishing that fact; and (b) for some reason I’ve never been able to understand, they are terrified of not listening to the Doctor or trying a healthier alternative before resorting to harmful prescription medications.

Unlike some others in my field, I’m not opposed to Doctors or medicine when required.  Obviously, if you have a raging infection and need antibiotics right away, or are in a tremendous amount of pain or you simply don’t feel comfortable with natural medicine, then you should absolutely follow the treatment plan your Doctor provides.  The issue I have is that more often than not, unnecessary medications or repeated antibiotics are prescribed for chronic health issues when a much simpler treatment plan will correct the imbalance with time.  And that’s the important part: the process can take a while, since it took time for your body to get so out of whack in the first place!  It involves changing your lifestyle, your diet, determining which foods you might be sensitive or allergic to, finding the type and level of toxicities in your environment and the food your ingesting as well as dealing with any emotional factors or hormonal problems that may be contributing to your problem.  This, along with the appropriate vitamins and supplements – which often need to be reviewed and updated every month to ensure progression towards better health – generally takes a lot longer than the the quick fix pill your doctor will provide.  Eventually you will feel better, have more energy and not get the symptoms making you feel like crap in the first place, but it certainly won’t be overnight.

All that being said, in acute mild illnesses or discomfort, such as a cold or sore throat, sinusitis, acute digestive upset, stress due to a particular event, etc., herbal, homeopathic redmedies and essential oils can provide fantastic quick relief in most cases without suppressing the bodies natural functions the way OTC medications do, but when those very same colds or sore throats are chronic, the underlying cause has to be dealt with.

I hope this helps clear up your understanding of Holistic Nutrition and Natural medicine.  Contact me HERE  and I will be happy to help you any way I can. happy

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HOW TO EAT HEALTHY ON PASSOVER

Cottonseed oilI wrote this article last year for the Toronto Family Magazine, and I wanted to post it here a week ago but I have been so busy cooking and preparing that I totally forgot! surpriseops: .   Hopefully it’s not too late to incorporate some of these healthy alternatives:

Buy organic potatoes: I know what you’re thinking: “A gazillion pounds of organic potatoes will cost me a fortune!” But this isn’t the case; organic potatoes are really not much more than conventional ones.  The reason to spend a little extra? A 2006 U.S.D.A. test found 81 percent of potatoes tested still contained pesticides after being washed and peeled, and the potato has one of the highest pesticide contents of 43 fruits and vegetables tested, according to the Environmental Working Group.  So with all those potatoes being eaten, wouldn’t you feel better knowing you were giving your family a lot less potentially harmful substances?

Eggs should have no hormones or antibiotics in the feed:  While I don’t recommend buying organic eggs, because there are too many blood spots found in them, the next best thing when consuming as many eggs as we do on Pesach, is eggs with no hormones or antibiotics in the feed. The only brand I have found to specify this on the label is Earth’s Best, which is found in most supermarkets.  Note that eggs labeled Omega-3 are not the same thing and this causes a lot of confusion among consumers.  The Omega-3 label simply means that flax seeds have been added to the feed; it does not mean that hormones or antibiotics have not been given as well.

Use spelt matzah instead of wheat:  Spelt is nutritionally superior to wheat and easier to digest.  While spelt does contain gluten, the gluten content is less, and many people sensitive to wheat find they can tolerate spelt.  (Note that spelt is not suitable for those with celiac disease or those on a gluten-free diet).  Even if you aren’t sensitive to wheat, another benefit to choosing spelt instead is that it remains unaffected by concepts such as ‘agribusiness’, ‘cross-breeding,’ ‘hybridization’ and ‘genetically modified’ – words that have come to dominate our modern food supply.  What does this mean to you? Less toxic substances and chemicals being consumed, better for your health.  It is easy to find Organic Spelt Matzoh at you local grocery store.

Cook and bake with grapeseed oil instead of cottonseed oil:  According to most health experts, cottonseed oil is one of the unhealthiest oils around.  Cottonseed oil contains natural toxins because in order to extract oil from cottonseed, these seeds have to be modified genetically.  The oil also contains unacceptably high levels of pesticide residues, since cotton is not classified as a food crop and farmers use many agrichemicals when growing it.  Additionally, since there is a similarity in the molecular structures of the composition of cottonseed and peanut oil, some people who are allergic to peanuts also suffer from the same allergic reactions after consuming cottonseed oil.

In contrast, grapeseed oil is rich in proanthocyanidins (OPC) a compound that is high in antioxidants which are 50 times more effective than Vitamin E and 20 times stronger than Vitamin C.  Grape seed oil is also able to handle high-temperatures without smoking, burning or splattering.  This means it can be safely used for high-heat stir-frying and baking.  Another great benefit – Grapeseed oil has a light nutty flavor lacking the heaviness of other oils, so it will not affect the flavor of your food.  While Kosher for Passover grapeseed oil is difficult to find in Canada,  De La Rosa Kosher Italian Grapeseed Oil, which has an OU-p, can be ordered from Amazon in the U.S.

Bake, don’t buy, Pesach cakes:  In addition to saving you lots of money, baking your own cakes for Pesach has many benefits over purchasing ready-made ones.  First, you can decrease the amount of sugar in almost every Pesach cake recipe, without affecting the final result.  Second, you can use Organic sugar according to most halachik authorities, as long as it has a reliable kosher symbol, no special Kosher for Passover certification required.  Third, commercial Pesach cakes are loaded with chemicals and preservatives in order to increase their shelf life, contains food coloring, unnatural flavoring and cottonseed oil.  Baking your own allows you to use grapeseed oil and the healthier eggs discussed above, eliminates the need for chemicals and gives you the opportunity to incorporate ingredients like raw almonds or walnuts (if there are no nut allergies in the family) to add healthy fatty acids as well as fiber.  Choose recipes that have the lowest amounts of potato starch for the healthiest result.

Drink dry red wine:  Dry red wine has some antioxidant properties as well as bioflavonoids, which help to fight free radicals — the damaging agents in your body that can lead to heart disease and cancer. What this means is that the cups of wine you consume for the Seder do offer some health benefits in addition to all those calories.  Speaking of calories, avoid sweet wines, which contain more than 45 grams of sugar per liter and therefore a lot more calories, as opposed to the 4 grams of sugar per liter that dry red wine contains.

If you or your children are drinking grape juice at the Seder, brands like Kedem and Concord now make organic grape juice with no sulfites. Sulfites, or sodium/potassium metabasulfite as it is commonly labelled, are a potential food allergen that can cause headache, facial flushing and itching and are found in all wines and grape juice unless it specifies “sulphite-free” on the label.  It is more difficult to obtain wine without sulphites, but if you tend to get any of those reactions after drinking wine, you might consider making the switch. That being said, some people get a reaction due to other substances in wine.Since white wine often has a higher sulfite levels than red wines, if you don’t react to white wine, then you know that it’s something in red wine other than sulfites that is causing the problem. (Note that organic wines are not necessarily sulfite free).

Stick to whole foods:  Simply put, eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, salads, roasted vegetables, fish, chicken and lean meat and drink plenty of water.  This way, you won’t find your health adversely affected by this holiday!  Check out the Recipes page for healthy recipes suitable for Passover.  While you’re at it, see this previously written post about what to eat on Passover.

Wishing you all a Chag Kasher V’sameach! happy

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SHOULD YOU AVOID NIGHTSHADE FOODS?

Nightshades

We know vegetables are part of a healthy diet, but what about nightshade vegetables?  And what the heck are nightshades anyway?

Nightshades are in the Solanaceae family of plants.  They include:

White Potatoes
Tomatoes
Peppers  – red, yellow, green, jalapeno; also includes paprika & cayenne pepper (but not black pepper or white pepper)
Eggplant
Nicotine
….and the lesser known nightshade, Goji Berries

So what is it about Nightshades that make them potentially problematic?

Plants produce alkaloids primarily designed to help protect them from insects. The active alkaloid in nightshades, is a drug-like alkaloid that may compromise function in the bodies of sensitive individuals. There is no solid research evidence showing an impact on the nervous system or joints, but it there are many people, especially those with joint pain, but also many with digestive complaints as well as nervous system disorders, who feel a lot better when nightshades are eliminated from their diet, as it seems to relieve a variety of conditions.

Some researchers believe that arthritis is often misdiagnosed in people who may in fact only be experiencing the effects of nightshade consumption; in fact, one in three arthritics will react badly to nightshades.  Though not yet understood how, nightshade foods may remove calcium from bones and deposit it in soft tissue, setting the stage for arthritis. For this reason, researchers have recommended that all individuals with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or other joint problems like gout eliminate nightshade foods from their diet.

My Personal Experience with Nightshades:

As a young child I had psoriasis on one of my knees.  If you aren’t familiar with psoriasis, it is an autoimmune skin disorder that sort of looks like eczema but generally occurs on the outer elbows and knees (although it can occur anywhere on the body) as opposed to the inner elbows and knees as typically characterized by eczema.  There are many different types of psoriasis, but the common type has clearly defined borders and the skin flakes in round white patches, which causes it to itch – a lot.  Sounds delightful, I know.  🙄  It is notoriously difficult to treat, but a healthy diet and a well functioning digestive system is of utmost importance; I believe it is for this reason that mine cleared up almost 20 years ago when I began my journey towards living a healthier lifestyle.   Unfortunately, about a year ago I was hospitalized for a few days with a severe bacterial infection in my leg (that’s what happens when you scratch a cut on your leg with not-so-clean-hands, folks surpriseops: ) and was given massive doses of antibiotics; not surprisingly, since antibiotics destroy the balance of gut flora, especially at those high doses, the psoriasis returned.

Since many experts believe that Nightshades should be avoided not only by those with joint pain and problems, but by people with autoimmune disorders in general, I decided to give it a shot and gave up ALL nightshades for 3 months.  Want to know what that’s like? Well, never mind the fact that I LOVE eggplant and tomatoes/tomato sauce but eating at a restaurant or at a friends house became almost impossible.   Restaurants love using Paprika on EVERYTHING – and friends just thought I was more nuts than usual as I picked the peppers and tomatoes out of their salads.  I stuck with it, though, because I had to see for myself if this was a contributor to the problem.  After the 3 months although there wasn’t much of an improvement in my skin condition, I did learn that high amounts of nightshades, tomatos in particular, did make the itching worse.

So what’s the bottom line?

For as many articles as you will find that nightshades are bad for you, there are an equal number of articles you can find that say it’s simply not true and there is no scientific evidence to support this theory.  Ever the practical realist, here’s my simple take on it:

If you have any of the issues above, especially joint pain, arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune disorder, eliminate nightshades from your diet for 3 months to see if it makes a difference.   Less than 3 months just isn’t enough to really come to a good conclusion, although if you are sensitive to them you should feel some improvement right away.  If it doesn’t make any difference at all, enjoy.  If it makes somewhat of a difference, than have them in moderation, cooked, for this lowers the alkaloid content by 40-50%.  If you have noticeable improvement in your symptoms, then obviously stay away!

Have you tried avoiding Nightshades and did it help you?

Share in the comments below!

UPDATE JULY/2014: I recently had a skin biopsy and, as it turns out, I was mis-diagnosed as a child and never had psoriasis.  What I have, in fact, is eczema.  While health experts believe that it the same leaky gut that contributes to both psoriasis and eczema,  there are other differences pertaining to these conditions and it may explain why avoiding nightshades did not work for me.

 

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