Nutrition for Cognition

It’s not news that you need food for energy and muscle repair. But what you might not realize is that certain foods can help to boost your memory, improve your mood, and provide protection against age-related cognitive diseases. As any organ in your body requires nutrients for growth and maintenance, your brain is no exception. In fact, at rest your brain uses somewhere between 20 and 30 percent of your energy intake, and even more when you’re problem solving. Now do you understand why it can be difficult to concentrate when you skip a meal? You should, however, be smart about the foods you choose to fuel your brain because when it comes to cognition, not all calories are created equal. Now, let me give you some food for thought… literally. Dark berries: Yep – this means blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, acai berries, etc. These guys get their dark skin from a class of phytochemicals called anthocyanins, which are potent antioxidants. Remember, antioxidants are molecules found in foods that inhibit cell damage. As you age, your cells inevitably become damaged by means of normal metabolic activity. Think about it like this – when you buy a new computer, it works smoothly at high speed. As you download more programs, leave windows open, and perhaps spill the occasional beverage on your keyboard (guilty), it slows down and becomes less efficient. Well, the same goes for your brain. Not to mention, your brain is particularly susceptible to oxidative injury thanks to its demanding metabolic rate. This is why it is important to get those antioxidant foods into your diet – to combat cell damage and protect your neurons! Oh, and I’m talking a minimum of 5 servings of ½ cup fruits and vegetables per day. Nuts: Walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews… I think you get the picture. I’m going to piggyback off of the antioxidant concept discussed above for a moment. Nuts are a major source of vitamin E, also a potent antioxidant that, according to research, presents promising agents for both prevention and treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Worldwide, more than 26 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and if measures aren’t taken to prevent or delay its onset, the number of people affected is anticipated to double over the next 40 years. Try making a doggy bag of homemade trail mix to bring to work with you and, if you want to go nuts, throw in some dark chocolate for an added boost of antioxidants. Hemp, flax & chia seeds: Perhaps you have been wondering why it has recently become trendy to drink chia-infused beverages, add flaxseeds to your morning oatmeal, or swap cow’s milk for hemp milk in your smoothie. Well here’s a good reason – these seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. And why do we need omega-3s? They are an essential fatty acid (EFA), meaning our bodies cannot synthesize them and we must get adequate amounts from our diets. EFA’s are important for nervous [...]

2018-02-09T20:43:53+00:00 By |

Five Steps to Establishing a Healthier Lifestyle

When meeting with prospective clients there are a few things I like to stress right out of the gate. I’m not here to convince you to change your lifestyle. If there is one thing I’ve learned in talking to family and friends about making the decision to leave the high-carb, low-fat paradigm, it’s that there is no convincing: people are ready when they’re ready. For many, this transition may require not only a significant upheaval of their dietary, fitness, and lifestyle practices, but also a total shift in their perception of what is “healthy” according to conventional wisdom. There are changes that will legitimately challenge your previously held beliefs (“wait -- dietary fat isn’t clogging my arteries?”). Therefore, a serious commitment and a genuine desire to change are absolutely imperative for one to have a real chance at reaping the benefits of these changes -- you cannot half-ass your way to a healthier lifestyle. This doesn’t mean that we can’t transition gradually, in fact, for some this may be the optimal approach. What it does mean is that we’ve got to be all-in: physically, mentally, and emotionally. This brings me to what I’ve established as the five most important factors in determining your success in reshaping your lifestyle: accepting responsibility, setting intention, managing expectations, establishing priorities, and practicing mindfulness. But why change at all? Western medicine and the American healthcare system are broken, and they have been for a long time. Allopathic medicine is designed to treat symptoms and manage diseases once they’ve developed, and it can be very effective in certain circumstances. However, it is not designed to prevent disease or to even treat the root causes, let alone to promote optimal health. In America, our healthcare system functions as not much more than a business. To put it simply: insurance companies, healthcare networks, “Big Pharma,” etc, prioritize profits over the health of the American people. This doesn’t mean that individual healthcare practitioners don’t care about their patients -- I believe they do -- only that we’ve created a paradigm in which many practitioners are drastically limited in their abilities to truly help people lead healthy lives. The current state of (mainstream) nutritional science is not a whole lot better. Facing a heart disease epidemic, the American Heart Association (AHA) initially adopted its low-fat stance in 1961 (1). In 1977, the USDA’s first edition of dietary guidelines was published, recommending an increase in carbohydrate consumption and decrease in dietary fats and cholesterol (2). Since that time, obesity and diabetes rates have skyrocketed, while heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the United States. CDC Data (3). CDC Data (4). In spite of these very clear statistics, the AHA has recently doubled-down on their low-fat stance (5). The USDA, AHA, and many other leading health organizations have quite clearly led us astray. In fact, the New England Journal of Medicine is predicting a potential decline in life expectancy for Americans, due primarily to the growing rates of diabetes and obesity. So what can we [...]

2018-01-16T15:57:33+00:00 By |

The Truth About Food Dye

While we all love to Instagram our rainbow bagels and Snapchat our tie dye cupcakes, let’s look at what really happens when that dye enters our bodies...   You don’t have to be a dietitian to recognize that those bright red, orange and blue colors are anything but natural. While at Tovita Nutrition I always stress the importance of “eating the rainbow,” I certainly don’t mean by way of artificial food dye!   What are some common foods and drinks that have food dye? Food manufacturers know that they will catch our attention with bright colors and patterns. And they’re right! Who doesn’t love to post a photo of an ice cream cone with rainbow sprinkles!? Generally speaking, processed foods are more likely to contain food dye. For instance, certain brands of macaroni and cheese, colorful frosting, bright colored candy and gum, or neon-colored sports drinks tend to be culprits.   What exactly is in food dye, anyway? Many food dyes are synthesized from coal tar and petroleum. Yes petroleum – as in the stuff that fuels like gasoline and diesel oil are extracted from.   Food coloring comes in the form of “dyes” or lakes.” Dyes are strictly water soluble, meaning you may find them in an artificially colored beverage. Lakes are synthesized by combining dyes with salts and are more likely to be found in baked goods, gummies, or chewing gum.   Does food dye have any nutritional value? Synthetic food dye does not!   Can food dyes ever be harmful? (Any studies or particular types to be wary of?) The International Journal of Occupational Health  http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1179/1077352512Z.00000000034 published an analysis on the toxicology of food dyes and found some upsetting results. Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 were found to be contaminated with benzidine, a carcinogenic compound. We know that certain cancers are caused by exposure to carcinogens.   Furthermore, red 3 was shown to cause cancer in animals. While the study did not find a link in humans, this isn’t exactly comforting news. At least four other dyes tested were strongly associated with hypersensitivity reactions.   Are there any healthy alternatives? Absolutely! Beetroot will enhance red colors, while spices like turmeric and paprika can provide a yellow or orange color. Darker blues and greens may be derived from natural anthocyanins or chlorophyllins.   What are some naturally bright foods to swap in instead?   While of course we think fruits and veggies are the prettiest out there, we understand that sometimes a candy craving just won’t budge. In that case, there are some dye-free alternatives- Yum-Earth and Matt’s Munchies are great all natural brands that will definitely satisfy that sweet tooth.Remember, this isn’t your license to go candy crazy! Dye-free candy is still candy!

2018-01-12T20:10:31+00:00 By |

Digestion 101

There is no denying that what you put (and don’t put) in your mouth has enormous and often game-changing consequences for your digestion. The comfort of your stomach and intestines, your regularity, and the presence or absence of symptoms (excessive or stinky gas, bloating, cramping, distension, heartburn and more) can, in many cases be directly correlated with food choices. The integrity and resilience of the digestive system is not, however, dependant only on what you eat. How you eat and the way in which you live your life confers enormous impact on your digestive bliss or woe. Optimal digestive function is not just about what goes into your mouth. It is also a derivative of  your ability to digest, the health or distress of your gut flora, the lining of your intestinal tract and the balance of the enteric nervous system (ENS), also known as your second brain. These all coalesce to produce a particular digestive picture. I have put together my top suggestions to help reduce digestive distress and improve function by enhancing the ability of the gut to digest food, promoting microbiome health, creating nervous system/ENS balance and reducing factors that can create symptoms. Extremely simple things like introducing less air into your system and dampening stress hormones all confer benefit. Before eating, take 6-10 deep breaths: This promotes balance throughout the nervous system, which in turn supports regular motility. Sit when you eat Resist galloping out the door slurping down a smoothie or eating at the sink, in front of the fridge or otherwise while on the run. Slow down By slowing down when you eat, you introduce less air into your system and have less likelihood of overeating. Chew your food There is no need to count bites, but taking your food down to a soft paste reduces the amount of pressure on the stomach and small intestines to break food down further. It is much more challenging to digest large chunks of food than well-chewed ones. Your gut flora will thank you, too. Eat to satiety. The above suggestion will help set you up for this. Overeating is a major cause of gastrointestinal distress on several levels. It is also typically habitual, and as you set up new habits and practice them, your body will let you know when it has had enough. Put work and electronics aside When you eat, just eat. As tempting as it may be to scroll through Facebook, research the latest kitchen gadget on Amazon or catch up on work email while you eat, these enormous distractions remove you from the act of eating. This makes you more likely to eat faster, chew less, eat more and introduce excessive air into your system. Avoid talking with food in your mouth Your mother was right - talking with your mouth full not only takes away from chewing, it also introduces excessive air into your system. That air, of course, will have to come out one way [...]

2018-01-08T20:08:48+00:00 By |

Do you think like a health nut?

In the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the late Steven Covey teaches that your professional life is a product of how you think more than any other factor. I would argue that the same is true for our health. After working with many clients who were either striving for or had achieved natural health as well as those who had overcome major challenges, I realized the way they thought I played a foundational role in their journey. I wanted to share a few of their mindsets, which I believe contributed to the success of their process. Living with purpose This mindset is first on my list for a reason. Purpose matters. People who have a compelling ‘why’ can make do with almost any ‘how.’  What would you say if someone asked you what your purpose was? If you did not have an answer that came to mind, I would recommend determining your why to be on the top of your to do list. Understanding health is essential Health is the ultimate wealth. There is a saying that a person who has health has a hundred goals yet someone without health has only one. It becomes very difficult to focus on anything else when you have ongoing pain or frustration with your body. Believing the body can heal Believing you can heal may be more powerful than your genes or your diet. Do you often wonder if you have a bad set of genes? Are powerless to change your diet? Have you felt hard done by when the foods you like best make you feel less than optimal? Henry Ford said ‘Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right’. All the cells your body are replaced regularly, many every few months. Your mind is so powerful. Never use it to keep yourself trapped in frustrating symptoms. Flexibility Yoga is great, but I mean mentally flexible. Continuing on the path you are now on, yet expecting results completely different from the results you are currently seeing is not a valid premise. If your health is exactly the way you and your medical team want it to be, there is no necessity to shift gears. If it is not, being mentally flexible and receptive to change will be necessary for your recovery. Owning your behaviour Who chooses what goes on your fork? Who decides whether or not you will be moving your body today? If you do not feel in charge of your decisions, it is time to reframe and reconnect with what is important to you. Think of it like developing a muscle. Choose one small thing you can control and master it. Start, for example, with a nourishing breakfast. Most food cravings start later in the day and are often influenced (both positively and negatively) by what you consume in the morning. Once you get past a month of having a regular, healthy breakfast, think about the next meal to take control [...]

2018-01-10T13:53:13+00:00 By |

Loneliness More Hazardous to Your Health Than Obesity or Smoking

Loneliness doesn't just affect your mind; it can also cause a number of health problems. For example, previous research1 shows feeling lonely can raise your blood pressure up to 14 points, with greater increases the longer loneliness persists. With that, the risk for heart disease and dementia also increases.2 More recently, researchers concluded social isolation and loneliness may have more severe consequences than obesity and smoking. Other recent research reveals the brain-related changes associated with feelings of loneliness start to take place after as little as 24 hours of isolation.3 Loneliness More Hazardous to Your Health Than Obesity Negative emotions will invariably impact your physical well-being, and feeling lonely is no different. According to two meta analyses4,5 presented at the 2017 Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, loneliness and social isolation — which are similar but not identical — pose greater threats to public health than obesity, raising your risk for premature death by as much as 50 percent. As reported by Medical News Today:6 "While loneliness and social isolation are often used interchangeably, there are notable differences between the two. Social isolation is defined as a lack of contact with other individuals, while loneliness is the feeling that one is emotionally disconnected from others. In essence, a person can be in the presence of others and still feel lonely. According to a 2016 Harris Poll7 of more than 2,000 adults in the U.S., around 72 percent reported having felt lonely at some point in their lives. Of these adults, around 31 percent reported feeling lonely at least once a week." The first analysis, which looked at 148 studies involving more than 300,000 adults, found social isolation increased the risk of premature death by 50 percent. The second,8,9 which evaluated 70 studies that included more than 3.4 million individuals, found social isolation, loneliness and living alone correlated with a 29 percent, 26 percent and 32 percent increased risk of mortality respectively. Overall, this is comparable to the risk of premature death associated with obesity and other well-established risk factors for mortality, including the risks associated with smoking 15 cigarettes a day.10 Other Health Risks Associated With Loneliness According to the American Osteopathic Association,11 which commissioned the Harris Poll cited above, loneliness plays a role in many chronic health conditions, including pain, drug or alcohol abuse and depression. Recent studies have linked loneliness to an increased risk for Alzheimer's disease,12 heart attack and stroke,13  and lower survival rates for breast cancer patients.14 Studies have also shown that people who are lonely are more likely to experience: Higher levels of stress15,16 Poor sleep17 Increased inflammation18 Reduced immune function19 Epidemic of Loneliness and Social Isolation Looms Large According to a 2010 study20 on loneliness conducted by the AARP, an estimated 42.6 million Americans over the age of 45 suffer from chronic loneliness, and census data reveals more than 25 percent of the U.S. population live alone. Why is loneliness becoming an increasingly prevalent experience? According to researchers, [...]

2018-01-02T11:57:03+00:00 By |

Wallpaper Can Be a Source of Toxic Mold

Did you know an estimated 40 percent of American buildings, including at least 25 percent or more of all homes, are believed to be affected by toxic mold?1 Some of the mycotoxins produced by molds can be more problematic than pesticides and heavy metals even, in part because their concentration can be far larger, but also because they tend to affect more biological systems than pesticides and heavy metals do.2 For example, the mold Stachybotrys produces mycotoxins called trichothecene. This mycotoxin inhibits protein synthesis, and infects every single organ of your body.3 Fungi also have a tendency to mutate quickly, producing novel species capable of evading the human immune system. One example of this is cryptococcus, which used to be endemic to the deserts of the southwest United States. Now there is a new mutated form that is highly pathogenic, killing up to 30 percent of those infected.4 Shoddy construction and water intrusion are among the most common reasons for microbial growth in buildings, but certain home decorating trends can also contribute to the problem. Is Your Wallpaper Making You Sick? Researchers are now warning that wallpaper can be a significant source of fungi that contribute to toxic air pollution and sick building syndrome. The study5,6,7,8,9 in question discovered three types of fungi living in household wallpaper: Penicillium brevicompactum, Aspergillus versicolor and Stachybotrys chartarum. These three fungi are also common food contaminants. When these fungi grow in wallpaper (or elsewhere), their mycotoxins can easily spread into the air and dust, thus gaining access to your lungs. As reported by NBC News:10 "Mold growing in buildings can make people sick, especially people who are allergic to various fungi. It's also known that various molds and fungi produce mycotoxins — chemicals that can sicken and even kill people and animals. What's not been entirely clear is how mold growing in and on walls or elsewhere in buildings might make people sick. Jean-Denis Bailly of the University of Toulouse in France and colleagues tested three common types of fungi that can grow inside buildings and found that their mycotoxins could and did disperse into the air [under] normal conditions. 'These toxins can subsequently be aerosolized, at least partly, from moldy material,' they wrote ... 'This transfer to air requires air velocities that can be encountered in 'real life conditions' in buildings.'" Unfortunately, many modern energy-efficient homes make the situation worse rather than better, by preventing air distribution between outside and inside. Appliances that use water, including coffee makers, can also be hidden sources of toxic mold in your home. The Toxic Roots of Many Illnesses Two years ago, I interviewed Suzanne Somers — a well-known actress turned health guru and proliferate author — about her book "TOX-SICK: From Toxic to Not Sick," in which she delves into the toxic roots of disease. Despite eating organic foods, sleeping well and exercising, Suzanne and her husband both struggled with health issues stemming from toxic overload, including toxic black mold that [...]

2018-01-02T11:57:47+00:00 By |

The Pervasiveness of Toxic Petrochemicals in Household Products and How to Avoid Them

It may come as a surprise that your fragrant body wash, baby’s diapers, or lovely scented candles are actually filled with toxic petrochemicals. These include benzene derivatives, aldehydes, phthalates, and countless others. Many are potentially carcinogenic, some disrupt hormone production, and some haven’t been tested to ascertain their safety. The Environmental Protection Agency even lists some petrochemicals on its hazardous waste list.   The personal care industry is one that most deviously sneaks pertrochemicals into their products under the label of”fragrance.”  The Environmental Working Group (EWG) reported: A rose may be a rose. But that rose-like fragrance in your perfume may be something else entirely, concocted from any number of the fragrance industry’s 3,100 stock chemical ingredients, the blend of which is almost always kept hidden from the consumer. Laboratory tests commissioned by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and analyzed by the EWG revealed the following: The average fragrance product tested contained 14 secret chemicals not listed on the label. Many substances have not been assessed for safety in personal care products. Researchers associated some of the chemicals with hormone disruption and allergic reactions. The research identified several chemicals with troubling hazardous properties. Legal Loophole Keeping Consumers in the Dark Historically, manufacturers of personal products needed to protect their secret formulas for each particularfragrance product. They typically made these fragrances from flowers and oils, but today, manufacturers are using the same reasoning to hide hundreds of synthetic chemicals under this one ingredient. “Fragrance secrecy is legal due to a giant loophole in the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973, which requires companies to list cosmetics ingredients on the product labels but explicitly exempts fragrance,” reports EWG. It is difficult for consumers to make informed decisions about what they are buying due to lack of proper disclosure and education. As a result, we are inhaling, ingesting and absorbing these chemicals on a daily basis. How to Avoid Petrochemicals   In addition to fragrant personal care products, many household items contain petrochemicals. These include most cleaning supplies, detergents, food packaging, carpeting, even bedding and mattresses. In addition, they are found in toys, plastics, paint, building materials, and more. Although not all petrochemicals are toxic, some certainly are. Hence, it is best to avoid them whenever you can. Here are some strategies to reduce your exposure to petrochemicals. First and foremost, buy as much organic as you can. This includes organic produce instead of packaged foods, to reduce the amount of packaging you buy. As well, there are now many organic personal care products, organic pillows, organic mattresses, and all sorts of organic cotton products. Another way to avoid toxic chemicals is to make your own personal care products. For some simple DIY beauty products, check out: Simple Aloe Vera DIY Recipes for Hair and Face Care; and Avoid Toxic Chemicals on Your Hair and Skin with These 3 Easy DIY Recipes. When it comes to household cleaners and detergents, you check the quality of your [...]

2018-01-02T05:05:31+00:00 By |

Warning – Hair Dyes, Straighteners, Relaxers Now Shown to Increase Risk of Breast Cancer

For years, women have been told that cancer is simply a spontaneous occurrence based on predisposed genetic traits which increase or decrease your likelihood of acquiring cancer. The biggest secret of the cancer industry is the fact that in truth, environmental exposure to carcinogenic toxins such as pesticides, heavy metals, radiation, and even certain chemical beauty products are some of the largest contributing factors in acquiring cancer.   Ask any scientist and they will tell you that throughout the many thousands of years that humanity has been on the planet, evolution has produced a species which is aptly able to survive in and adapt to their environment. The secret here is that tens of thousands years of evolution did not create humans who are “naturally” pre-programmed to acquire breast cancer. There is almost always another factor, or varying factors, which contribute to the acquisition of breast cancer and come from outside the realm of of human genetics. For example; smoking, aluminum-based deodorants, having an abortion, and many more environmental factors can contribute to an increased risk of varying forms of cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, about 12% of women develop breast cancer at one point throughout their lifetime, affecting around 220,000 new patients each year and killing about 40,000 (about 400 of which are men). Beauty Product Preservatives Contribute To Cancer Something that is often overlooked is the effect that chemical-based beauty products have on women. As it turns out, many make-ups, hair dyes and personal care products contain preservatives which new research is finding to be more carcinogenic than previously thought. Scientists are discovering that these types of preservatives, known as parabens, can be highly carcinogenic, even in low doses. Although parabens are known to mimic the growth effects of estrogens on breast cancer cells, some consider their effect too weak to cause harm…But this might not be true when parabens are combined with other agents that regulate cell growth. – Dale Leitman, Gynecologist and Molecular Biologist, UC Berkeley Hair Dyes And Breast Cancer   In a report from the journal Carcinogenesis, scientists have found a link between increased breast cancer risk and the use of hair dyes, straighteners, relaxers and conditioning creams which contain cholesterol or placenta. While studying data coming from 4,285 women ages 20-75 (over half of which had breast cancer), they found that there was a significant increase in risk of breast cancer for women who used these hair dyes, straighteners, or relaxers. Something you might find interesting is that the risk factor for African Americans was actually different from Caucasian American women in the study. Black women who used dark shades of hair dyes had a 51% higher risk of cancer and a 72% higher risk of estrogen positive breast cancer. White women on the other hand had a 54% higher risk of estrogen positive breast cancer with the use of dark hair dyes and over 2.5x higher risk of estrogen negative breast cancer at 256% with [...]

2018-01-06T00:47:05+00:00 By |