Cathy Ormon Health Coaching is about helping people (ages 40 - 60) find their personal energy, health and wellness solutions. This page will focus on healthy gluten free recipes, information about food and nutrition to support a busy life and build strong physical health, positive inspiration, and helpful health tips.
Have you noticed how many brands and types of coconut oil are popping up on grocery store and health food shelves? There is such a large variety and so many degrees of quality (virgin, extra virgin, cold pressed, raw, organic, etc) – it’s almost overwhelming! And there is a huge price range too.
My clients have been asking me: “How do I know I am getting a quality coconut oil? What should I look for when buying one?” I certainly agree that it is a daunting task to make a good choice! Here is the information I found in my research – including a number of points to consider and suggestions about what to look for when buying a coconut oil.
Two main categories
The two main categories of coconut oil are refined and unrefined. Here are brief points about each one:
Refined coconut oil:
• Is much cheaper to buy
• Is typically refined through deodorizing and bleaching processes
• Could have little or no coconut flavor and aroma due to bleaching and deodorizing OR it could have a very strong aroma and flavor that does not taste like fresh coconut due to contaminants or chemicals
• Is often made from dried coconut kernels that contain coconut oil, NOT from fresh coconuts
• Is usually expeller pressed – the oil is extracted at high pressure and heat
• Does not have as many nutrients due to the processing
Unrefined or virgin/extra virgin coconut oil:
• Is made from fresh, raw coconut meal
• Is closest to the way nature made it
• Has a good, mild fresh coconut flavor
• Has a mild coconut aroma
• Has no added chemicals
• High heat has not been used to refine the oil.
• Usually cold pressed – oil extracted using high pressure and controlled heat below 49 degrees C or 120 degrees F
• Could be refined by a centrifuge extraction process – a method that retains the coconut’s nutrients, and produces a more expensive product
• Retains nutrients, including antioxidants
How to know if the coconut oil has spoiled
There are two ways to tell:
1. Color. To make sure you are buying coconut oil that has not spoiled – look at the color. High quality coconut oil is pure white when solid and completely clear when liquid. An off color such as yellow or grey indicates poor quality, spoilage or contamination (from mold or smoke). Coconut oil made from sun-dried coconuts or old coconuts could contain mold, which is not considered harmful because the high temperatures used in processing will sterilize the mold. Smoke could be absorbed into the coconut oil if the processing used open flame heat from gas or wood fuel.
2. Aroma. Give it your ‘sniff test’ (smell it!) – if it has gone bad it will have a rancid smell that you will notice as soon as you open the jar.
Why is coconut oil solid?
Normally coconut oil is solid at room temperature. Whether coconut oil is solid or liquid is generally determined by temperature. Coconut oil melts at about 76 degrees F or 24 degrees C. If coconut oil is below 76 degrees F, it will be solid. If coconut oil is above 76 degrees F, it will become liquid.
Is clear, liquid coconut oil healthy?
Coconut oil is a saturated fat – a medium chain fatty acid (MCFA). It is different than animal sourced saturated fats such as butter or lard, which are long chain fatty acids. ALL saturated fats should be solid at room temperature, whether it is butter, coconut oil or lard. Buying coconut oil that is solid at room temperature means you are buying oil that is closest to its natural state.
Coconut oil that is liquid at room temperature has been through extra refining to remove some of the fatty acids that keep saturated fat solid at room temperature. This is not good because the fatty acids in coconut oil are where the health benefits come from. The extra refining process to make it a liquid oil at room temperature significantly reduces the quality of the coconut oil.
What about organic and non-GMO coconut oil?
There is a ton of controversy and some confusion here! Some sources I read are totally in favor of organic, non-GMO coconut oil, and some definitely do not hold that opinion. When a food is certified organic – it usually ensures that it is non-GMO.
Some sources stated that coconuts have never been proven to have significant amounts of pesticide residues, and currently there aren’t any known genetically modified varieties of coconut. So, if you are buying raw, unrefined coconut oil – purchasing organic is probably not necessary.
Here’s where it can get a little confusing: When it comes to refined coconut oil, organic can make a difference. Organic food refining does not allow hexane, an oil-extracting chemical, to be used in the refining process. The organic extraction process usually involves the use of steam instead of chemicals. Non-organic refining of coconut oil does allow hexane or other chemicals to be used.
Packaging: glass VS plastic containers
Large quantities of coconut oil packed in plastic containers are definitely economical but they may not be the best for your health. More and more research is showing us the dangers of foods being stored in plastic, particularly if heat is involved. Many types of plastic have chemicals in them, which could leach out into the food. Coconut oil has some heat involved in the extraction and/or refining process, even if it is minimal refining. Plastic is not the best container for coconut. Glass is much better because it seals in nutrients, doesn’t leak chemicals into the food, can withstand heat, and it is also re-usable. Coconut oil should be stored away from direct sunlight.
Buying suggestions – WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
• Good, fresh coconut aroma and fresh coconut flavor
• Unrefined (virgin or extra virgin) – closest to its natural whole form
• Cold pressed
• Not hydrogenated (which means no trans-fats)
• Not bleached, refined or deodorized
• Free of pesticides
• Organic, which ensures 100% non-GMO
• Solid at room temperature.
• Pure white in color (not yellow or grey, as discolored)
• Packaged in a sealed glass jar
Buying suggestions – WHAT TO AVOID:
• No aroma
• No flavor
• Extremely strong aroma and extreme flavor that may not taste like fresh coconut
• Bleached or deodorized
• Hydrogenated or fractionated
• Liquid at room temperature
• Discolored, yellow or gray in color
• GMO or a genetically modified product’
• Packaged in a plastic container
The coconut oil controversy
There is an ongoing controversy about the health benefits of consuming coconut oil, and this argument will not be going away any time soon. Research in this area continues. Know that coconut oil is a saturated fat (MCFAs or medium chain fatty acids) and that it is different from other saturated fats that come from animal sources (LCFAs or long chain fatty acids). MCFAs have health benefits that are not found in LCFAs.
Having healthy fat in your diet is very important, because fat is required by almost every system in your body. The best advice for consuming fats is to make sure you are consuming healthy fats from a variety of quality sources – not just one type of fat. Make sure you are getting plenty of Omega 3 fats in your diet, along with some Omega 6 fats and some saturated fats like coconut oil. DO NOT put extreme limitations on fat in your diet because that would put you at risk for very poor health.
There are a number of things to consider when shopping for coconut oil, including price. The organic, non-GMO variety usually costs more, which may or may not be a concern for you. Whether to buy organic, non-GMO, refined or unrefined coconut oil falls under the category of ‘you decide’. It all boils down to being informed and making your choice based on personal preference!
Need more information about healthy fats and other nutritional elements your body requires on a daily basis? Contact me and let’s talk about what you need, and see if we can work together for you to reach your goals.
Prevention – 4 Things You Need to Know Before You Buy Coconut Oil
Lactose-free milk seems to be gaining in popularity these days. Many people are consuming lactose-free milk either because they have trouble digesting regular milk due to intolerance to lactose, or they perceive lactose-free milk to be healthier. Let’s take a closer look at what lactose intolerance is all about and how milk is made to be lactose-free.
What is lactose?
Lactose is a form of sugar that is found primarily in milk and in some other dairy products. It is a disaccharide sugar, meaning that it contains two monosaccharide components. Those components are glucose and galactose.
The digestive enzyme lactase, which is naturally produced in your stomach, is required in order to digest the lactose. Lactase breaks lactose down into its two components (glucose and galactose), which are easily digestible.
Lactose intolerance is not an allergy
If you are lactose intolerant or have trouble digesting milk, it doesn’t mean that you are allergic to milk or that you have a lactose allergy. It means that your body does not produce enough of the digestive enzyme lactase for you to be able to easily digest the lactose in milk.
If you lack the enzyme lactase, when you drink milk it will pass undigested into your lower digestive tract. Then the bacteria in your digestive tract will digest the lactose and as a result there will be uncomfortable gas, painful cramps and bloating.
Common signs of lactose intolerance are abdominal irritation, gas, bloating, cramps, and nausea. If digesting lactose is an issue for you, the symptoms will show up between 30 minutes and 2 hours after you consume milk. Lactose intolerance has varying degrees. Some people can tolerate a small amount of lactose, while others cannot tolerate any lactose at all.
How is regular milk made into lactose-free milk?
Milk producers make lactose-free milk by chemically changing the composition, making it easily digestible. This is accomplished by adding a small amount of the enzyme lactase to the milk, which neutralizes the lactose because it breaks the lactose down into its two components (glucose and galactose). The addition of lactase can give milk a slightly sweeter taste. Some manufacturers might also use an ultra-pasteurization process to increase the shelf life of the lactose-free milk.
Is there any nutritional difference between regular milk and lactose-free milk?
No – there is no nutritional difference between lactose-free milk and regular milk. Both have the same amount of sugar and protein per serving, and they have exactly the same calorie count. The calcium content is the same as well. There are different types of milk with varying fat contents such as skim, 2%, 3 ¾%, etc. I compared a Lactose-free brand of milk to 2% regular milk and they had exactly the same fat content.
What about goat’s milk or goat’s milk cheese?
Goat’s milk is nutritionally the same as cow’s milk and contains lactose, but less lactose than cow’s milk. Many people who have problems digesting cow’s milk products find that goat’s milk products are easier to digest. It all depends upon the individual person.
Is yogurt naturally lactose-free?
Not quite. Yogurt is almost lactose-free and most lactose intolerant people have no problem digesting it because of the probiotics in the yogurt. The bacteria (probiotics) in yogurt pre-digests the lactose, making it easy for you to digest.
Milk kefir and quark are two other fermented dairy products that have almost no lactose due to the good bacteria or probiotics in them. Caution: watch out for the added sugar in milk Kefir – unless you buy plain / unsweetened.
Is butter a lactose-free dairy product?
Butter is not lactose-free, although interestingly enough, it has a very low amount of lactose. One cup of butter (227 grams) contains only 0.1 grams of lactose. Most people have no problem digesting butter.
How can I tell if a dairy product is low in lactose (such as cheese)?
That’s a great question! Because lactose is a form of sugar – you can check sugar content in the Nutrition Facts on the product label. Fewer grams of sugar would indicate less lactose in the cheese (or other milk product). Conversely – higher amounts of sugar on the label would indicate more lactose.
Trace amounts of lactose would be less than 0.5 grams of lactose. Cheddar, parmesan and Swiss cheese (types that are natural, or aged) usually have a trace amounts of lactose. When these types of cheeses are made, the liquid that is drained off contains most of the lactose along with the whey. The lactose that is left in the cheese changes to lactic acid during the aging process (ripening) of the cheese. The very small amount of lactose in this type of cheese is not usually an issue for most people.
Low levels of lactose would be less than 5 grams of lactose. Cheeses that are not aged, like mozzarella, cream cheese and ricotta cheese have low levels of lactose. These cheeses are fresh, and unripened. During the cheese making process, not all of the lactose in the curd is converted to lactic acid, which results in a low level of lactose. Cottage cheese has extra milk or cream mixed in with the curd. These types of cheeses could definitely be a problem for lactose intolerant people.
Processed cheeses and cheese spreads contain lactose because whey or milk is added to them during processing, which increases the lactose level. Again – these products would likely be an issue for many people.
Alternative milks such as almond milk, coconut milk, hemp milk and soy milk do not contain lactose or milk sugar. They contain added sugars, unless they are specifically made without added sugar and marked ‘unsweetened’.
Here’s a really short recap:
In simple terms – lactose intolerance is caused by a lack of the digestive enzyme lactase, which digests the milk sugar lactose. The degree of lactose intolerance depends upon the individual person.
It is interesting to note that lactose-free milk has exactly the same nutritional value as regular milk, although it might taste a bit sweeter. People who are lactose intolerant have many choices in the dairy aisle including lactose-free milk (the lactose has been neutralized), butter, yogurt, natural/ aged cheeses. Unripened cheeses such as ricotta, cottage cheese or mozzarella have more lactose and could be problematic for many people. Alternative milks made from seeds and nuts do not contain lactose.
Want to learn more about empowering foods, the foods that can give you all the energy you need to do everything you LOVE to do? Contact me and let’s chat!
Microwave ovens have maintained popularity for at least four decades because of the convenience factor. After all, who doesn’t have a hectic schedule? And how would people manage without them? Microwaves cook food easily and quickly, so that you can take food from the freezer, microwave it and have it ready for dinner in a very short time frame. But the question remains – do microwaves pose a health hazard for us? Is it the healthiest cooking option? Here are the results of my research on the subject – points to consider when deciding if microwave ovens are a heath hazard…
How microwaves cook food
First – let’s briefly look at how a microwave cooks the food. Microwaves are a form of radiation (non-ionizing). The food is literally zapped (or ‘nuked’ as they say) with high frequency radiation waves, which could be harmful. The way that microwaves cook food so quickly at such extremely high temperatures is by causing the water molecules in the food to vibrate at an astronomical rate per second (possibly as much as 2.5 billion times per second), which changes the chemical structure of the food. Since the water content is not uniform throughout the food, the heating often becomes uneven. Some parts of the food become overcooked, and other parts of the food are undercooked which increases the risk of food poisoning.
Why would microwave cooking be hazardous to your health?
Here are 6 points:
1. Loss of nutrition in the food.
The whole microwave process causes the food to lose a significant amount of nutrition, particularly with vegetables. Everyone needs to be consuming food that is nutritionally dense in order to have optimal health and energy. You don’t need to be consuming food that is nutritionally depleted.
One could argue that other forms of cooking also cause the food (vegetables) to lose nutrition – and that would be true. When vegetables are boiled – many nutrients end up in the water. On the plus side, the cooking water can be saved to make a nutritious soup. Frying is generally not a healthy cooking option for veggies, unless it is stir-frying that is done quickly at a moderately high heat and the vegetables are still partially raw (still crisp). Steaming is a better option, particularly when vegetables are lightly steamed and still crisp or partially raw (the water can be saved to use in healthy soups). Baking at a lower temperature is also a good option for retaining nutrients. Of course, the best way to get the most nutrition from vegetables is to consume them raw, if possible. Understandably, that isn’t possible for every type of vegetable.
2. Change in the food’s structure.
Even though very few scientific studies have been conducted to absolutely prove that microwaving is hazardous to health, one study was done in 1991 by Swiss food scientist Dr. Hans Ulrich Hertel. Dr. Hertel explored the effects of microwaves on the food – specifically how it changed the food’s molecular structure, and the effect it had on the human body. He noted that microwaved food had a negative impact on HDL (good) cholesterol and the body’s red and white blood cell count.
3. Negative effects of microwave’s extreme high heat cooking.
The high heat of microwave cooking also causes exposure to carcinogenic compounds that are not found in raw foods (heterocyclic amines or HCAs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs, and advanced glycation end products or AGEs also known as glycotoxins).
4. Food toxicity.
One of the biggest negative aspects about microwave cooking is that it increases the toxic load of the food in three ways:
• First, the food itself is damaged by microwaving it.
• Secondly, most microwavable convenience foods are highly refined foods that are loaded with chemicals, poor quality fats and excessive amounts of salt, and very little or no nutrition.
• Thirdly, prepared microwave foods are very often packaged in plastic, which contains even more harmful chemicals. Or if you cook your own foods in plastic ‘microwave safe’ dishes or in plastic wrap…
The packaging or plastic dishes you use can contain harmful chemicals (many are known to be carcinogenic), such as dioxins, polyethylene terpthalate (PET), toluene, benzene, xylene and BPA. BPA is an estrogen-like plastic that has been linked to many serious health issues, including hormone problems, mental health issues, allergies, high blood pressure and more.
When the food is microwaved in plastic packaging, plastic dishes or plastic wrap the high temperature can cause the chemicals from the packaging/wrap to be absorbed into the food. This is definitely a health concern for all microwave users.
5. Biological harm.
In an article written by Dr. Joseph Mercola, he explains how microwave exposure causes biological harm. Dr. Mercola cites research done by Professor Emeritus Martin Pall, Ph. D. His research found that the effect of microwave radiation exposure includes damage to your cell’s DNA and mitochondria. This is very harmful, particularly to your nervous system, your brain, and your immune system. Another study mentioned in Dr. Mercola’s article was done in 2010. This study documented how microwave radiation affects the heart.
6. Electromagnetic field (EMF or EM) health issues.
Microwave ovens have a frequency that is almost the same as cell phones, cell phone networks and other high frequency radiation emitting (EM) devices. Being exposed to microwaves and other high levels of EM energy daily is now being considered a possible health risk. EM radiation could cause such issues as insomnia, headaches, dizziness, depression, vision and eye issues, immune system problems, loss of appetite and more.
Microwave ovens have become such a convenient form of cooking in our fast paced lives and many people can’t even imagine living without one. Almost all restaurants rely on microwaves to a certain extent to cook the foods they serve every day. We are indeed a culture that loves fast meals, the latest technological devices and the quick solution or instant gratification.
Whether or not microwave ovens are safe or a health hazard for you is up to you to decide. As for my husband and I, we gave up our microwave oven a number of years ago. And I have to say that we don’t even miss it! We place a very high value having the best health we possibly can, and we strive to live a healthy lifestyle on a daily basis. What we have found by giving up the microwave is that we simply had to become a little better at planning our meals and taking a little more time to cook by other methods – no big deal, really.
There are some online Resources listed below about the pros and cons of microwave ovens, and cooking with microwaves. The controversy surrounding microwave ovens and microwave cooking rages on! Some sources are for the microwave oven; some are against it. This is probably one of the health and nutrition issues that will be controversial for many years to come.
(Part 2 of 2 Articles) Medical statistics about strokes and their cause has been gathered from around the globe. These stats tell us that heart disease and stroke are the two leading causes of death worldwide. The National Stroke Association estimates that up to 80% of strokes can be prevented. A shocking statistic! So what is the key? Does daily nutrition play a role in stroke prevention? To determine whether or not there is a connection between nutrition and having a stroke – it is necessary to look at the risk factors for stroke and specifically, how nutrition impacts those risk factors.
As stated by the latest nutritional research and information from the American Heart Association there are three major risk factors for stroke. And according to a Review of Studies in The International Journal of Preventative Medicine, there seems to be a definite connection between those three risk factors and daily food consumption or nutrition.
The 3 risk factors for stroke are:
1. Unhealthy / poor cholesterol levels defined as:
• total cholesterol level of 200 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) or higher,
• high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol – from 160 to 190 mg/dL
• low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol – less than 40 mg/dL.
2. High blood pressure
3. Excess weight / obesity
Here is a closer look at each risk factor, including the effects of nutrition
1. Unhealthy / poor cholesterol levels
Cholesterol is a necessary type of fat that is found in the bloodstream and all your cells. The body naturally produces the cholesterol it needs and an increase in cholesterol levels is not healthy.
LDL (low density lipoprotein) takes cholesterol to your tissues for storage via the bloodstream. Studies have indicated that LDL (bad) cholesterol becomes oxidized, causing it to accumulate on artery walls. This leads to narrowing of the arteries, which contributes to atherosclerosis.
HDL (good) cholesterol is deemed to be a protection against stroke. It takes cholesterol away from your tissues to the liver. The liver then processes the cholesterol through its filtering system and it is eliminated from your body. An HDL cholesterol level of 40 mg/dL is considered low, and a level of 60 mg/dL is considered healthy.
Unhealthy cholesterol levels can be caused by
• consuming unhealthy fats and oils in your diet – such as a high level of saturated fats (long chain fatty acids mostly from animal fat).
• unhealthy trans fats in your diet. Our North American culture is obsessed with consuming convenient, highly refined foods. And so many refined foods contain unhealthy fats, partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats, even though the food labels may not indicate the type of fat in that product.
Current research is indicating that:
• Choosing to consume lean meats, chicken and fish is helpful in reducing saturated fat intake.
• A Mediterranean type diet or the DASH diet (dietary approach to stop hypertension diet) that is high in beneficial oils, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low in cholesterol and animal fat is beneficial in lowering overall cholesterol levels.
• The type of fat (healthy fat) and the high nutrient and antioxidant content of the fruit and vegetables consumed in the Mediterranean or DASH diet might protect the endothelial lining of the arteries, keeping them healthy.
• Adding fiber to your diet can help to reduce the cholesterol level anywhere from 6% to 19%.
• The best cooking methods to replace frying are steaming, baking, broiling, and grilling.
• People who are physically active generally tend to have lower cholesterol levels. Getting exercise for 30 minutes per day X 5 days per week is very helpful, especially when it includes aerobic activity on most of those days.
2. High blood pressure – how it is affected by certain nutrients and foods:
• Thirteen published studies involving 170,000 people between 1996 and 2008 show that a higher salt intake is related to a greater incidence of stroke and cardiovascular events.
• Studies have indicated that reducing salt intake by 6 grams per day lowers blood pressure as follows:
o in people with healthy blood pressure (who do not have hypertension), systolic and diastolic blood pressure are lowered by 4 mmHg and 2 mmHg respectively.
o in people with hypertension (people that have high blood pressure) systolic and diastolic blood pressure are lowered by 7 mmHg and 4 mmHg respectively.
• Excess consumption of salt could increase blood pressure as well as cause fibrosis (thickening and scarring of tissue) in the heart, the arteries and the kidneys.
• Eleven observational studies of 247,510 adults were done, with 5 to 19 years of follow-up. The results showed that a higher daily potassium intake (1.64 g per day) was associated with a 21% lower risk of stroke, and conversely, a lower daily intake of potassium was linked to a higher stroke risk.
• The effects of calcium on the body seem to be unclear. There is a great deal of conflicting information about how calcium affects the cardiovascular system and risk of stroke.
• Some studies indicate that a higher intake of calcium may be beneficial for lowering risk of cardiovascular and stroke events. Other studies indicate exactly the opposite. Research is ongoing, and the controversy continues.
Refined carbohydrates – highly refined foods and junk food:
• This includes white flour, sugar, candy, baked goods, refined packaged foods, french fries, burgers, hot dogs, pizza, pretzels, potato chips and refined snack foods, fast foods of all descriptions, sweetened beverages and most gluten free processed foods.
• Highly refined foods are carbohydrates that typically have ZERO nutrition, which means they do not give your body nutrients and they are not a healthy source of energy to sustain the body.
• Foods with a high glycemic index and high glycemic load (such as added sugars, sweetened foods and beverages, and refined starches and carbohydrates mentioned above) increase the body’s fasting blood glucose level. This has a negative impact on blood pressure, LDL cholesterol and trigylcerides (a type of fat in the blood).
• A steady diet of refined carbohydrates has been proven to be linked to many preventable, serious health issues including: metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, inflammation, fatty liver, high cholesterol, digestive issues, heart and circulatory issues and even stroke.
• Sugar sweetened beverages, including soft drinks:
o Sugar sweetened beverages have no nutritional value and are generally a great contributor to weight gain and/or obesity as well as other health issues such as inflammation, fatty liver, insulin resistance and more.
o The Nurses Health Study followed 84,085 women for 28 years (1980 to 2008), and the health professionals follow up study followed 43,371 men for 22 years (1986 to 2008). These two studies indicated that greater consumption of sugar sweetened beverages and soft drinks were associated with a considerably higher risk of stroke.
• Having more fiber in your daily diet has been shown to help reduce blood pressure, control blood glucose levels, reduce triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol.
• Increasing dietary fiber slows down the body’s absorption of blood sugar, keeps blood sugar balanced, and keeps you feeling satisfied (less hungry) between meals.
• Fiber is also highly beneficial for the digestive system, particularly the elimination of the toxins and the body’s waste products.
Fruits and vegetables:
• Fruits and vegetables provide a healthy source of dietary fiber and a wide range of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants that are beneficial to overall health, including the cardiovascular system and the brain.
• Vegetables and fruits contain plenty of nutritionally dense, healthy carbohydrates, which supply your body with energy. In fact, your body is designed to use these healthy, nutrient rich carbohydrates as its main energy source.
• A study of 257,551 individuals (followed for 13 years) indicated that consuming more than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily was associated with a lower risk of stroke than consuming less than three servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
• There are definitely varying points of view when it comes to the health effects of consuming meat, particularly red meat. Some sources suggest that consuming red meat could have an effect on blood pressure. This debate has been ongoing for many years and will likely continue for many more years. Research continues.
• Evidence is starting to suggest that highly refined meats may contribute to health issues, possibly even stroke and cardiovascular events. Reason: the process of refining meats often includes nitrates and harmful chemicals and preservatives.
3. Excess weight / obesity
Obesity is becoming a chronic health issue and has been shown to be a risk factor for many serious health issues, including:
• Pre-diabetes and full blown Type 2 diabetes
• Cardiovascular issues
• Heart disease
• High blood pressure
• Fatty liver
How is obesity determined?
• Body mass index (BMI) is used as the marker to determine obesity of an individual. It is a numeric value that indicates mass (weight) and height of a person. • BMI is expressed in units of kg/m2 indicating mass in kilograms and height in metres.
• Generally accepted BMI ranges are:
o Obesity: a BMI of greater than 30 kg/m2.
o Underweight: a BMI of less than 18 kg/m2
o Normal weight: a BMI of 18-25 kg/m2
o Overweight: a BMI of 25-30 kg/m2.
Obesity and risk of stroke:
• Walter N Kernan, MD and four other doctors wrote a report on obesity. Their report cites 40 published studies that were done between 1983 and 2011, which examine the connection between obesity and cerebrovascular disease. The studies show that for every 1 unit increase in BMI (approximately 7 pounds for an average height person) above the normal weight range – the risk of ischemic stroke increases by about 5%. Clearly obesity is a factor!
• Several of the research studies I read talk about two indicators of obesity that are associated with stroke risk: BMI, and the amount of abdominal fat independent of a BMI measurement. Many health care professionals use BMI as a measurement of obesity because it is simply easier to determine.
• The prevalence of adult obesity has been rising steadily over the last fifty years. In the USA obesity has risen from 13% to 34%. In other countries the adult obesity rates are lower, and vary greatly compared to the USA, yet some are still alarming. Canada has a 24% adult obesity rate, Germany 23% and China 4%.
To answer the question ‘Stroke and nutrition – is there a connection?’ – I would have to emphatically say YES – there definitely is a connection! I know first hand that part of the stroke recovery protocol involves choosing nutritious, healthy foods that nourish the body for both recovery and to help prevent further stroke issues. Exercising as much as possible (or perhaps physiotherapy to regain mobility) is also part of the protocol.
My own experience in life and my experience as a Health Coach has proven to me that healthy, whole foods nutrition consistently every day is the basis of our physical, mental and emotional health. Each of us has been gifted with an amazing bio-technical machine that we call our body, which has the ability to heal itself if it is given the right conditions. Nutrition is a key part of the right conditions. If you would like to increase your nutritional intake and reduce your risk for serious health issues – contact me. I can help!
Oh, sweet Christmas! This is the time of year when sweets and decadent desserts abound. Making healthy choices and maintaining balanced blood sugar during Christmas celebrations is tricky at best. There is a great solution! It can be found in The Best Dessert EVER – Only 3 Ingredients, and how it benefits blood sugar balance. Full credit for this idea goes to the Harvard School of Public Health – they call it ‘The 3 Pleasures’. I totally agree with that name!
There are two main social situations that people find challenging when it comes to sweets and/or desserts:
• Entertaining – what to serve guests as a healthy dessert or as part of your finger food or hors d’oeuvre table.
• Dining in restaurants – what to do when everyone at your table is happily indulging in sugar laden desserts that you know would skyrocket your blood sugar and zap your energy.
The solution to those situations
This fabulously simple, 3 ingredient dessert can be your healthy go-to dessert in both of the above situations. This very simple recipe can be used any time of year, through any season – not just at celebration times. In fact, this is a great lifestyle habit to form!
The 3 ingredients are:
1. Fruit – preferably fresh
2. Nuts – not refined, not sugar coated
3. Dark Chocolate – always dark (70% cocao or more), not milk chocolate
These ingredients are super easy to put together either on an individual plate or on a platter for entertaining. As far as restaurants go – it could be hit and miss as to whether the restaurant would have these 3 ingredients on hand, but it sure is worth a try. Many restaurants have fresh fruit and sometimes nuts.
What are the benefits of making a dessert from these 3 simple ingredients?
1. Fresh fruit…
…is sweet on it’s own because it contains natural sugar that has been put there by Mother Nature. It also contains nutritional elements that your body needs and can easily use. It has vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants as well as fiber. The fiber is the nutrient that balances the natural sugar, slowing the sugar’s digestion and keeping blood sugar stable. The only caveat is that a moderate amount of fruit is good, whereas a huge amount of fruit becomes far less healthy because of the increased sugars.
2. Unrefined nuts…
…are packed full of healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and protein. The protein in the nuts will help to slow the digestion of the natural sugar found in the fruit – keeping your blood sugar from spiking. Here are some of the many nutrients found in nuts, that can help you stay healthy: unsaturated fats (Omega 3 or Omega 6 fatty acids), Vitamin E, manganese, potassium, fiber and L-arginine.
3. Dark chocolate…
… has far less sugar and harmful additives than milk chocolate. The higher the percentage of cocao, the less sugar there will be in the chocolate. Dark chocolate contains some vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and even some antioxidants that will help protect your cells from free radical damage. The full, rich taste of the dark chocolate offsets the sweetness of the fruit – a nice combination. If you make your own raw chocolate, you have full control over what goes into your chocolate and it will be the healthiest chocolate you can get!
Here’s to a healthy, joyful Holiday Season! Whole foods, as unrefined as possible are always the best way to maintain good nutrition and create a healthy life! If you would like more information about healthy lifestyle elements that create great health, contact me, or click on the popular blog category ‘Healthy Lifestyle Elements’ to the right of this article.
This recipe is my variation of a neat vegan recipe from the folks at That Sugar Film. Cauliflower is such a nutritious vegetable, and it has a very neutral mild taste – which makes it very versatile. These bites will go great with a casual meal or they can be eaten as a healthy snack. The almonds have some protein, fiber and nutrients and the cauliflower is loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber. You can also add a bit of spice to suit your taste buds – whether you like curry, chipotle or your favorite blend of herbs. Enjoy!
Cathy’s note: I always experiment with new recipes, so I tried this recipe using coconut flour instead of almond flour. It did not turn out very well. The almond flour seems to have a different consistency and makes a better ‘crisp’.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Yield: 1 baking tray of Cauliflower Bites
½ to ¾ head of white cauliflower
¼ cup almond milk (unsweetened)
¾ cup almond flour or almond meal
¼ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1 Tbps olive oil
Garnish: (if desired) chopped cilantro and sliced almonds
• Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F
• Prepare the cauliflower by cutting it or breaking it into bite sized florets and place in a medium sized bowl. Add the unsweetened almond milk and stir to coat all the cauliflower pieces with the milk.
• In a separate bowl combine the almond flour / meal and parmesan cheese.
• Pour the almond flour and cheese mixture over the moist cauliflower florets and mix well to coat the cauliflower.
• Spread cauliflower bites evenly on the parchment covered baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil over the cauliflower..
• Bake for a total of 20 minutes – turning the cauliflower bites after 10 minutes. NOTE: If you want a darker or crispier result – bake longer or increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees.
(Part 1 of 2 Articles) Stroke is a serious health issue that is being publicized more and more these days. Stroke used to be thought of as something that happens to elderly people but the truth is that it can happen to anyone, at any age. Despite the increase in stroke awareness, many people do not know what the signs and symptoms are. And there could be more to identifying a stroke than people realize. I found this to be true in my own personal experience. Before diving into the signs of a stroke, we need to discuss what a stroke is.
What is a stroke?
Many people think that a stroke happens in the heart, when in fact it happens in the brain. A stroke is when an area of brain cells are deprived of oxygen because blood flow is cut off to that area. The affected brain cells die during the stroke, and the functions controlled by that area of the brain are lost – such as speech or balance or muscle control. The good news is that the brain is an amazing bio-technical machine, and brain cells that surround the affected area will often compensate by ‘re-wiring’ to restore some or all of the lost functioning.
There are 2 types of stroke: Ischemic or Hemmorhagic
Ischemic strokes occur when a blood clot stops the blood flow into the brain or into any part of the brain. About 87% of strokes are ischemic strokes.
Ischemic strokes fall into two categories: embolic or thrombotic.
• An embolic stroke happens when a blood clot or a fragment of plaque forms somewhere in the body (possibly in the heart) and travels to the brain.
• A thrombotic stroke occurs when a blood clot has formed inside one of the arteries that supplies blood to the brain. It often happens in people that have atherosclerosis or calcification on the artery walls. A risk factor is high cholesterol..
• More information about ischemic strokes can be found here
Hemorrhagic strokes are not as common – the statistics tell us that only 15% of strokes are hemorrhagic. Surprisingly, about 40% of all stroke deaths are from hemorrhagic strokes.
A hemorrhagic stroke can be caused by 2 things:
• a brain aneurysm burst or
• a leak from weakened blood vessel.
In either case blood overflows into the brain or around the brain, which causes pressure and swelling, and damages brain tissue and brain cells. More information can be found here
What is a TIA?
TIA is often referred to as a ‘mini-stroke’ and stands for transient ischemic attack. A TIA is when the flow of blood to the brain stops for a short period of time. The signs of a TIA are often similar to the signs of a stroke, and they generally disappear within 24 hours. There is usually no permanent brain damage, and TIAs are considered to be a sign that a stroke could happen. For this reason, any event that mimics a stroke should not be ignored. It is estimated that 40% of the people who have a TIA will have an actual stroke. According to the National Stroke Association almost half of all strokes take place within a few days of having a TIA.
Signs and symptoms of a stroke
FAST – an easy way to identify a stroke
The FAST acronym is literal and very appropriate for identifying a stroke. Time is extremely important when it comes to any type of stroke. Getting medical attention as quickly as possible is key to limiting brain damage and increasing chances of a good recovery. FAST has successfully been used to bring awareness to the importance of quick action in the event of stroke. Here is what it stands for:
F for face – is there any numbness or drooping of the face? Is the person able to smile normally without it being lopsided?
A for arms – is there any arm numbness or weakness? Can the person raise both arms normally? Or is does one arm droop downward?
S for speech – is there any difficulty with speech, such as slurred words or being unable to speak? Can the person repeat a simple sentence correctly, such as ‘the sky is blue’?
T is for time – if you notice any of the above 3 common signs, DO NOT DELAY – call 9-1-1 immediately! Time is super important! Even if you are not sure it is a stroke – call 9-1-1!
9 less common symptoms of a stroke
Did you know there are 9 other signs or symptoms of a stroke? While using the FAST acronym is quick, incredibly helpful and can be very accurate, these 9 other signs are not as common and could also indicate a stroke. I know this from personal experience because my husband recently had a mild stroke that was caused by very unusual circumstances, not related to a buildup of plaque in the arteries and veins. During his stroke he only had one of the three FAST signs – slurred speech, yet he had all 9 of the following symptoms.
9 other symptoms:
• Sudden extreme, unexplainable headache
• Difficulty swallowing or clearing the throat
• Sudden dizziness
• Sudden loss of balance or coordination and/or difficulty walking
• Sudden unexplainable nausea
• Profuse sweating – for no visible reason
• Being disoriented
• Sudden problems with vision
• Difficulty understanding speech OR difficulty finding the right words to speak
Important note: When experienced in isolation (all by itself), each of the above 9 signs do not necessarily indicate a stroke. Yet, when a number of these signs are experienced suddenly together or in a short period of time – it could definitely indicate a stroke.
In my husband Dave’s case, all of these 9 indicators happened quite suddenly, in quick succession – telling me that something was seriously wrong and that he needed immediate medical attention. At the time I did not realize he was having a stroke, but calling 9-1-1 as quick as I could was paramount. We are very thankful that he has since made a nearly full recovery. His only lingering residual effects are related to the throat and tongue muscles.
The bottom line
The take-away from this article is: DON’T WAIT! Call 9-1-1 immediately for medical assistance if you have ANY reason to believe someone is having a stroke. Your quick action could either save their life or it could give them a very good chance at a full recovery. The sooner a stroke is treated, the better the outcome.
If you have been searching for reliable weight loss information, or if you want motivational tips – I have great news! A terrific place to find what you are looking for is an article containing the best tips from 80+ Weight Loss and Motivation Experts. That’s A LOT of knowledge and motivation packed into one article!
I have had the pleasure and the great honour of being chosen as a Contributing Writer / Expert for the Habitnest.com article titled “80+ Experts Sharing Amazing Tips On Weight Loss and Motivation”. If you are struggling with weight and looking for help – I invite you to check out what more than 80 Experts have to say. You’re sure to find some fabulous gems of knowledge and inspiration!
Many people struggle with weight loss, including motivation. There is a great amount of information available and it can feel like an overwhelming task to sort it all out.
In my experience as a Health Coach, taking small, healthy steps that are sustainable is a good way to increase your motivation and reduce weight. There are simple steps you can take to keep blood sugar balanced consistently, which will help you kick cravings, increase your energy level and naturally reduce excess weight. In the Habitnest.com article, I have identified two steps in particular that will give you motivation, get you moving towards a healthy weight loss and help you maintain that weight loss. Read the article here…
If you have been struggling to reach your health goals, release excess weight, look good and feel great – contact me and let’s chat. Together we can explore your health goals, consider the options that work for you, and clarify the steps you can take to reach those goals. You’ll be on your way to taking small, sustainable steps and harnessing the power of nutrition to get rid of excess weight and create a healthy lifestyle that lasts, so you will always look and feel your best!
Great nutrition from a dietary lifestyle of whole foods is one of the best ways to increase your energy and improve your health. Add the vibrational energy of Polychromatic Light Therapy (known as PLT or Low Level Light Therapy) to healthy nutrition and the results can be totally amazing – even life changing!
If you have:
circulation problems – for any reason
chronic pain – joint pain, arthritis, soft tissue pain or for any reason
peripheral neuropathy – whether diabetic or any other cause
skin issues – like acne, rosacea, eczema
cognitive issues or brain fog – for any reason, even related to diabetes, pre-diabetes or PTSD
high stress that keeps you awake at night
– light therapy can help you! Whole foods nutrition AND PLT work together perfectly for excellent, pain free health.
Light therapy and nutrition – the ‘dynamic duo’
Your body has the innate capability to overcome health issues when given the right environment, and PLT incorporated with whole foods nutrition can facilitate the right conditions. It is a ‘dynamic duo’, a closely linked pair that work together to provide healing energy throughout your body, right into your cells and tissues.
1: Nutritionally dense whole foods (especially vegetables and fruit) give your body the vitamins, minerals and proper nutritional elements that it requires to give you energy and promote healing. When you consume good, nutrient rich food, your body digests the food – processing and absorbing the nutrients from that food. The nutrients are transferred to the blood and the blood delivers the nutrition to the cells, tissues, organs and all systems throughout your body.
2: Circulation. The only way your cells, tissues, organs and all your body’s systems receive nutrition and oxygen (a vital component) is via the blood that continuously circulates throughout your body (as referenced above). Energy from the PLT/ low level light therapy increases blood circulation throughout your body. Increased circulation means that more of the great nutrition from healthy food is being delivered to all of your cells, tissues and organs. All of your systems gain nutrition and energy and you become healthier as a result. Greater circulation elevates your overall energy and supports your body’s natural healing ability.
Improved blood circulation has been shown to:
aid in the body’s natural healing processes
reduce inflammation and even help prevent inflammation from forming
improve skin issues
help stop peripheral neuropathy
improve health and efficacy of tissues throughout the body – including muscles
improve brain health and cognitive functioning
More about Polychromatic Light Therapy
The word polychromatic means ‘multicolored; 2 or more colors’. PLT from In Light Wellness Systems incorporates the use of 3 different colors: blue light, red light and near infra-red light, in varying combinations. Two or more colors or light used together have been proven to be much more beneficial than one color of light (monochromatic).
Why polychromatic lights?
Wavelengths of multicolored light have unique benefits for the body. Each of these colors of light has a different vibrational frequency and penetrates to a different depth through the skin.
Visible blue light has the shallowest penetration depth: 2 to 3 mm below the skin. It helps to promote circulation and healing within the skin and tissue close to the skin (epidermis). Blue light has been commonly used in Neonatal Care Units in hospitals for decades to alleviate jaundice or bilirubin.
Visible red light has a deeper penetration depth: 8 to 10 mm below the skin. It helps with circulation and aiding healing within deeper tissues (Dermis), including muscles and organs.
Near infrared light has the deepest penetration depth of the 3 colors: 20 to 100 mm below the skin (Subcutaneous Layer). Near infrared energy cannot be seen by the naked eye, and can penetrate right to bone level, which can provide energy, increased circulation and promote healing very deep within the tissues and organs.
Nitric oxide release – pain relief and more!
Near infrared light in PLT, has been found to relieve pain and promote healing within the body by increasing both the nitric oxide and blood circulation.
PLT triggers the body to release nitric oxide, a natural molecule found within the body that is extremely important for healthy arteries. Nitric oxide relaxes the arteries and causes the blood vessels to expand, which increases blood flow. Any time there is increased blood flow throughout the body, all of the cells and tissues benefit by receiving more oxygen and more nutrients. More blood flow also reduces pain.
The increase in nitric oxide production also reduces blood clotting, decreases the growth of plaque, helps regulate blood pressure and fights free radicals.
PLT, nitric oxide and diabetes
Medical research has shown that diabetics typically produce less nitric oxide than people without diabetes. Diabetics are also at risk for serious health issues such as heart and circulatory problems and peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy is a particular concern because it can lead to amputation.
PLT stimulates the body’s production of nitric oxide, increasing circulation and allowing the body to naturally heal peripheral neuropathy. It relieves discomfort, improves sensation, and aids the body to restore damaged tissue.
Nutrition, PLT and inflammation
Inflammation can be caused by a number of factors, and is considered to be one of the major underlying causes of illness. One of the main sources of inflammation is directly related to the standard North American diet of highly processed foods and sugar. Diabetics and pre-diabetics often suffer from joint pain caused by inflammation.
Highly refined foods and sugar (in many forms) contain absolutely no nutrition, cause toxic residues in the body and cause blood sugar imbalances – a key issue for diabetics and pre-diabetics. This manifests as inflammation in the joints and tissues, and can sometimes become chronic such as systemic inflammation (throughout the entire system).
Choosing to have a consistent dietary lifestyle of nutrient dense whole foods instead of refined (junk) foods and sugar will give the body the right nutrients to heal inflammation and balance blood sugar. It is important to completely eliminate refined foods and sugar, and incorporate balanced nutritional elements consistently every day.
Light therapy can aid in recovering from inflammation by increasing blood circulation and reducing the pain that inflammation can cause. The increased blood flow will give the tissues more nutrients and it will help carry toxins away from the tissues. PLT also increases overall energy, which counteracts the fatigue often felt by diabetics and pre-diabetics.
Whether you have chronic pain, skin issues, inflammation and joint pain or low energy – using light therapy in conjunction with nutritious whole foods can truly energize your health!
Contact me today at (403) 453-4452 or go to Brilliant Light Therapy to find out how you can benefit from the unique approach of combined polychromatic light therapy and whole foods nutrition.
This is a recipe by Jennafer Ashley that my husband found on a paleo website. Arrowroot, the main ingredient, is quite unusual and is very healthy. Arrowroot is loaded with vitamins and minerals, protein and a form of starch that helps maintain your body’s healthy pH balance.
I have adjusted the recipe slightly, including alternate ingredients in brackets for anyone that is allergic to almonds and/or nuts. Enjoy!
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 6 to 10 minutes per pita
Yield: 5 pitas
2 cups arrowroot powder/flour
½ cup almond flour (or buckwheat flour or quinoa flour or coconut flour)
¼ tsp sea salt
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or dairy milk)
Optional: add herbs of your choice for flavor variation – such as onion flakes, dried basil, parsley, oregano or ‘herbs provencale’. Nutritional yeast can be added for a cheese type flavor.
• Heat a skillet over medium high heat and melt a small amount of coconut oil.
• Combine arrowroot powder, almond flour (or alternative gluten free flour) and sea salt. Add the eggs and almond milk (or milk). Stir until completely combined. NOTE: more liquid might be required (almond milk, milk or water) if the batter is very thick.
• Use ½ cup measure to pour batter into hot skillet, spreading the batter evenly.
• Cook 5 minutes, then flip and cook an additional 5 minutes. NOTE: For a soft pita that can be folded, cook 3 minutes on each side.
• Cool completely and store in a sealed plastic bag or sealed container. (can be stored in the fridge)
This bread is versatile. It can be used to make a wrap sandwich, used as tortillas in enchiladas, or used as soft taco shells.