I’m back! 🙂 In the midst of travelling, a move, planning a trip to Europe for the summer, and finishing my masters degree, things have been a bit hectic to say the least. Things are coming along well though and just about finished up.
A month ago I visited beautiful British Columbia again – this time I was mainly in the Vancouver area and it was lovely. We took the Ferry over to Vancouver Island and checked out Victoria for a few days before returning to Vancouver. The Ferry ride was fun and the view from the observation deck on the ship was stunning.
My final day in Vancouver was spent hiking at Deep Cove in the rain – what a wonderful experience!
Back in Ontario now, the weather here has been quite variable. Warm during some weeks and rather rainy and cool during others. Lately temperatures have been more on the cool side, however it looks as though beginning next week the warmer weather will be coming and hopefully sticking around – come on summer!
With my busy schedule it’s be ever more challenging to eat well consistently and to choose healthy, nutritious options that taste great as well. Fortunately, from the literature as well as my own experiences I understand the importance of maintaining a healthy diet for optimal physical and mental health.
One of my favourite recipes to prepare for breakfast or lunch is overnight oats. There are tons of variations one can explore and these can be prepared quickly and easily. Oats can be purchased gluten-free, and I prefer to use almond, cashew or coconut milk to avoid dairy. Oats are high in fiber, low in sugar, and filling. When combined with protein powder (as I have done here using Vega Vanilla Chai Protein Powder), overnight oats will help you maintain energy levels and fullness throughout the day and to avoid the sugar crash that accompanies many processed cereals.
For 1 serving of Mango Chai Overnight Oats you will need a 250 mL mason jar (or other glass container); it takes 5 minutes to prepare.
I hope that you’ve had a wonderful week. Mine has been pretty hectic with trying to finish the manuscript I’ve been writing for submission to a scientific journal, but I’m almost there. During busy times like this I find it can be especially challenging to keep on track with eating nutritious food and maintaining good health, but I also know that it’s during these times in particular that eating well is essential. How so? Here’s a quick physiology lesson to explain:
When you’re stressed, your body releases stress hormones such as corticotropin releasing hormone and cortisol, which influence the body and the brain (Molina, 2013). You’ve probably heard of the “fight or flight” response; this the innate reaction to stress that our body undergoes when it experiences a stressor, whether real or perceived. The result is a rapid change in physiological and cognitive processes such as increased heart rate, widening of the pupils, narrowing of focus to direct attention towards the perceived threat, and behavioural changes (Nelson, 2005). This is the acute stress response.
The purpose of the stress response is to help promote survival by helping to focus ones energy and attention on the threat. Generally, this system has worked quite well throughout history, helping us to avoid danger and to survive. However, in many current societies we are now subjected to significantly more stress, particularly of the psychological and social nature, compared to ever before. This results in a state of chronic stress whereby the body is constantly flooded with more stress hormones than are necessary, and for a longer period of time. The longer this continues, the more negative effects there are on an individuals body and mind, and the more likely they are to experience detrimental effects to their physical and/or mental health.
Another issue with stress is that it increases inflammation in the body. As I’ve discussed before, inflammation has now been implicated in numerous illness and disease states, especially those chronic in nature. From obesity, to diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression to name a few, inflammation seems to be a key factor driving these conditions. The main point to take away from all of this is essentially:
Chronic stress = increased inflammation = increase risk for disease
Fair enough, but you might be thinking “stress is a fact of life. What can I really do about it!?” As it turns out there is actually quite a bit you can do to help manage stress and reduce inflammation in your body. A first step is simply accepting that you CAN do something about managing your stress, followed by seeking out strategies and developing healthy and effective ways to cope.
The most effective strategies involve managing stress from a holistic perspective. That is, addressing both psychological and physical aspects of stress. This can involve things like practicing meditation and yoga, which I’ve personally found to be really helpful, to maintaining a healthy diet and consuming particular supplements.
For more tips on how to manage stress psychologically, check out this brief article from the American Psychological Association, along with this one from Simply Psychology. Choosing to educate yourself on how stress affects your body and mind gives you more control in making informed decisions that will nurture optimal health.
As far as dietary supplements go there are numerous that have been suggested. However, one in particular, the spice curcumin which is derived from turmeric, appears to be especially effective in reducing inflammation. Curcumin has anti-inflammatory effects throughout the body via its ability to regulate a range of inflammatory mechanisms. For instance, the enzyme indolamine (IDO) is expressed in various types of immune cells and is activated by pro-inflammatory cytokines, and plays a role in depression with respect to serotonin (a neurotransmitter central to mood regulation) synthesis (Lopresti et al., 2012; Sompayrac, 2012). Moreover, curcumin has been shown to inhibit IDO expression and activity, and to reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines (Lopresti et al., 2012). What you can take away from this is that:
Turmeric (curcumin) is a potent natural anti-inflammatory and can easily be incorporated into ones diet
Many curcumin supplements are now available at health food stores and online. The one that I personally use is called Meriva-SR, and it has a potent slow release formula. I chose this one because it was shown within the scientific literature to be effective, and after reading numerous customer reviews I was confident in it’s efficacy.
There are of course other ways to integrate turmeric into your diet. It can be used in a wide range of recipes, but one of my favourites is this Anti-inflammatory Pineapple Turmeric Smoothie recipe I came up with!
As always, try to use fresh, local, organic ingredients when possible. For one serving of this delicious smoothie you’ll need:
1/2 frozen banana
1 cup fresh or frozen pineapple
1 cup coconut milk (or milk of choice)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp raw, unpasteurized honey
Place avocado, banana, and pineapple into your blender (I use a single serve Magic Bullet), and add enough milk just to cover the top of the mixture. Add in spices and honey. Blend until smooth.
Leave in a cup if you’re on the go, or pour into a bowl and garnish with your favourite toppings for a delicious smoothie bowl breakfast.
Smile, think of one thing you’re thankful for, and enjoy! 🙂
The avocado and banana give this smoothie a creamy texture, plus healthy fats and fiber from the avocado, while the pineapple adds a sweet tropical flavour. To be honest I was skeptical when I first tried making this as to whether it would taste any good, and I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious it actually was!
I hope you’ll enjoy this healthy delicious smoothie as much as I do. It’s a great choice if you’re having a stressful day and need a nutritious pick-me-up to give you a boost of energy to get you through. Plus, you can feel great knowing that the turmeric will aid in reducing inflammation in your body, helping it to restore homeostasis (ie. balance) more efficiently.
I hope that everyone had a lovely weekend and wonderful Valentine’s Day! Here in Ontario the weather was quite cold and we got a LOT of snow. Fortunately I was able to keep warm and got to enjoy some family time over the weekend.We did some baking, and I made us enchiladas for dinner Sunday night.
After dinner we got cozy and put on the new James Bond – “Spectre” film that recently came out. I’m a pretty big James Bond fan, particularly of the Daniel Craig “James Bond” (he just does it so well – and looks great doing it hehe!). I did however, also enjoy a few too many not-so-healthy sweets over the weekend, which I’m feeling the effects of a little bit today. But all-in-all it was a pretty great, relaxing weekend.
You may already be aware of the mounting evidence suggesting that sugar has numerous negative effects on both physical and mental health. However, if you’re just learning about this now and would like a little more information, this article by Authority Nutrition does a nice job of briefly summing it up.
In short, sugar is linked to inflammation (as it tends to increase activity of pro-inflammatory mechanisms in the body), which appears to underlie many disease states, particularly those chronic in nature, enhancing their severity. Inflammation has been implicated in everything from diabetes, to heart disease, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and cancer, to name a few.
So sugar enhances inflammation, which fuels chronic disease states, yet sugar is almost everywhere, or so it seems. How can we counteract it’s negative effects? Obviously, a key first step is reducing and limiting ones intake of highly processed, high-sugar food and beverage items.
An optimal approach is to try consuming mainly fresh, local, and organic foods when possible, and to minimize your consumption of processed items. But consuming some processed food can be tough to avoid, thus it’s critical to pay attention to the nutritional information provided on the packaging. Nutritional labels give you a breakdown of what’s in the product and the ingredients that were used to make it. I appreciate how confusing ingredient lists and nutrition labels can be; to better understand them check out this article which walks you through how to read and make sense of all that info.
Another way to minimize the detrimental effects of sugar, but still satisfy your sweet tooth, is by using natural sweeteners such as raw honey or real maple syrup. For instance, raw unpasteurized honey has some scientifically validated beneficial health properties, such as antioxidants and the ability to reduce some pro-inflammatory cytokines. More on this can be found here. However, be mindful of the fact that even these natural sweeteners should be consumed in moderation.
Additionally, there are several spices and other herbal compounds that have shown efficacy for antioxidant properties and reducing inflammation. One of these is of course matcha green tea. I go into more detail about matcha’s health benefits in my Maple Matcha Latte post from a few weeks back.
Another natural anti-inflammatory is the spice Turmeric, from which curcumin is derived. Considerable scientific evidence has demonstrated that curcumin exerts anti-inflammatory effects throughout the body via its ability to regulate a range of inflammatory mechanisms, such as pro-inflammatory cytokines (Borre et al., 2014; Kulkarni et al., 2009; Lopresti, Hood, & Drummond, 2012). For more information on the health benefits of Turmeric (and curcumin) check out this article by Authority Nutrition.
Alright, now that I’ve given you a little background on how sugar and inflammation can threaten your health, and a few ways to counter this with natural compounds, I’d like to share this nutritious, anti-inflammatory smoothie bowl recipe I came up with: the Matcha-Turmeric Anti-inflammatory Smoothie Bowl!
This smoothie has a naturally sweet taste from the pineapple (or mango if you prefer), a creamy texture from the avocado, undertones of matcha, and a touch of spice from the turmeric and cinnamon. Here’s how to make it:
1/2 frozen banana
3/4 cup pineapple, fresh or frozen (or mango)
1 cup coconut or almond milk, unsweetened (add more if needed)
1 Tbsp raw, unpasteurized honey or real maple syrup
Place the first four ingredients in a single serve mixer (such as a Magic Bullet) or blender. Add in honey, matcha, turmeric, and cinnamon.
Blend until the mixture is pureed and thoroughly combined.
Pour into a bowl (or leave in a travel cup if you’re on the go) and top with your favourite healthy toppings.
Smile, think of one thing you’re thankful for, and enjoy! 🙂
I hope that you’ll enjoy this nutritious, anti-inflammatory smoothie! It’s a great one to start the day with as it will fill you up thanks to the fiber from the avocado and pineapple, and keep your energy levels up too. The anti-inflammatory properties are a wonderful way to help your body re-establish homeostasis (ie. balance), particularly after a night out enjoying some sugary cocktails or after eating a few too many yummy sweet treats.
I’m starting to think we should call Monday’s “matcha Monday’s”. Is that cheesy? Perhaps a little eh (lol) but I think it’s kind of catchy too. I know many people dread Monday because it tends to bring with it the start of a new work week. So perhaps adding a little matcha green tea to your Monday’s will help brighten them a bit? Heh It’s worth a try I suppose!
Given that logic, it’s settled: “Matcha Monday’s” it is! And in honor of the delightful delicacy that is matcha, I have a tasty recipe to share with you all: the Tropical Matcha Smoothie Bowl!
But first lets have a quick review on why matcha is just so darn awesome and great for you!
In short it’s a powerful antioxidant, has select vitamins and minerals, lowers blood glucose levels, HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, and oxidative stress, among others. A great resource to learn more about the health benefits of matcha can be found here. One of my previous posts for the yummy Maple Matcha Latte also goes into more detail about the health benefits of matcha and scientific evidence supporting such claims.
This recipe also features avocado, which boasts several nutritious benefits including healthy fats, fiber, and numerous vitamins and minerals, to name a few. You can learn more about the health benefits of avocado here. I try to incorporate one avocado each day into my diet. However, I understand that many people aren’t a fan of the taste or texture of these nutritious little items. Fortunately though, when combined in this smoothie recipe the taste of the avocado becomes undetectable while adding a creamy texture that compliments the smoothie perfectly.
The other key ingredient in this recipe is pineapple (or mango if you prefer). Pineapple is noted as having powerful anti-inflammatory properties, are packed with Vitamin C (among other vitamins and minerals), and not to mention a delicious taste! Nutritional properties and health benefits can be found in more detail here.
Combine all this awesomeness together and what you get is a nutrient packed, delicious tasting, creamy smoothie that’s going to keep you full and energized for several hours! I recommend having this one for breakfast, but it also makes for an easy and healthy lunch. Feel free to toss on whatever toppings you prefer, or if you’re on the go leave it in a cup and skip the fancy toppings to make for easy sipping. As always, try to use local, fresh, and organic ingredients when possible.
Here’s how I make the Tropical Matcha Smoothie Bowl! (1 serving)
1/2 frozen banana
3/4 cup fresh or frozen pineapple (or mango), chopped
1 tsp matcha
1 Tbsp raw, unpasteurized honey (or maple real maple syrup)
1 cup (approximately) unsweetened coconut or almond milk
optional: 1 Tbsp coconut flour for added fiber (this is great if you’re having trouble moving things along your digestive track)
Place avocado, banana, and pineapple in a single serve blender (or regular blender) with enough liquid just to cover the ingredients.
Add in honey and matcha (and coconut flour here too if you’re including it; you’ll want to add about 1 or 2 more tablespoons of milk as well if you do).
Blend ingredients together for about a minute or so, until thoroughly combined and smooth.
Top with your favorite healthy toppings.
Take a deep breath, smile, and think of one thing for which you’re grateful; serve cold and enjoy! 🙂
I hope you’ll find this nutritious smoothie as delicious and enjoyable as I have!
This is a great recipe if you need an extra (and filling) boost of energy to get you through your day. It’s a lovely one for kids as well, since all the healthy stuff is camouflaged for those picky eaters out there, and it has a naturally sweet tropical taste from the pineapple! Give it a cool name (I’m thinking something that has to do with The Hulk or Ninja Turtles with all of that green? heh) and you’ve got a winner! 🙂
I really like honey. Like, a lot. I buy the stuff by the pail. No kidding I actually have a 5kg pail of Golden Rod honey from Clovermed Aparies in my pantry right now. Admittedly I do have a sweet tooth. As I kid I was the type to find my Easter chocolate and skulk off into some corner, hiding from my parents, and eat as much as I could until I felt sick haha. Fortunately I outgrew that behaviour, but my sweet tooth has remained, albeit to a lesser degree.
As my awareness of the implications of proper nutrition on both physical and mental health have grown over the years I’ve sought to educate myself on these topics. In doing so I have gained greater awareness of the detriments of sugar, particularly highly processed sugars. I decided to take action and began cutting items high in processed sugars out of my diet. If you’ve read food labels and paid attention to how much sugar is in many food items we eat, it’s pretty scary!
By cutting food items that are highly processed and packed with sugar out of my diet I noticed some incredible things: I had more energy and felt much less lethargic. And much to my delight, the levels of anxiety and feelings of depression I had felt on a daily basis for years began to subside. Perhaps you’re wondering if I miss those sugary items because, lets be honest, sweet stuff is pretty tasty. Truthfully though, I don’t miss it at all!
Not only do I physically feel better and have noticed positive effects in my cognitive function and emotional valence, but my taste preferences appear to have adjusted too. Now if I eat something really sweet I find it over powering and it makes me feel a bit ill if I consume too much. Further, I notice that if I start to eat sweets consistently (eg. over the holidays) I begin to feel lethargic and my mood is negatively influenced.
Please note that these changes do take time though. So if you decide to cut down or try to eliminate processed sugar in your diet be patient, as seeing and feeling the effects and noticing a difference doesn’t happen overnight.
Although my “sweet tooth” has changed, I do still like a little sweetness here and there. I was faced with the challenge of how to find a balance between enjoying some sweetness in my food and making health conscious dietary decisions. What did I do? Well, I did what the researcher in me loves and I hit the books, databases, and internet search engines to find the information I needed to make competent, informed dietary choices.
What I learned in doing my research is that there are many natural substitutes that can be used for sweeteners, including raw unpasteurized honey. That’s the key here: the unpasteurized factor means that the nutrients in the honey have not been degraded. Most honey you pick up in the grocery store has been pasteurized. So while it still tastes yummy, the health benefits of it have been significantly reduced or eliminated through processing. That’s not very good either! Thus if you’re looking for honey, try to find that which is unpasteurized in order to obtain the greatest benefits from it. Also please be aware that it is not recommended for children under the age of 1 year to consume unpasteurized honey, the reasons for which are explained here.
What are some of the benefits of raw honey? For more detailed discussion I’ll direct you to these two resources that do a great job of summarizing the relevant information. “Health Benefits of Honey” by Organic Facts goes into great detail on this subject. While “Is Honey Bad for You, or Good? The Sweet Truth Revealed” by Authority Nutrition provides a brief and concise explanation of relevant information that has been supported by scientific research.
In a nutshell, honey is a better option than processed sugars. It does contains some important nutrients, but more importantly it has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties which may aid in health restoration and maintenance. It is now well established that inflammation is likely at the root of many pathological conditions including cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and mental health challenges such as depression.
Thus, if consuming honey in moderation can not only provide the sweetness to food that I enjoy, but also help reduce inflammatory mechanisms within my body and improve my overall health, than logically it makes sense for me to do so. I will leave you to make your own decisions, but I can say that based on the evidence I’ve reviewed and my own experience, I am confident in honey’s efficacy.
If you’ve made it this far you’re probably wondering when I’m going to get to the good part (ie. the food). Okay, okay.. as much as I love talking science and nutrition, here’s a tasty and easy Honey Banana Oatmeal recipe that makes the perfect nutritious and filling breakfast…
For oatmeal: Combine all ingredients except honey in a small pot over medium heat. Cover and cook approximately 5 minutes, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally (note: if mixture starts to get too thick, just add a bit more water)
Once cooked turn off heat and stir in honey
For bananas: in a small pan add coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add in honey, then sliced bananas. Try to lay them all flat. Sprinkle with cinnamon
Reduce heat to medium and saute bananas for about 3 to 5 minutes, flipping half way through, until softened and golden brown
Pour oatmeal into a bowl and top with honey-banana sauce
Smile and enjoy! 🙂
Please let me know if you decide to give this tasty breakfast treat a try – I’d love to hear your thoughts on it! #genuinelyjulie
If you’ve been following the latest health trends then you’ve likely noticed the good ol’ avocado has been getting a lot of attention lately, and for good reason! It’s packed with vitamins, healthy fats, and a bunch of other nutritional and health benefits which you can learn about through this great resource.
I often hear people say that they aren’t a fan of the taste or texture of avocado though, which deters them from eating it. Well, you’re in luck because I’ve come up with some clever ways to use avocados and you won’t even know they’re in there! The recipes are also kid friendly, especially if you have a picky eater! Mix up one of these smoothie bowls and you’ve got a nutrient packed, delicious dessert or breakfast that will surely be a hit! Toss it in the freezer for an hour or so to alter the texture and you can even call it ice cream. Now that’s what I call a win!
I’ll also mention that for anyone out there who finds eating solid food challenging, a problem faced by many who have had laryngectomy surgery such as myself and for some elderly folks, this is an awesome recipe for you too! It’s quick, easy, nutritious, and super yummy!
Okay, so today I’m going to share with you one of my favorite smoothie bowl recipes which uses black cherries, avocado, banana, and spinach to create a filling and energy packed meal that will keep you going through the day! A few things you’ll need: a blender or single serve mixer such as a Magic Bullet or Ninja, the ingredients (obviously), and a smile. Why a smile? Well, why not?! Even if you don’t feel that you have something to smile about do it anyways. Studies have shown that when a person smiles it actually influences neurochemical mechanisms in the brain associated with emotion which have the ability to boost one’s mood and elicit a more positive attitude. Pretty cool eh?! So smile away 🙂
Alrighty, enough chit chat from me… lets get to the good part!
For 1 serving you’ll need:
1/2 to 1 avocado, pitted
1/2 frozen banana (peel, cut in half, then freeze in bags or containers for easy access)
1/2 to 3/4 cup frozen, pitted black cherries
1 handful spinach
1 cup almond or coconut milk (or other milk of choice)
Optional toppings shown here: One Degree brown rice crisps (SO delicious, organic and GF), shredded unsweetened coconut, acai berry powder, and trail mix.
Place avocado, banana, cherries, then spinach into mixer. Add in milk (just enough to cover things), then honey. Blend together until pureed and mixed well.
Pour mixture into a bowl and top with your favorite, healthy toppings such as those suggested above.
Breath, Smile, Enjoy!
I hope you’ll enjoy this as much as I do! If you give this recipe a try I’d love to hear about it and please feel free to share with Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest (#genuinelyjulie)
Well friends, as much as I’d love to keep chatting I do have some hot “Chai and Mighty” tea to drink from David’s Tea while I read “Missing Microbes” by Dr. Martin J. Blaser. “Missing Microbes” discusses how the overuse of antibiotics is having detrimental effects on the gut microbiome and by extension our health. I could go on and on about the topic of the gut microbiome and it’s implications for both physical and mental health and well-being (this is one of my major research interests), but I will save this discussion for another time.