Meal Planning 101

September is one of the busiest times of the year. An energizing feeling build all month because it’s time to get back on track, back to school, back to routine, back to healthy exercise and nutrition practices, etc.

Meal-Planning

The proper nutrition can make such a difference to all elements of health and performance for oneself, in what one has to offer the world and is able to accomplish in a day. This is what meal planning is all about and why it is so important. It’s like you are literally creating a blueprint or road map. Having a good sense of direction towards where you want to end up is so important. This creates self-efficacy and fosters the belief that you can and will succeed. Truly, it is through setting intentions, taking responsibility and control that we realize we have and can make an impact and create change.

With the right planning and preparation nutritious eating can be easy and fun. Mastering the art of meal planning is a great tool to have. I love flipping through cookbooks or scrolling through blogs. The sources for inspiration are endless!

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Here are some tips to help you with your meal planning, whether this is all very new to you or you’ve been doing it for years, there’s always something we can learn to make our methods better!

Download this simple meal planning template or create your own to get started!

This checklist offers some simple tips to save time and make meal planning a breeze:

  • Keep meals simple to prepare with as few ingredients as possible, especially for busy weekdays
  • See what you have on hand already and what will expire soon and use these items as the foundation to build your meal plan.
  • Get organized. Make copies of your meal plan to post where you can easily see it (i.e. fridge door). Have a place where you can save meal plans that worked well or recipes you really like a binder.
  • Plan ahead and prepare what you can the night before or on weekends to save time during the week.
  • Convenience products like pre-cut stir-fry vegetables and ready-bagged salad can save cooking and prep time.
  • Try batch cooking: cook enough food for 2-3 meals and save leftovers for meals later in the week. Or freeze for longer
  • Shop smarter by keeping an ongoing grocery list of items you regularly need and add items as soon as they run out. Organize your list with headings for faster shopping trips.
  • This meal planner checklist can help you stay on track to meal planning a success!
  • Share the journey and learning process by getting everyone in your household involved in some way from shopping, prepping, cooking to yes even cleaning up!
  • Check out all the cool meal planning apps like Meal Planner Pro or FoodPlanner which you can use to have more fun and creating and keeping track of your meal plan! Check out 5 other meal planning apps here.

Meal-Planning 6As with developing any system, there will be bugs that you will have to figure out. Finding the system that fits your schedule can take some trial and error. Don’t give up! Regardless of what you start with, your plan or system is NOT locked in stone, so don’t be afraid when you get off track or something is not working and needs to change. Just keep experimenting and having fun with what you are doing and by the end of this month see if you can have a system in place that will carry you to the end of this year and into the next one!

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What is the Mediterranean Diet and What Can You Learn from It?

Many things influence the way we eat; where we live, our cultural norms and values, our personal experiences, history and preferences. There is no one “right” way to eat but we can learn from styles of eating and food preparation so that we can fashion for ourselves a balance, healthy, enjoyable eating habits.

The Mediterranean Diet refers to a way of eating that fosters healthy eating practices in combination with the traditional foods and flavours of countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece, Spain, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Lebanon and Turkey, to name a few. You may have heard of it before but may wonder what it means, read on!

Rather than a hard and fast “diet” the Mediterranean Diet offers suggestions on what to eat and how to live an active and healthy lifestyle. It has gained a lot of prominence for the evidence that supports it as a “heart-healthy” way of eating. There is evidence that those living in Mediterranean have lower incidences of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease.

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What does the Mediterranean Diet look like and how can you incorporate strategies and recommendations it brings into your way of eating?

Eat lots of fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are the foundation of any good meal plan and nutritional practices for a reason. Fruits and vegetables are a high source of antioxidants, important for not just your heart health, but your overall health and well-being as well! Try this recipe for a Traditional Greek Salad also on Empowering Eats for a dish with lots of veggies and Mediterranean flavours!

Have Whole Grains

Whole grains are a much more nutritious choice than white and refined grains which is why they are a better choice for a healthy diet. They contain many more nutrients and fibre. Not all of grain choices need to be whole grains but try to have whole grain products most often.

Eat fish twice a week

As many of the Mediterranean countries boards the Mediterranean Sea, it is no surprise that fish is a menu choice! Fish like salmon, tuna and sardines have many healthy fats like Omega-3 which are important for heart health.

Reduce the amount of Red Meat You Eat

Red meat, which is higher in Omega-6 fatty acids can increase levels of inflammation in the body. Red meat is also higher in saturated fats than other leaner protein source and too much saturated fat can accumulate in the body leading to health problems such as excess weight gain and coronary heart disease. Therefore, you can still have red meat (like this delicious recipe for Greek Stuffed Eggplant!), just not every day.

Opt-in for olive oil!

Olive oil is one of the most well-recognized staple in Mediterranean cooking methods. Olives and olive oil have monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), found to decrease levels of total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol. Nuts and seeds are another source of MUFAs and they also recommend these as part of the Mediterranean Diet.

Wait … did someone say Wine?

Yes, according to the Mediterranean Diet allows red wine in moderation. In fact, red wine contains resveratrol which is an antioxidant that may act to protect you from heart-disease and some cancers. Moderate consumption of alcohol means. Remember to be responsible when you indulge because if over consumed alcohol can easily add excess calories to your diet and affect liver function and health.

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Notice how the Mediterranean Diet is not restrictive. It offers flexibility and guidance to encourage developing healthy habits.

Which habits do you already follow? Which one (s) do you want to try?

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The Almighty Olive – Historical Significance, Nutritional Benefits and Top 10 Tips to Enjoy Olives

I was on a tour of the Acropolis when I heard the story of how Athens got its name. My tour guide Alexia told us this story at a specific point at the foot of an olive tree. According to legend both the Goddess Athena and God Poseidon both desired to be the patron of the city and named the deity of the city. So, they had a contest to see who should have control of Athens and its surrounding area and gave the people of Athens the choice of who they wanted as their patron by choosing based on the gift that Poseidon and Athena had to give them. Legend has it the contest happened on Acropolis Hill. Poseidon threw his trident at the earth and from it sprouted a stream of water. However, as Poseidon was the god of the sea, it was saltwater, which was not judge particularly useful. Athena stuck the ground with her spear and from the spot grew an olive tree.

Which do you think the people chose? It was the olive that won favour, since they judged it much more useful, and chose Athena as their patron and deity. In the first place it was a versatile food more useful and which provided a good source of energy and nutrients. Besides olive oil was a valuable commodity for cooking and for other uses. The olive trees also provided wood with many uses for building or firewood. The olive was fundamental to the Athenian economy and still is to Greek culture.

This story shows just how powerful and important food can be.

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Nutritional Benefits of Olives

What makes olives an empowering eat? Olives are a signature part of a Mediterranean Diet. One of the olive or olive oils claims to fame is the mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). Fats and oils are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. MUFAs are a healthy fat and it is encouraged that you try within the balance of fats to replace saturated fats and trans fats with MUFAs wherever possible. MUFAs are a healthy fat and have improved blood cholesterol levels. Olives and olive oil are sources of Vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin with powerful antioxidant properties. Olives are low in carbohydrates, making them a good food choice for anyone following a Keto Diet. Though they come with many nutrient benefits olives should be enjoyed in moderation given their high fat content and that they are relatively high in sodium.

Olive oil contains phytochemicals with antioxidant properties which may help protect against breast cancer, clogged arteries and high blood pressure.

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Consumer Tip:

Olives have many nutritional benefits, but they do have a high sodium content. Before using olives try to rinse and drain them to wash away the salty brine, they are preserved in. This will decrease their sodium content.

Did you Know?

The colour of an olive is because of it’s ripeness? Green olives are just less ripe than black olives which are fully ripe?

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Top 10 Ways to Use Olives and Olive Oil

  1. Eat an olive all on its own as a snack.
  2. Sliced olives are a great addition to salads (Greek Salad of course!), sandwiches and wraps.
  3. Include olives as part of an antipasto tray.
  4. Add olives into a pasta dish to give it a Mediterranean flavour.
  5. Use olive oil as your main cooking oil – provided you do not cook at high temperatures.
  6. Choose olive oil as the oil in salad dressings and marinades.
  7. Have you ever tried olive bread? There are many different types of breads where olives are actually baked into the bread itself i.e. Focaccia.
  8. Incorporate olives into pilafs with rice or quinoa as a base and variety of vegetables.
  9. Try olive tapenade. Top fish or meat with an olive tapenade. An olive tapenade also makes a great spread for bread and you can serve this as an appetizer.
  10. Have some hummus! Olive oil is one of the staple ingredients in hummus and you can double it up by adding actual olives into your hummus and as a topping. They are a great ingredient to add a unique and distinctive flavour variation.

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Top 10 Tips for Summer Hydration

Summer is here–and it’s not even half-way over! There are so many fun things to do outside and ways to enjoy the sunshine and beautiful weather. However, it’s important to remember that during exercise the increased temperatures put additional stresses on our bodies from the activity being performed. We might not have control of the weather and the humidity, but we have control over how we take care of our bodies and fuel ourselves for optimum physical performance. Dehydration can suck our energy and can become very dangerous to our health and that’s not something you want to spoil your summer when you can avoid it!

Here are some quick facts and tips on how you can stay hydrated and beat the heat so you can have a safe, happy and healthy rest of your summer!

1. Be familiar with the signs and symptoms of dehydration (i.e. fatigue, dizziness, dark urine, headache, dry skin, confusion). Remember to respect how you are feeling and rest or take a break when you feel you need to!

2. Remember to drink during the day and not just when you are exercising. Even sitting in the sun on a hot day can cause fluid losses meaning you need to drink more water.

3. Did you know? Foods you eat contribute to keeping your body hydrated. Those with a higher water content like fruits and vegetables are the best choices.

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Image by Christine Sponchia from Pixabay

 

4. Drink before, during and after activities. A good way to gauge how much you should drink after your workout is to weigh yourself before and after. For every pound (0.5 kg) of weight lost you should drink about 500-700mL of fluids to re-hydrate after your workout.

5. Do you just forget to drink water? What reminders can you set for yourself to take a few sips of water–even before you get thirsty? If you are driving, you could set an interval of kilometers to drive and take a few sips every time you hit that interval (i.e. every 50 km). Or you could program a reminder into your phone to remind you throughout the day. Or wear a bracelet or elastic band on your wrist–something that will give you a visual cue to remind you to drink more often.

6. If you find it difficult to stay hydrated because you don’t like the “plain taste” of water you can make it more interesting by adding a touch of lemon juice or some fresh fruit and berries to your water bottle using a fruit infuser. This will give your drink a natural flavour boost.

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Image by silviarita from Pixabay

7. Dehydration starts when we lose as little as 2% of our body weight in water and can make you feel tired and irritable. It can start before you know it so don’t wait until you feel thirsty to have a drink!

8. Consider a sports drink if you are exercising at a high intensity and for >60 min; if you are exercising in extreme heat and humid conditions; and if you have over one exercise session in a day. They design sports drinks to replenish fluid losses and balance electrolyte losses and give your body extra energy which can be helpful when you are working hard and sweating a lot. For low intensity activities, your body probably won’t need this extra support so water will be just fine for keeping you hydrated

9. Get a water bottle that you like and makes you feel good. When your water bottle is inspiring and motivating, it will create a positive association for you to remember to drink more often.

10. How accessible are your fluid sources? Keeping a water bottle with you at all times is a good practice to adopt. Sometimes it is easier to have a sip when your water bottle has a straw vs. having a top you have to unscrew, which takes more effort to get out. Find out what is the easiest option for you to make having a drink the absolute most accessible.

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Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay

Spring-Cleaning for Your Nutrition with 5 “Detox” Strategies

Spring is a great time to refresh and renew. Are you feeling the need for some “Spring Cleaning” inside as well as outside? Why not clean-up your nutrition so as to start fresh for the summer?

While detox diets and juice cleanses are still questionable for their benefits, and not meant for everyone, there are other, less intimidating and drastic ways to improve your nutrition and health habits.

If you’re feeling the urge to take action and are looking for some ideas check out these 5 easy tips that don’t require massive changes or restrictions to your diet.

Try one action a day for a week for a quick “5 Day Challenge”.

 

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1.Hit up your hydration. Water is a pure and natural detoxifier. Important to overall health and well-being, water helps flush your body and your cells of toxins. Water makes up over 60% of our body’s ass. You can survive for weeks without food but only a few days without water. At minimum, women 19 years and older need around 2.2 L of water and men 19 years and older need around 3.0 L of water per day (Dietitians of Canada). However, in hot and humid environments or when exercising vigorously fluid needs can drastically increase so as to replace what is lost by sweating. Are you hitting your target? Set a goal and go for it! Try to drink consistently throughout the day to spread out your water intake. A reminder set every hour to take a sip or two can help.

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2. Give technology a break at the dinner table. How often do you scroll on your phone or watch TV while eating? Tune out distractions and tune into your food by turning off your phone and leaving it in another room and switching off any other screens before you sit down. You will be more present and enjoy your meal even more.

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3.Ditch the negative food talk. We all have a choice in what we eat. No food is inherently “good” or “bad” but some foods are definitely more nutrient dense than others. Instead of blaming yourself and saying “I shouldn’t eat that” and feeding yourself negativity, be grateful for the food and whatever nutrients and energy it provides your body and make a commitment to make healthier choices for your next meal or two.

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4.Cut down on caffeine. When craving an energy boost it is tempting to reach for coffee or energy drinks which contain caffeine. However, caffeine is a stimulant and thus a synthetic energy boost. It is recommended that we limit caffeine consumption to 400mg/day. That’s about three 8-oz cups of coffee (Dietitians of Canada). If you are in the habit of downing a lot of caffeinated products try to decrease your usual consumption by 1 drink a day.

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5.Clean out your pantry and fridge. When was the last time you did a good cleaning of your cupboards? Do you know everything you have on hand? Has anything expired? Doing a thorough cleaning of where you keep your food is not only important for food safety but also immensely satisfying emotionally. With a better organized food space you will be able to find what you need more quickly and it will be easier, more inviting and motivating to cook and eat healthy.

Uncovering the History and Mysteries of Pumpkin Pie Spice

It seems like everyone can’t get enough of Pumpkin Pie Spice. Pumpkin pie is a favourite fall desert but its signature spice has permeated into all other sorts of products like lattes, cakes, muffins and scones to name a few. It may appear a modern fanaticism but it is truly rooted in a history and in mysteries that go back centuries.

Spices have always been very important. Originally from India and the Orient, they have an infamous reputation for being exotic and valuable. There have been wars and obsessions over spices for centuries. In fact it was because of the war over spices, which was a reason for the search for better routes to the East, that the Europeans originally discovered North America, without which there would be no Pumpkin Pie Spice.

Pumpkin pie spice (or just Pumpkin Spice as it seems to be more commonly called now) is a signature American spice blend. There is no set discovery of the first mixing of Pumpkin Spice. That is destined to be a mystery hidden in the sands of time. However, it is known that this spice blend has its heritage with the pilgrims. We say it is a mixture of “warming” spices. Pumpkin is a food found the New World. So the creation of is an example of the interaction of Old World meets New World.

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What makes this signature spice blend? The spices in pumpkin pie spice are cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice. Cinnamon will always be featured in the greatest amount and quite a lot more than the other spices. Next, ginger and nutmeg are featured in second highest amounts with cloves and allspice being featured in the lowest amount. This is because cloves and allspice are fairly strong and pungent spices and will not be as pleasing in large amounts as cinnamon, ginger or nutmeg. The precise amounts of spices may vary but the proportions in relation to one another of the other spices will remain similar.

You can buy the spice already premixed or you can by individual spices to create and customize your own special blend.  Spices should be stored in air-tight containers in a cool, dry dark place for up to 6 months.

Here’s a quick recipe for Pumpkin Spice. Simply mix all the ingredients together.

  • 4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • ½ tsp allspice

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Not only does this spice mix add flavour to your cooking and baking but they also provide hidden benefits to your health. Spices add flavour which reduces the need for extra sugar, salt and fat to recipes helping you to cook and eat healthier. There is some research into the antioxidant activity of spices which contributes to keeping us healthy by reducing free-radical damage to our bodies – protecting our cells and reducing the risk for many diseases.

How to Eat Healthy and Still Be Happy Over the Holidays

The holidays are here! How does that make you feel? Excited? Anxious? Overwhelmed? The holidays full of stresses in one shape of another for all of us. Especially when it comes to holiday eating and festivities. The anticipated holiday weight-gain from eating too much or eating the wrong foods is probably one of the biggest stresses there is.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. With just a few shifts in attitude you can make a whole lot of difference to how you feel coming out of this holiday season. These how-to’s, habits and hacks are here to help make your holidays healthier, less stressful and a whole lot happier so you can start the New Year feeling empowered and ready for action!

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Listen to your body. Stop eating when you are no longer hungry vs. when you are full. If you have choices make switches and substitute healthier options. Try and fill your plate with as many vegetables as you can and look for preparation methods such as baking, steaming, and braising. Meats that are baked and grilled are better than fried. Avoid heavy cream based sauces which add extra fat and unwanted calories.

It’s important to have a healthy breakfast every day and eat regularly throughout the day to curb hunger and keep your blood sugar stable so you can function optimally. This will keep your energy level steady throughout the day, making you feel better and decrease the likelihood that you will overeat at any specific meal. Have snacks that have a good source of protein to promote satiety levels.

Out of sight and out of mind is what they say. And it’s a good way to control temptation and practice moderation to put extra holiday treats out of sight in a cupboard or pantry. This way you will have to go to more effort to get to them and it will give you more time to consider if you really are hungry and really want to have that treat or not.

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Remember to stay hydrated! This means drinking water throughout the day as well as when you are at social functions. If at a party try alternating alcoholic drinks with water. Alcohol is a diuretic so can lead to a dehydrated state. This is also a great strategy to keep you from drinking excess calories. Dehydration can lead to overeating because we are looking to fulfill a physiological need, but go about it the wrong way. Also, staying hydrated reduces bloating which is another effect that often comes on from holiday eating – which is a contributing factor to perceived holiday weight-gain.

Stay active! Just 30 minutes a day is all you need. Physical activity helps decrease stress and increases your metabolism so you are burning more calories throughout the day. Make physical activities a part of your celebrations and time together. There are many great winter out-door activities like going for a walk, tobogganing, skiing and snowball fights! This takes some focus off the food and gives you a chance to enjoy time with family and friends.

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You can best buffets with a few simple strategies. Choose a seat on the other side of the room from the food table and sit with your back to the food. The more food we see the more likely we are to eat. Use a smaller plate so you will have less room to fill . Be a picky eater – you don’t have to eat everything that is offered. Pick and choose those few things that you think you will really enjoy.

If you are going to a party or potluck bring your own food – this gives you some control about what options you have to eat and you can make sure you have something that you will enjoy eating.

When eating at a restaurant look for menu items that are prepared using healthy cooking methods – i.e. baking, braising, steaming – and minimal sauces. You can always take half of your entrée home as leftovers. Ask if you can get a take-out container brought to the table with your meal so that you can package up your meal as soon as you have eaten enough.

At parties it’s easy to munch away on little appetizers and hors d’ouevres, not realizing how much you have eaten. Limit mindless eating by holding a drink in your dominant hand so that you are less likely to unconsciously pick up food (it takes more concentration and effort to use your non-dominant hand). Get into a good and engaging conversation. When you are talking you can’t be eating and a good conversation will make the time go by much more quickly with less time to eat.

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Remember healthy eating is not about total denial. That is no fun and definitely not empowering! Food is an important part of our existence and something that has been intrinsic to celebration and festivities since the beginning of time. It’s part of our culture and who we are. You can still eat things you enjoy. If you have a favourite holiday meal or treat, go for it! But maybe you could have a smaller portion size or try and make the same recipe but with healthier ingredients and less fat and sugar? Or why not change up your traditions? Look for ways to make your family favourite recipes using healthier cooking methods or try incorporating some new healthy recipes.

Happy Holidays!

 

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.

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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!

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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