Monthly Archives: April 2019

Omega 3s-The Fats We Love

fish 2

Omega-3s get a lot of notoriety – and for good reason! Not only is one of them essential for good health, but we don’t get enough of them in our diets.

Omega-3s are a kind of fat. Fats are not just a storable source of 9 calories per gram. Different fats are used by our bodies for different essential functions. They’re part of the membranes that surround each cell, and are especially important in the brain and nerves.

They can mediate the effect of our immune cells as well as influence the production of neurotransmitters and hormones. Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, and have health benefits for the heart, brain, and our mental health.  They are even needed for skin health!

In fact, it’s thought that the reduced intake of omega-3s over the last few generations is one of the reasons for the increase in many of the chronic diseases we see today.

In this conversation, we’ll take a closer look at the anti-inflammatory component and how to get Omega 3 from food.

Let’s look at what exactly omega-3s are, why they’re so good for our health, and how to get enough of these lovable fats.

What are omega-3s?

There are several types of fats (a.k.a. fatty acids). They’re broken down into two main categories: saturated and unsaturated. Unsaturated fatty acids are further broken down into monounsaturated (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated (PUFAs).

The main types of PUFAs are omega-3s and omega-6s. We don’t hear much about omega-6s because we tend to get too much of these in our diet already. Omega-6s are found in meat, poultry, and many common seed oils like corn and sunflower. So, the focus has been to educate people to swap out some of those omega-6s to get more omega-3s like our ancestors did.

Three of the omega-3 fatty acids are particularly important for health. They are:

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – essential fatty acid
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – biologically active fatty acid
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – biologically active fatty acid

ALA is essential – literally essential for health, just like essential vitamins and minerals. This is because the body can’t create it from other nutrients. It is this omega-3 that the body needs in order to create the biologically active EPA and DHA. In fact, research shows that the primary role of ALA is to be the building block for EPA and DHA.

What I mean by “biologically active” is that EPA and DHA are the forms of omega-3s that provide the health benefits. They’re the ones that are active in the body.

ALA is the plant-based omega-3 and is found in many seeds like flax, hemp, and chia. It’s also found in walnuts, and oils from olives, canola, and soy.

EPA and DHA, on the other hand, are found in seafood, especially oily fish. They are also found in algae, which is a vegetarian source.

FUN FACT: Fish have the biologically active forms of omega-3s because they eat the algae and store extra EPA and DHA in their fat.

The conversion of plant-based essential ALA into the biologically active EPA and DHA is complex and requires several steps and enzymes. Unfortunately, the process isn’t very efficient. The conversion rate of ALA to EPA is about 8-12%, while the conversion to DHA is only about 1%. Some studies show that women may have slightly higher conversion rates compared to men.

Despite all of this biochemistry, the real question is how do they work in the body and what are these health benefits?

The health benefits of omega-3s

There is a lot of research about the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Things like anti-inflammation, heart and brain health, as well as better moods.  They’re even good for our skin!

Omega-3s and anti-inflammation

There are many inflammatory diseases like allergies, asthma, arthritis, and autoimmune diseases. There are also many other diseases that may not be inflammatory per se, but have a substantial inflammatory component. These include diabetes, obesity, cancer, heart disease, depression, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Many of these conditions are becoming more common. Reasons include allergens, infections, environmental and dietary toxins, and even stress. As mentioned earlier, one of these reasons is our inflammatory diets.

Yes! What you eat can increase or decrease the amount of inflammation in your body.

An inflammatory diet contains a much higher intake of omega-6s compared with omega-3s. In fact, the higher the intake of certain omega-6s, the higher the production of certain inflammatory molecules.

Many animal and some clinical studies have found reduced inflammation when omega-3 supplements were taken.

A review of 30 studies showed that fish oil supplements reduced the pain of arthritis, particularly rheumatoid arthritis.

How do omega-3s reduce inflammation?

Two ways. First, they are used to create anti-inflammatory molecules themselves. Second, they can inhibit some of the mechanisms that cause inflammation in the first place.

Omega-3s are used to produce certain anti-inflammatory molecules (e.g. prostaglandins, resolvins, etc.) that combat inflammation.

They also reduce the production of enzymes that create inflammatory molecules, and can even reduce the expression of certain inflammatory genes.

Omega-3s become incorporated into the membranes of immune cells and affect their inflammatory response.

Some animal studies even show that omega-3s can reduce inflammation by helping to reduce obesity!

How to get enough omega-3s from food

In order to get the health benefits you have to regularly eat enough foods that are high in omega-3s.

It’s thought that our ancestral diets included approximately equal amounts of omega-3s and omega-6s. Now, our intake of omega-6s is up to 20x higher than our intake of omega-3s. This is why there is such an emphasis on getting enough omega-3s.

When it comes to plant-based sources of omega-3s, flax is the winner! Up to half of flax’s total fatty acids are the essential omega-3 ALA. Canola, walnuts, and soy, are less concentrated sources of ALA, with about 10% of their fatty acids as ALA.

To eat the recommended amount of omega-3s have at least two servings of fatty fish each week. Fatty fish include salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines. This is a recommendation from the World Health Organization, as well as other health authorities.

In the US, there have been consistent recommendations to increase fish intake for almost 20 years. Despite this the average American still only eats about 1.3 servings of fish per week.

Eating fish and seafood gives you a lot more nutrition than simply taking a supplement. They contain protein, vitamins D and B12, as well as the minerals iodine, selenium, potassium, and magnesium, to name a few.

When it comes to choosing fish, bigger is not better! Large fish that feed on smaller fish have higher concentrations of toxins in their fat. To reduce your intake of things like methyl mercury and organic pollutants, limit your intake of tilefish, king mackerel, shark, and swordfish. And anyone who is pregnant, breastfeeding, or a child, should avoid these types of fish altogether.

There are also non-fish sources of omega-3s! Some foods are fortified with omega-3 oils. Some baked goods, pastas, dairy, eggs, dressings, and spreads may contain added flax, algal, or fish oils. Omega-3 eggs are produced by hens who’ve had flax seeds, chia seeds, and/or fish oil added to their feed. In fact, hens fed the plant-based ALA produce eggs with ALA, and those fed fish oil produced eggs with EPA & DHA.

Check your labels!

Next time I’ll talk about Omega 3s and brain health and what to do if you are not getting enough Omega 3s in your diet.

 

 

References available on request

 

 

Important small print you must read:

Disclaimer

The information contained herein is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.

How to Improve Gut Health

human-microbiomeHippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”

And while this may not be 100% true for every disease in every person, more and more research shows that our gut (digestive system) has a bigger role in many diseases than we used to think. And we’re not just talking about heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, IBS, IBD, etc. We’re talking about all kinds of issues like allergies, pain, mood disorders, and nutrient deficiencies.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Our gut is the portal to the outside world. It’s here where we take in disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. We also take in nutrients (and toxins) through our gut. The nutrients we ingest and absorb are the building blocks of every single part of our body.

We’re just learning the connections between our gut and other areas of our body, like our brain (for those of you who attended my presentation titled The Good Gut we touched briefly on the “the gut-brain axis”.)  Not just our gut per se; but, its friendly resident microbes too. These guys also have newly discovered roles in our gut health and overall health.

So, let’s talk about the roles that our gut and our gut microbes play in our overall health. Then I’ll give you tips to improve your gut health naturally.

Our gut’s role in our overall health

Our gut’s main role is as a barrier. To let things in that should get in and to keep things out that should stay out. Think of “absorption” of nutrients as things we want to let in; and “elimination” of waste as things we want to pass right through and out.

This seemingly simple role is quite complex!  And it can break down in so many places.

For one thing, our guts can “leak.” Yes, like a long tube with holes in it, it can allow things to get into our bloodstream/bodies that can wreak havoc (bacteria, undigested food, and toxins). You name it, whatever you put into your mouth can be absorbed by your gut and get into your bloodstream, even if it’s not supposed to. And when your gut wall gets irritated, it can “leak.” When this happens, you get inflammation, which is a starting point for many diseases that don’t seem linked to the gut but have a sneaky connection there.

FUN FACT: About 70% of our immune system lives in and around our gut.

A healthy gut is not a leaky gut. It maintains its barrier and shuttles things through to be eliminated. Maintaining a healthy gut barrier is the first pillar of gut health.

The second main part of your gut are the billions of friendly health-promoting microbes. Gut microbes help us digest and absorb nutrients. They fight off disease-causing microbes, make some vitamins for us, and have all kinds of other health benefits, like mental health benefits, reducing inflammation, and stabilizing blood sugar.

So, keeping your gut microbes happy is the second pillar of gut health!

How to improve gut health

There are a lot of natural ways to improve gut health. Let’s start with what to stop. It’s always best to eliminate the cause, so let’s stop giving our guts junk to deal with. How about eliminating added sugars, processed foods, and alcohol? Try that for a few weeks, and you may be amazed at how much better your body (and gut) feels.

Avoid foods that you are allergic to or have a sensitivity.  Some healthy foods can also be problematic for some (fodmaps come to mind).  There are a wide variety of healthy gut friendly choices out there.  Make the right choices for you.

You may also want to eliminate other gut irritants. Dairy and grains contain common compounds known to irritate some people’s guts. Sometimes you only need to eliminate them for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference for your health.

By eating nutrient-dense foods, we allow ample macro- and micro-nutrients into our gut to maximize the chance for absorption. These nutrients help our bodies build and repair our gut, and every other body part as well. Some of the most nutrient-dense foods include dark leafy greens, colourful fruits and veggies, liver, and fish.

The second pillar of gut health is our microbes. By ingesting probiotic-rich foods and drinks, we can help to replenish our gut microbes. These are found in fermented foods like kombucha, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Make these a part of your daily diet.

Whole foods are full of gut-friendly fiber and prebiotics which feed the good bacteria (those probiotics need food too). Prebiotic foods include asparagus, berries, beets bananas, broccoli.

Not eating enough fiber increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Fiber plays lots of roles in our gut, including whisking away some of those pesky bad bacteria and toxins so they can be eliminated. Fiber also helps to feed our friendly resident microbes that help us absorb and digest our food better. What foods have a lot of fiber? Fruits,vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and even cacao.

And don’t forget those very influential lifestyle factors like getting enough sleep, stressing less, and getting the right amount (and intensity) of exercise for you. It’s easy to forget some of the simple, but key links there are between what we do with our bodies and how well they function.

 Conclusion

The function of your gut is key to your overall health. There are two pillars of gut health: maintaining a good barrier and maintaining healthy gut microbes.

The main ways to improve both of these naturally is by eating nutrient-dense whole foods. Foods filled with nutrition, prebiotics, probiotics, and fiber. Eliminating common gut irritants like added sugar, processed foods, and alcohol.

If you would like to receive a list containing examples of prebiotic and probiotic foods, fermented foods and resistant starch foods that help improve gut health send me an email tessanp@shaw.ca    Its a gift.

 

References:

 https://authoritynutrition.com/does-all-disease-begin-in-the-gut/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-nutrition-gut-health

http://neurotrition.ca/blog/your-gut-bugs-what-they-eat-and-7-ways-feed-them

 

 

 

Important small print you must read:
Disclaimer
The information contained herein is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.

Common Weight Loss Myths Busted

][ZQSometimes it seems that everyone has an opinion on weight loss. It’s full of bad oversimplified advice, and magical “non-diet” diet products. And this information is all over the internet.

I am so pleased to bust these bad boys. Want to know why? It’s because I care about you. If you’re looking to lose weight, then I want you to be successful. I want you to stop wasting one more second on garbage like the four common weight loss myths I’m debunking today.

Please join me in finally putting these to rest once and for all!

Common Weight Loss Myths Busted

Weight loss advice is so common (and contentious) now. There are competing opinions everywhere.

I say, forget about “who’s right” and let’s focus on “what’s right.” Because what gets results is what I’m focusing on in this post.

I respect you too much to make empty promises and try to sell you on something that doesn’t work.

There are too many weight loss myths out there. I’m going to tackle the top ones I come across in my practice.

Myth: Calories cause weight gain, and fewer calories are the path to weight loss

Calories are important for weight loss. If you eat and absorb a ton more than you use, then your body’s wisdom will store some for later. Calories matter.

But, they are not the “be-all and end-all” of weight loss; they’re important, but they’re the symptom, not the cause. Let’s think about the reasons people eat more calories. Let’s focus on the causes.

People eat too many calories, not because they’re hungry, but because they feel sad, lonely, or bored. Or maybe because they’re tired or stressed. Or maybe even because they’re happy and celebrating.  And all these feelings interact with our gastrointestinal, nervous and hormonal systems; all of which influence our calorie intake.

Myth: “Eat less move more” is good advice

Well, then we’re all in tip-top shape, right? Because people have been doling out this advice (myth) for years.

The premise of this is based on the above myth that calories in minus calories out equals your weight. So, eat fewer calories, and burn off more calories (because human physiology is a simple math equation, right?).

Even if people can happily and sustainably follow this advice (which they can’t!); it completely negates other factors that contribute to weight problems. Things like the causes of overeating we mentioned above. Not to mention our genetics, health conditions we’re dealing with or our exposure to compounds that are “obesogenic.”

Myth: A calorie is a calorie

Can we please put this one to bed already?

Science has confirmed several caloric components of food differ from others. For example, the “thermic effect of food” (TEF) is that some nutrients require calories to be metabolized. They can slightly increase your metabolism, just by eating them.

For example, when you metabolize protein you burn more calories than when you metabolize carbohydrates. Proteins and carbohydrates both have 4 calories/gram; but, the TEF of protein = 15–30%; and the TEF for carbohydrates = 5–10%.

Here’s another example of a calorie not being a calorie. Different fats are metabolized differently. Medium chain triglycerides (fats) (MCTs) have the same 9 calories/gram that other fats do; but, they’re metabolized by the liver before getting into the bloodstream and therefore aren’t utilized or stored the same way as other fats.

#acalorieisnotacalorie

Myth: Buy this supplement/tea/food/magic potion to lose weight

I’ll say it right here, this is the one that bugs me the most.

There is no magic pill for weight loss. No supplement, tea, food, or other potion will do the trick.

There are products that make these claims, and they’re full of garbage (or shall I say “marketing gold?”). The only thing you will lose is your money (and possibly your hope). So, please don’t believe this myth. There is a reason most people who lose weight can’t keep it off. The real magic is in adopting a sustainable holistic and healthy approach to living your life. What you need is a long-term lifestyle makeover, not a product.

The Metabolic Balance® plan is not a quick fix, it takes your unique body chemistry into account and develops a nutrition plan for you.  Real food, real results and sustainable.

Conclusion

I’m probably not doing myself any favours when I say that weight loss is hard! There are too many people out there trying to make it sound like they have the simple solution (or the latest and greatest!).

Don’t fall for the myths that say:

  • Calories cause weight gain, and fewer calories are the path to weight loss.
  • “Eat less move more” is good
  • A calorie is a calorie.
  • Buy this supplement/tea/food/magic potion to lose weight.

 

 

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/top-12-biggest-myths-about-weight-loss/

https://authoritynutrition.com/metabolism-boosting-foods/

https://authoritynutrition.com/5-chemicals-that-are-making-you-fat/

 

 

Important small print you must read:
Disclaimer
The information contained herein is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.