Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Are Trans Fats Contributing to Infertility?

Trans fats may decrease sperm counts according to a new study out of Harvard. Rats fed a diet rich in trans fats had lower sperm counts. This isn't surprising as previous research has found that diets rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fats can improve sperm count.

What are trans fats?
Trans fats are commonly found in processed foods as they are very stable, increase product shelf life and have a great flavor and texture profile. Crackers, cookies, hot chocolate mix, fried foods and many other processed food items are sources of trans fats.

The 'bad' about trans fats:
Trans fatty acids raise serum levels of LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol), reduce levels of HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol), promote inflammation, may cause endothelial dysfunction (problem in the blood vessels), and their consumption is associated with cardiovascular diseases.  There are well-publicized bans of trans fats in places like New York City. Canada has issued mandatory trans fat labeling on food products. Currently, it is suggested that Canadians do not consume more than 10 grams of trans fat a day. Yet, Dr. Bruce Holub (a popular and well respected spokesperson for healthy fat consumption in Canada and retired professor at the University of Guelph) has been lobbying for lower trans fat consumption - as low as 2 grams per day per person.

My Confession of the Day
Trans fats scare me. They're like transport trucks on the highway (if the highway was your arteries). They are big, scary...and, if they get into trouble on the highway - you're in BIG trouble! I avoid trans fats as much as I can. But, yes - I do enjoy the occassional french fry, but only as a monthly treat.

Fertility and Sterility Volume 95, Issue 5, Pages 1794-1797 “Trans–fatty acid levels in sperm are associated with sperm concentration among men from an infertility clinic” J.E. Chavarro, J. Furtado, T.L. Toth , J. Ford, M. Keller, H. Campos, R. Hauser

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Heartburn - Natural Solutions to Cool the Burn

Heartburn can be painful, distracting and relentless. There are many over-the-counter products you can use to cool the burn: some neutralize the acid, others create an artificial barricade stopping acid from sneaking up into your esophagus (throat), and some drugs even shut down acid production.

Are there natural solutions to heartburn? Yes, there are some other options. You can try including natural enzymes into your diet to encourage proper digestion in your body. Enzyme supplements are plentiful at your local health retailer. Or, you can try probiotics. Sometimes heartburn is caused by a bacteria called H. pylori. A probiotic called L. reuteri has been shown in clinical trials to help kill off this bacteria and restore a healthy stomach. And, you can try deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) which actually works to solve the problem instead of mask it like other heartburn medications. Plus, its safe to use during pregnancy.

As for food, you've probably already heard it all. Don't eat fatty, spicy and acidic foods. Eat smaller meals. Sit up after eating. Eat slower. Avoid alcohol. Don't exercise right after eating. Blah, blah, blah....

My Confession of the Day - I can suffer from heartburn sometimes too. Its usually caused by a change in lifestyle (particularly stress). So, if your stomach is giving you a burn these days, maybe try a little de-stress therapy like a good book, a yoga class, or a date out with a loved one.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Healthier Easter Treats for Kids

Hippitty comes the Easter bunny ...with his basket full of chocolate and candy. The sugar can turn your kids crazy. It can make adults irritable. And, can get you off your spring diet and cleansing routine. Do you want a healthier alternative to chocolate easter eggs this year? Here are some alternative ideas:

1) Non-chocolate/candy Easter Egg Hunt
Grab some plastic easter eggs at the dollar store that open. Fill them with healthier alternatives like a box of raisins, or real-fruit gummies (and, I mean real-fruit like Annie's Bunnies), nuts or pretzels.

2) Get Crafty
Stickers, colouring books, sidewalk chalk and crayons are always a great surprise for kids to find on their easter hunt. Plus, it helps keep them busy at the family dinner.

3) Make it Fun
Change the focus from getting a bunch of chocolate and candy to the annual easter egg hunt. Depending on the age of your children, either hid eggs in the open, in hard to find places...or, for your more savvy hunters you can create written clues as to where the next egg is hidden.

My Easter Confession?
The artificial additives in milk chocolate give me a headache so for years my mother-in-law has packed my easter basket with alternatives like gardening gloves, flower seeds...and, even a fun paper windmill. There is more to easter than a sugar-high.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Extreme Pantry Makeover

It's almost nine o'clock and you wander into the kitchen, flip on the light and find yourself digging in the panty. Oh, the dreaded pantry. Full of delicious treats, that you just can't resist. That bag of your favorite cookies. The box of sugary cereal. A crunchy bag of chips. The chocolate. All of which you shovel into your mouth as you make a slight moaning sound. Awe, how delicious. You lick your lips. Mmm. And, how satisfying. That's better. Just what you wanted.

And, then it hits you. You totally weren't supposed to eat that. The careful food choices you made all day - down the drain. The run you fit in before dawn this morning. Oh, how painful it was to get out of bed. Well, you'll doing that again tomorrow. Argh.

Maybe its time for an Extreme Pantry Makeover.

If its there, you'll eat it. Right!? Here's the plan. 1) Get rid of it. Either eat it all by the end of the weekend and enjoy every mouthful without guilt. Or, grab the garbage can  and through it all out now! Either way - it's your choice.  2) Make a vow to yourself. "I shall not bring these items into my home." To do that, you'll need to vow to "Never grocery shop hungry!" How do you do that? Simple. At the entry to the produce section of your grocery store, there are bean salads,  cute little take-away packages of fruit and other healthy prepared options. Grab one, open it and eat it. The price is on the top and won't change no matter how much of it you eat, so no worries - you're not stealing. (Not a bad idea to keep kids happy while in the store too).

Can't go cold turkey? Still need a pantry treat? Pick healthier snacks. Like salty chips. Grab some salty nuts at the bulk bin. Sure they're not the most healthy thing on earth, but its better. Sweets are your thing - get some fruit in the house (pineapple, berries, etc). Love ice cream - stock up on frozen yogurt or little yogurt cups (great for portion control).

My confession? Last night I gave myself a stomach ache by eating too much organic, fair trade, dark coconut chocolate while watching my favorite television show. Its not just about knowing you're not supposed to eat it, junk food is NOT good for you - and, after the moaning, lip licking, and the blood sugar can make you feel bad.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Herbal Cleansing...Your 101

Usually when a girlfriend passes on caffeinated and alcoholic drinks on girls night out, you start to wonder if she's pregnant. But, if its spring, she might be cleansing. Cleansing in the spring is very common. How do you cleanse? Well, most people use herbs to help stimulate the body's natural cleansing abilities.

Here's your herbal cleansing 101:
Milk Thistle – (silymarin) protects liver from toxins and promotes new liver cell growth.
Tumeric – traditionally used for intestinal support.
Fennel – stimulates movement of food through the stomach and intestines.
Peppermint – traditionally used to sooth the digestive tract.
Psyllium - may help reduce cholesterol, regular glucose and keeps your intestines moving.
Cascara sagrada – used to relieve constipation (a bit aggressive...see below)

Note: Cascara sagrada irritates the colon to encourage emptying. This can be too much for some people. Alternatives such as magnesium hydroxide encourage water movement into the colon, stimulating it to empty.

Today, health retailers carry lots of cleansing-kits that combine these herbs for you. If you're looking for a non-kit cleanse option, try a high quality milk thistle (80% silymarin), with a bulking agent (psyllium, wheat bran) and something to help your colon move (cascara sagrada, magnesium hydroxide).

My Confession of the Day
Ha! Cleanin' out the old pipes, eh? That's something I encourage daily - I use probiotics that are rich in Bifidobacteria (their the "B." on your probiotic labels). Plus, ensuring my diet is rich in a variety of whole foods that are packed with firbe (e.g. nuts, seeds, vegetables) works great too. Why wait for spring to clean up - do it daily.  

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Is Food Gossip Affecting Your Health?

Let's get a grip on reality here. Sometimes we are so caught up in food gossip, we forget to stop and think it through.

When did a dried fruit become a bad food choice? "Oh, no.", a mother at the park said to me, "I don't give her raisins. They're full of sugar." You'll never know how hard I bit my tonge. I was dying to say, "What are you giving her instead? Fake-cheese flavour crackers? Yeah, sure...that makes sense."

When it comes to finding healthy snacks for your kids (and adults too), there are lots of options. But, don't loose sight of reality. You can argue that everything is a bad choice. We can even argue that fresh fruit contains pesticides!

Let's get real. Here's the good, better, best options for snacks at the playground (and the office).
The 'Okay': Snacks that say Made with Real Fruit
The 'Better': Organic raisin (miniboxes)
The 'Best': Fresh organic fruit
Note: 'Made with real fruit' does not mean it's fruit. It could mean that they simply use some fruit juice as flavouring. Be label savvy - read carefully.

My Confession...
Its so easy to get all swept up in food gossip. Oh, that's high in fat. Oh, that's full of sugar. Sure, even I, (with all my savvy food knowledge) can find myself nodding away with the mob at such comments. STOP! What nature makes is always best. Just because a package claims its better for you - it probably isn't. In fact, we'd all be better off (and the environment too) if we never ate things in pacakages again.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Don't Fear Mercury in Fish

The health benefits of eating fish far out-weigh the risks. And, the risks may be lower than you think.

 The New England Journal of Medicine (2011) recently reported, that there is no increase in cardiovascular risk to people who consume fish (and, this was a decent sized study; 170,000 participants).

The omega-3 fatty acids in fish have been associated with many health benefits including heart health, reduced inflammation (joint health), proper brain development and mood balance.

The most recent Dietary Guidelines (2010): Pregnant/breastfeeding women and young children should eat atleast 8 oz. of fish (about two servings) but, no more than 12 oz. per week. Note: these are American guidelines. A serving is about the size of a deck of cards.

Which fish is best?
Swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel and some shellfish tend to store more mercury than flesh fish (salmon, tuna). Salmon, tuna, sardines and anchoives are great sources of the key omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA.

My Confession of the Day - I am a strong believer in the benefits of fish. It is a great source of protein and good fats (nutritionally it is way better than your alternatives - a burger or even a chicken leg)! Sure, it can be a pain to cook. If you hate cooking it, than try a small can of tuna on top of a salad or, in a sandwich once a week. Then, you just need to cook one fresh fish serving a week..Voila, c'est facile!

Taking a quality fish oil supplement is a great idea too (which are guarenteed to be mercury free) - particularly for those of us with high cholesterol...but, that's another story.