The Science of Saying Grace

Thanksgiving may have come and gone but don’t stop being grateful just yet! Saying grace or giving thanks for food is a centuries old tradition. It is one of the oldest and most universal human behaviours and is still in existence today. The word “grace” comes from the Latin word “grātia” meaning “favor” or “kindness” and in our context it is a short prayer said before or after a meal. Long ago food was more scare and harder to grow without modern technology so having food was seen as a kindness from the gods and/or the universe. Many religions have special prayers they will say before an everyday meal or for specific ceremonies that involve food but although the religion connections exist, you don’t need to follow any specific religion to recognize and be thankful for your food. In fact saying grace and showing appreciation for our food is showing to be beneficial on many levels for physiological and psychological health and well-being.

thankful-2849300_1920

On one level, saying grace is your chance to recognize and honour who got you your food, how you got your food and how fortunate you are to have the food you are about to eat. If it were not for many people and circumstances the food you are about to eat would still be out there – on a tree or in the ground.

Moreover, only a few words before eating will slow you down while giving you a moment to appreciate your food which makes the meal more enjoyable and promotes a more harmonious relationship with food. Eating more slowly is better than shoveling down your food and cleaning off your plate in 10 minutes flat because a measured pace assists the digestive processes of your body while improving satiety and helping you eat less. Being distracted and hurried eating can lead to over eating. Eating more slowly gives your body and brain the time it needs to recognize that you have eaten all your body needs.

Thousands of years ago one meal could make the difference between life and death. There was a lot more uncertainty about food safety and availability. Our circumstances have drastically evolved since then but there is always and time and place for saying grace and being thankful for our food.

If you’re looking for something to say check out these 11 Beautiful Ways To Say Grace for some inspiration.

 

Advertisements

It’s Squash Season!

I love winter squash! It’s probably one of my favourite vegetables! Winter squashes come in all different shapes, sizes and colours. They are diverse in appearance but all are solid in nutritional quality. Due to its orange colour, squash is a superb source of the carotenoids beta-carotene and lutein. Carotenoids which ac as antioxidants, reducing free radical damage, and may prevent heart disease. Lutein may also help preserve eye health by decreasing the risk for macular degeneration. Squash is also a source of potassium which is an electrolyte involved in fluid and electrolyte balance for the body as well as heart health and blood pressure regulation. Like most fruits and vegetables squash also offers Vitamin C. Folacin, also found in squash, functions in the prevention of birth defects and reduces the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. Of course, if you’ve ever tasted the creamy, smooth and satisfying texture of a squash you will realize that it is also an excellent source of fibre, which helps regulate cholesterol levels and keep digestion regular. 1 cup of cooked acorn squash has 11 grams of fibre which is almost 50% of what you need in a day! Fibre is important for keeping your regular as well as Winter squash is also a low-fat source of Vitamin E.

Squash seeds are also very nutritious. They are a good source of iron, another important mineral involved with oxygen transportation in the book. Save the seeds from your squash, wash them and let them dry and then bake them in the oven at 275F for about 15 min until they are crispy and crunchy.

pumpkin-2519423_1920

Squash starts to become available towards the end of August. They are a harvest vegetable and once harvested and stored properly you can find local squash available until about March. It’s an great ingredient for many fall and winter dishes because of it’s heartiness and time of availability.

When buying a squash pick one that has a hard surface free of soft spots and bruises. You can buy a squash and keep it stored in a cool dry place with good air circulation for a couple of weeks.  Be sure to turn it over every once in a while to make sure that there are no mushy spots hiding underneath!

pumpkins-2714744_1920

There are so many things you can do with squash. It’s amazing! But due to its hard flesh winter squash will have to be cooked before it is eaten. Most often you will hear of roasting squash. This is an easy way to cook it. Cubes of squash can also be added to soups, stews and chilies. Squash soup gives a creamy consistency when it is pureed which is one of the beauties of squash soups. It’s also used in sauces to give that same creaminess – without the cream and extra fat and calories.

butternut-squash-399415_1920

Roasted Beet Hummus

This hummus is striking! Both for its flavour and vibrant colour. Hummus is a popular dip found commonly found in Middle Eastern cuisines. Traditionally made from chickpeas, tahini, olive oil lemon juice and garlic, there are many variations made by introducing additional flavouring and ingredients.

Beets are the key feature ingredient that give this hummus it’s rick colour and earthy flavour. Beets are a source of many antioxidants, rich in folacin and other nutrients. You can read more about the benefits of beets in this previous post.

Chickpeas are an important ingredient in hummus. They are a great source of protein and fibre which promotes satiety.

Olive oil is a source of mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which are healthy dietary fats that may have a role in reducing the risk of heart disease.

Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds. Tahini provides protein and is a source of many minerals like calcium and magnesium, which are important for bone heath, as well as iron.

Garlic not only adds to the flavour of this hummus but also adds antioxidants that provide protection against free radical damage and have antibacterial properties. It may reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer as well as lower cholesterol.

The spices in this recipe are cumin, coriander and allspice which intensify the earthy flavour of the hummus.

Roasted Beet Hummus with Veggies

 

Hummus is a great portable snack to have with chopped up vegetables or crackers. It would make a very appealing appetizer (especially for holiday entertaining!).  You can also use hummus as a spread for sandwiches or in wraps.

roasted beet hummus

 

 

Become Unbeatable … with Beets!

There is something stunning about the deep ruby red beet that creates a dramatic effect wherever and whenever it is presented. Beets don’t have to be red though, although that is probably the most common conceptualization of this vegetable; they also can be yellow or striped. Did you know that not only can the roots be eaten but you can also eat the leaves?

beetroot-2686023_1920

So, what are the benefits of beets? With their deep colour it’s understandable why beets are a stellar source of many vitamins and minerals that are essential for good health and nutrition. As with other fruits and vegetables beets provide Vitamin C, a vitamin that also acts as an antioxidant. Folacin, a powerful B-vitamin with preventative effects for birth defects, cancer and heart disease. Potassium found in beets may contribute to reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Iron is another important mineral found in beets.

vegetable-2485059_1920

When buying beets try and get ones that are equal in size so that they will cook evenly. Make sure your beets are firm and their skin is dry and there are no mushy parts. Keep your beets in a cool dry place, like the refrigerator, loosely wrapped in a paper towel. If you are not going to eat the beet leaves you can chop off the stalks for easier storage.

Before cooking your beets scrub them well under running water to remove the dirt. Then dry them well with paper towels.

Beets have many different uses. You can roast them, boil them, steam them. They can be pickled (I’ve always have a thing for the little pickled salad beets!). You can shave them and add them to salads raw. Beets can be added to smoothies or beet root juice is also very popular. And of course they are the signature ingredient in Borscht – a traditional Eastern European soup.

If you can, try not to peel the beets before you cook them. Leaving the skins on preserves valuable nutrients, as well as the colour of the beets. It’s okay to leave the beet tops on and remove them after cooking.

A big question in preparing beets is “what to do about the red stains”? Beets will stain your hands if you handle them either raw or cooked. The simple solution is to wear gloves. Just get a thin pair of plastic gloves. Beets will also stain surfaces. Wood and marble are especially difficult to get stains out of. You can remove the skins of cooked beets with paper towels. Cover surfaces with parchment paper to prevent beet staining.

beetroot-1383758_1920

Beets and Athletic Performance

One area of interest for beets in research is for their effects on athletic performance. Beets have been found to improve endurance and athletic performance. Beet root and beet root juice have been tested in various studies, such as this one in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which  found that consuming whole beetroots improved performance with increased running velocity and decreased ratings of perceived exertion. Beets provide these effects because they are a natural source of nitrates which increases nitric oxide bioavaiability which is important to exercise performance.

beetroot-juice-2512474_1920

FYI – Beets are red because of the red pigment “betacyanin”. Some people cannot properly metabolize betacyanin and it will pass through the digestion process unchanged and then be excreted. This is not something to be worried about.

Fall in Love with Food Again

It’s been said: “September is the new January”. September is a popular time for making resolutions, getting back into a routine or starting new ones, going back to school … the list goes on. We are presented with a new season, a beginning and new energies to work with.

Changes start to become visible everywhere. Fall is special for so many reason, not only for the colours and the vigour of crisp, clear autumn days, but also because there are so many fantastic fall foods we have to enjoy. We’ll be exploring some of these in the weeks to come.

fence-posts-2331414_1920

At this time, many set goals around improving their health, nutrition and eating habits. It can be tempting to lean towards the latest fad, quick fix, diet plan or supplements – all of which there are many – drawn in with promises of extraordinary results with little to no effort. But in choosing a quick fix do we become destined to fall? A “diet” that is overly restrictive, excludes certain foods or entire food groups, and does not provide adequate energy and nutrients will ultimately do more detriment to health, happiness and well-being by crushing motivation and even hampering physical and mental performance.

It is often more challenging to follow strategies that are complex, demanding or overly restrictive. As such, we are setting ourselves up to fail and fall into despair. A spiral of negative emotions and eating habits and patterns can result; founded on fears and anxieties over what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat. Food is tied to emotion in so many ways. When we feel like we have failed or fallen in our eating patterns we develop negative emotions and aversions to certain foods or to eating in general. This can lead to more serious health and well-being issues, as the many eating disorders that exist are proof.

fall-2468139_1920

So now the question becomes how do we fall in love with food again?

Keep it simple. Food is meant to renew and empower. It serves us by providing energy and nourishment to create and do what we need to do.

How can you simplify your eating? Make a resolution to eat real food – and enjoy it too! Enjoy it in it’s purest form. The way it was gifted to us by nature.

The closer it is to that state when you take it from the earth the more natural it is. When you compare an apple to apple sauce to apple juice – you can see the progression of processing and which choice is most pure and closest to what nature intended.

path-1031114_1920

When was the last time you sat down and enjoyed a real meal? Do you have a favorite meal you haven’t made for a while?  If you don’t have one pick something new. Make a plan to eat at home plan to cook a meal from scratch. It’s a new season so time for new adventures! Is there a food you have always wanted to try but have not. What’s the reason? Why not now?

Have you enjoyed food that was picked fresh and grown in the soil close to where you live? Why not pay a visit to your local farmer’s market and get some real, fresh local goodies. There’s no better time to develop an understanding and appreciation for what is grown in your region than now with the bounty of the harvest season available to us. Eating local produce and products has a way of really connecting and grounding us.

pumpkin-1031292_1920

Happy first day of Fall everyone!

 

Sunbutter Crunch Cookies

It always seems that summer comes to a close far too soon! More and more there are signs that remind us daily that fall is on the way but then the sun comes back and it’s like summer never left! I love sunflowers (and sunflower seeds – but we’ll get to that later!). They are a joyous reminder of the long slow golden sunsets of late August and truly are one of the most radiant and resplendent of flowers.

sunflower-94187_1920

Sunflowers are a plant native to North America. Their cultivation and consumption have traveled an interesting and rather circuitous route from North America to touch Europe and Russia and back to the Americas again! You can read more about that here.

Now for the interesting part – why sunflower seeds are so spectacular!

One of the most important nutrients you will find in high amounts in sunflower seeds is Vitamin E – a tremendously powerful antioxidant. Vitamin E may help reduce the inflammatory processes which can lead to certain chronic diseases. In it’s role as an antioxidant, it has also been found to protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation, decreasing the buildup of up plaque in artery walls, which can lower the risk for coronary artery disease.

You will also get folate, a B-vitamin involved in functions with preventative effects for disorders, birth defects and heart disease, and Vitamin B6, needed for a lot of essential reactions in the body, many of which relate to energy production and metabolism.

Sunflower seeds are a nutrient dense source of some important minerals such as iron, magnesium, selenium and zinc.

  • Iron is an integral part of hemoglobin – the protein that carries oxygen in the blood. The iron in sunflower seeds is called “non-heme” (from non-animal sources) iron which is not as well absorbed and utilized as “heme” (from animal sources) but remember every little bit counts!
  • Magnesium works with calcium to help maintain healthy strong bones. It’s also important in several other functions such as the conversion of carbohydrates, fats and protein to energy and functioning of nerves and muscles.
  • Selenium is a trace mineral which may work as antioxidant with Vitamin E to protect the body from oxidative damage. Selenium is also needed for the functioning of the thyroid gland.
  • Zinc is involved in enzymatic reactions throughout the body, supporting the immune system by preventing colds as well as preventing the macular degeneration.

Sunflower seeds also provide good amounts of protein and fibre which help with satiety and weight management among many other important functions!

Linoleic acid, found in sunflower seeds, is an essential poly-unsaturated fatty acid. “Essential” means the body cannot create the compound on its own and therefore it must be consumed in the foods we eat. Linoleic acid is also important because as a precursor it is involved with blood clotting and blood pressure.

Clearly sunflower seeds are a force to be reckoned with!

I’ve had this idea for this recipe playing around in my head almost all summer. Now that craziness of July and August have subsided, with the international travel and world fitness expo convention over,  I’ve finally found time to bring this creation to life!

There’s a warmth and depth to these cookies – just like the sun. With these cookies you get a double dose of the goodness of sunflower seeds because the recipe has both sunflower seed butter and real sunflower seeds!

They are a great grab and go snack or perfect to stick into anyone’s packed lunch for nourishment any time of day. They would also go well with a hot cup of tea or a tea latte – perfect for a crisp autumn day!

photoeditor_20170917_123028

 

edited sunbutter cookie card

 

All-Canadian Energy Bites

Oh Canada! We’re celebrating 150 years today. In honour of Canada and for Canada Day I created this recipe, drawing inspiration from several traditional Canadian sourced ingredients to celebrate the “tastes of Canada”.

canada-2026425_1280

Being a natural source of energy and providing many important nutrients make these little treats the perfect little snack any time of day. However, I particularly enjoy having them to refuel after a good workout.

photoeditor_20170701_161631 - Copy

Maple Syrup is one of the most classically Canadian ingredients ever! Canada is the world’s foremost producer of maple syrup and most of that comes from Quebec. The process of making maple syrup is quite intensive which is why it is rather expensive and should be valued even more. Maple syrup is a natural source of energy and sweetener. In addition to its unique flavour, it is also a source of antioxidants which contribute to overall health. A little goes a long way though that’s for sure!

Flax Seeds are a great source of anti-inflammatory Omega 3s as well as fibre.

Sunflower Seeds are grown on the Canadian prairies. They have many nutrients such as magnesium, iron, copper and zinc and they are one of the best sources of Vitamin E, one of the most powerful antioxidants.

Walnuts are found throughout Ontario and there are many different varieties of nut trees grown in Ontario. Walnuts are a source of protein and healthy fats including important anti-inflammatory omega 3s.

Dates are an exception to the theme here, as they aren’t native to Canada, but they are another great natural source of energy as well as a good source of fibre and minerals like potassium and iron which are important for both general health and exercise performance like potassium and iron.

photoeditor_20170701_161326

Enjoy the flavours of Canada and have a Happy Canada Day!

All Canadian Energy Bites

Peas Pack a Powerful Nutritional Punch!

Small and delicate but not to be underestimated, peas are a signature food for springtime. Don’t be deceived by their small size. Peas offer a powerful nutrition punch!

In Ancient Egypt peas were stored in the tombs of pharaohs and mummies because the Egyptians thought them valuable for sustain them on their journey through the afterlife.

There are a few different varieties of fresh peas. These include green peas, snow peas and sugar snap peas

peas-16803_1920

Peas are low in fat and high in fibre. They offer a good amount of protein and some valuable nutrients including Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, and Vitamin K. Vitamin K is particularly important although often found in green leafy vegetables it is involved in wound healing and maintaining blood vessels as well as contributing to bone health by assisting with bone formation thus strengthening bones which may help prevent fractures and the risks associated with osteoporosis. Different varieties have slightly different nutritional compositions. Green peas provide more riboflavin, niacin and zinc than snow peas but snow peas offer more Vitamin C, Vitamin E, folate, lutein and zinc.

textures-1938301_1920

Fresh peas are available from June to July. Always refrigerate your fresh peas to preserve their freshness. Wash peas well. You may have to shell your peas before using if eating green peas. Snow peas and Sugar snap peas do not need to be shelled but you should remove their tips at both ends before you eat them.

Meal Ideas for Fresh Peas

There are so many ways you can use peas to power-up your diet and make your meals more interesting! They are easy to add into many different recipes like soups, salads, pasta sauces or served on their own as a side dish. You don’t need much – one serving of peas is only 1/2 cup (125 mL).

  • Fresh sugar snap peas or snow peas make great healthy portable snack foods. Serve with hummus for extra flavour.
  • Make snow peas part of the vegetable mix for a stir-fry.
  • Steam fresh peas for 1-2 minutes. They make a simple but satisfying side to meats and fish. Be careful not to overcook your peas or else you will have mushy peas.

 

Note: Fresh is best where peas are concerned. Frozen peas are better than canned peas though because the retain more of their flavour and nutrients than canned peas. You can substitute frozen peas for fresh.

peas-390679_1920

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

Strawberries and rhubarb are one of my favourite combinations! The sweetness of the berries and the tartness of the rhubarb are the perfect match.

Strawberry rhubarb crisp is a timeless recipe. I look forward to making it every Spring when these two foods come into season. It’s a versatile recipe. You can serve it on its own – hot or cold. You can have it as a snack or serve as desert. It also makes a great snack any time of day – easy and quick to eat.

I took my own twist on recreating this classic recipe to empower-it-up, so to speak. Not only does this version taste amazing, it also has some extra nutritional nuggets to make you feel amazing for having some.

You can read up on all the cool things about strawberries and rhubarb in two previous posts.

Oats are a good source of dietary fibre which may improve blood cholesterol and help control blood sugar levels. Oats are also a whole grain and source of B Vitamins and Vitamin E.

Almonds provide extra protein and fibre as well as Vitamin E and heart healthy monounsaturated fatty acids fatty acids.

Hemps seeds are my super special addition. These tiny little seeds are nutrition powerhouses, offering extra protein boost as well as a good dose of Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Not to mention a delightful sweet nutty flavour.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp (1)

Note: you can certainly use another type of flour for this. I chose coconut because I like that it adds a little extra sweetness and nuttiness. You could also substitute butter for the coconut oil in the recipe or a different sweetener for coconut sugar.

Meet the Superheroes in Your Diet

Super heroes are an important part of our culture. We all love our super-heroes. And for our bodies their superheroes are called antioxidants. The main function of antioxidants is to protect our cells from oxidative damage. Antioxidants may also improve immune function and help prevent chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Oxidation is a natural process of life, it’s one of the contributors to aging. It is a reaction that occurs for various reasons, and results in the production of free-radicals.

The free radicals produced by oxidation are like the villains, they damage the cells of our bodies because they are what we call “unstable” meaning they are missing an important part of themselves – an electron (special sub atomic particle) from their outermost electron orbital. As a result, they are always looking to steal an electron from any innocent cell to complete their orbitol.

It follows that free radicals will produce more free radicals which will do more damage to our bodies. So it’s important we find ways to defend ourselves and stop the destruction before it goes too far. There are many reasons the free radicals get produced in the body, some of them you can avoid like smoking, others not so much like air pollution, sun exposure. EVEN exercise produces free radicals.

Your mission is to counteract the destruction caused by free radical production and save our cells by choosing foods which provide antioxidants to support our systems.

Super hero veggies

But where do we find antioxidants? Fruits and vegetables are the number one go to source for antioxidants. Eating the right number of servings of fruits and vegetables everyday is the best way to get your antioxidants. Other sources include: whole grains, nut and seeds, coffee, tea and even chocolate.

Here are some examples of nutrients that may function as antioxidants and where you can find them:

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is considered one of the, if not the greatest antioxidant.This is the primary function of the vitamin. Nuts and seeds (especially sunflower seeds!), vegetable oils and avocado are very high in vitamin E.

Vitamin C

Most fruits and vegetables, but especially citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit, will give you Vitamin C. Where Vitamin C is concerned, fresher is better, and you don’t want to overcook your veggies because excessive heat and oxygen destroys Vitamin C.

grapefruit-1485881_1920

Vitamin A

Vitamin A has many functions and one may be to act as an antioxidant. Vitamin A is particularly important in keeping eyes and skin healthy. Find Vitamin A in meat, specifically liver, as well as dairy products and fish.

Selenium

Selenium is a mineral that functions as an antioxidant. Brazil nuts are very high in selenium. Meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans and grains products also provide selenium.

brazil-nut-638972_1920

Carotenoids

Carotenoids are a group of compounds that act as antioxidants. They include beta-carotene, lycopene (found in tomoatoes), lutein, and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids are pigments which give colour to many fruits and vegetables dark green, orange, yellow and red. Beta-carotene is a carotenoid may have additional benefits because it is converted to Vitamin A, another antioxidant, in the body.

Flavonoids

Flavonoids are another group of compounds, many of which have been shown to have antioxidant properties. Flavonoids are found mainly in berries (especially dark coloured ones like blueberries), onions, apples as well as cocoa (think chocolate!) tea (particularly green tea) and wine.

Antioxidant Supplements

There are many supplemental forms of all of these nutrients available. However, as long as you follow an adequate, balanced and nutritious diet and have all the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, in every colour, you should have no trouble meeting your body’s antioxidant needs and therefore not require supplementation. More research is needed into the validity of antioxidant supplementation. You can have too much of a good thing and some antioxidants, like the fat soluble vitamins A & E can be toxic if you exceed the recommended amount.

kapow-1601675_1920