Your Nails Can Give You Insight in to Your Health

Through symptomology our bodies are always telling us the story of our health.  What we need to learn is how to understand the story being told.

Within this space, a well-studied area is fingernails.  Most symptoms reflected by our nails are innocuous.  But others can be indicative of chronic diseases, including cancer.

Our fingernails are composed layers of a protein called keratin.  Healthy fingernails are smooth, uniform in colour and without pits or grooves.

What Your Nails Might be Telling You

Yellow Nails

Nails may yellow with age or develop through the use of acrylic nails or nail polish. Smoking can also stain nails yellow.

If your nails are thick, crumbly, and yellow, it could be due to a fungal infection. 

In rare cases, yellow nails can indicate a more serious condition such as severe thyroid disease, lung disease, diabetes or psoriasis.

Pale Nails

Very pale nails can sometimes be a sign of serious illness such as:

  • Anemia
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Liver disease
  • Malnutrition

 White Nails

If nails are mostly white with darker rims, this can be indicative of liver issues such as hepatitis.

Bluish Nails

Nails with a bluish tint can mean the body isn’t getting enough oxygen. This could be a sign of a lung problem such as emphysema. Some heart problems can be associated with bluish nails.

Dry, Cracked or Brittle Nails

Dry, cracked or brittle nails can be simply a result of lifestyle factors such as having  your hands in water frequently, excessive use of nail polish remover or exposure to other harsh chemicals.  Low humidity can also be a contributing factor.

However, in some cases, dry, brittle nails that frequently crack or split can be linked to a thyroid disease.

Clubbing Nails

Clubbing is when your fingertips become enlarged and the nail becomes curved downward. This can be a sign of low oxygen in your blood and is associated with lung disease. Clubbing can also be related to liver or kidney disease, heart disease and inflammatory bowel disease.

Spoon Nails

This describes nails that curve upward at the edges.  This may be a sign of iron-deficiency anemia, hemochromatosis (excess iron absorption), heart disease or hypothyroidism.

Pitting Nails

Nails that have multiple pits or dents could be a sign of psoriasis. Nail pitting may also be due to connective tissue disorders or alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss.

Dark Discolourations

Black streaks or painful growths on your nail (or nails) needs to be taken seriously, as they may be due to melanoma, a form of skin cancer.

Tips to Keep Your Nails Healthy

Do Not Cut Your Cuticles

The cuticle of the nail is a natural protection against bacteria and fungi. Cutting them could leave you exposed to infections of the nail bed.  What you can do is moisturize overgrown cuticles and encourage them back with a cuticle brush.

Moisturize and Massage Your Nails and Cuticles

Massaging your nails regularly will improve blood circulation making your nails stronger and healthier.

Using olive oil to massage your nails is a wonderful way to moisturize!

Soak Your Nails in Green Tea

Green tea can help to make your nails strong and healthy. The antioxidants in green tea can help prevent brittle nails. Green tea can also help get rid of yellow discolouring.

  • Brew a cup of green tea and allow it to cool. Soak your nails in it for 10 to 15 minutes once or twice a week.

Eat Foods Containing Biotin

Biotin is a water-soluble B vitamin that helps to build healthy nails.  Foods rich in biotin include salmon, carrots, eggs, lentils, sweet potatoes and almonds.

Eat Adequate Protein

As mentioned earlier, nails are made of a protein called keratin.  Eating adequate protein daily will provide the building blocks for growing strong and healthy nails.

References

https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/ss/slideshow-nails-and-health

https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/12/07/10-nail-symptoms.aspx

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/nails/art-20044954

https://healthiack.com/beauty/5-tips-on-how-to-get-healthy-nails-naturally

https://www.top10homeremedies.com/how-to/how-to-make-your-nails-stronger.html

 

 

 

 

 

Rama Lama Lama Ka Dinga Da Dinga Dong

We go together
Like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong…

Are you a Grease fan?  Yes? No? Undecided? It really doesn’t matter because from here on in what I’m going to focus on has nothing to do with one of the all-time best movies EVER!  Except for one stolen line from a song.

And in this space what goes together are food sources that contains both prebiotics and probiotics.

Here is a simple equation that I want you to put into memory:

Prebiotic Food + Probiotic Food = Symbiotic Food

And here is why.  If you want to improve your gut health or maintain the good gut health you already have, there are two things you must do. Consume probiotic foods and consume prebiotics foods. And for the biggest bang for your buck consume them together.

Probiotic foods contain beneficial organisms that help our gut perform its duties.  They have amazing health benefits for us.

Examples of probiotic foods are sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, yogurt, kefir, miso, natto, pure apple cider vinegar (with the mother in it) and true balsamic vinegar.

As a side note here, in order to deliver the beneficial organisms from fermented foods to the gut, as well as the enzymes these foods also contain, do not heated past a temperature of 118 degrees F (48 C).

Prebiotics are types of fibre like inulin, resistant starch, GOS and FOS that help feed our good bacteria. Prebiotics also enhance the absorption of calcium and magnesium and are involved in appetite regulation as well as lipid metabolism.

Examples of prebiotic foods are Jerusalem artichokes, chicory, garlic, onions, beans, lentil, citrus fruits, pears, apples, bananas, berries, almonds broccoli which contains soluble fibres like inulin and FOS.

Resistant starch (starch that escapes from digestion in the small intestine) is found in foods like legumes, potatoes, wheat, corn, rye, barley, rice, spelt, kamut, and other grains.

GOS is found in dairy products.

We have two types of bacteria strains in our gut: residential and transient.

Residential bacteria strains are the bacteria that live in our gut naturally and we must re-populate them to stay healthy. We need prebiotics to help us feed and increase our residential bacteria.

Transient strains of bacteria pass through us (usually within 3 days) but while they are there, they help the gut do its work and keep us healthy. Probiotic foods contain transient bacteria.

Knowing this, it’s easy to understand why consuming both prebiotic and probiotic foods on a regular basis is essential.  It nourishes our gut microbiome and helps to establish new colonies of microorganisms.

Symbiotic Eating

Back to this equation:

Prebiotic Food + Probiotic Food = Symbiotic Food

Symbiotic food combines the characteristics of probiotic food and prebiotic food.  Specific foods that are symbiotic are tofu, sauerkraut and tempeh.

Eating symbiotically by combining foods can be as simple as mixing banana slices into your yogurt or serving sauerkraut with a meal that contains garlic and onions.

Research is continuing to discover how fascinating these substances in food are and how together, with our good bacteria, they are involved in a complex relationship to help us be healthy.


References:

“The benefits of symbiotic foods” SHA Wellness Clinic

Inulin-Type Fructans: Functional Food Ingredients1,2 Marcel B. Roberfroid, 2007 American Society for Nutrition

Health effects of probiotics and prebiotics A literature review on human studies, Henrik Andersson, Nils-Georg Asp, Åke Bruce, Stefan Roos, Torkel Wadström, Agnes E. Wold, Food and Nutrition Research, Vol 45, 2001

Probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics: approaches for modulating the microbial ecology of the gut 1,2M David Collins and Glenn R Gibson, 1999 American Society for Clinical Nutrition

Lowbush Wild Blueberries have the Potential to Modify Gut Microbiota and Xenobiotic Metabolism in the Rat Colon

Alison Lacombe,Robert W. Li,Dorothy Klimis-Zacas,Aleksandra S. Kristo, Shravani Tadepalli,Emily Krauss, Ryan Young,Vivian C. H. Wu mail Published: June 28, 2013 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.006749

A Systematic Screening of Total Antioxidants in Dietary Plants1, Bente L. Halvorsen et al, Institute for Nutrition Research, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo; Akershus University College, Bekkestua, Norway; †Agricultural University of Norway, Ås, Norway; and the Division of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota

Current knowledge of the health benefits and disadvantages of wine consumption, John F. Tomera, Trends in Food Science & Technology – TRENDS FOOD SCI TECHNOL 01/1999; 10(4):129-138. DOI: 10.1016/S0924-2244(99)00035-7

 

 

Raw vs. Cooked – Which Contains More Vitamins and Minerals?

My son challenges me.  It’s kind of this game that we play.  Sometimes it’s not fun.

One of the first things questions he threw at me when I started my practice was:

“Is it better to each fruits and veggies raw or cooked?”

The research commenced!

Honestly he wasn’t the only one to put this question to me so the time was well spent!

Raw vs. Cooked

Let’s finally put an end to the debate of raw vs. cooked.

Of course, in the grand scheme of a well-balanced, nutrient-dense, varied, whole foods diet, the cooked vs. raw debate isn’t that critical for most people.

Where this can become a consideration is for vitamin and mineral deficiencies (or “insufficiencies”). These may be due to digestion or absorption issues, or avoidance of certain foods (due to allergies, intolerances, or choice).

Cancer patients may face some issues with digesting raw fruits and vegetables due to the impact of some treatments on the GI tract.  In such cases cooking these foods will help to break down the fibre, making it easier to digest.

The answer isn’t as simple as “raw is always better” or “cooked is always better.”  As with most nutrition science, it depends on several factors. Some vitamins are destroyed in cooking, while others become easier to absorb (a.k.a. more “bioavailable”).

Here is the skinny on vitamins and minerals in raw foods versus cooked foods.

Foods to eat raw

As a general rule, water soluble nutrients, like vitamin C and the B vitamins, found mostly in fruits and vegetables, are best eaten raw.

The reason why is two-fold.

First, when these nutrients are heated, they tend to degrade;  this is from any heat, be it steaming, boiling, roasting, or frying. Vitamin C and the B vitamins are a bit more “delicate” and susceptible to heat than many other nutrients.

Of course, the obvious way to combat these nutrient losses is to eat foods high vitamin C and B vitamins in their raw form (like in an awesome salad) or to cook them for as short a time as possible (like quickly steaming or blanching).

Fun fact: Raw spinach can contain three times the amount of vitamin C as cooked spinach.

The second reason why foods high in vitamin C and the B vitamins are best eaten raw is that they’re “water soluble.”  So, guess where the vitamins go when they’re cooked in water?  Yes, they’re dissolved right into the water;  this is particularly true for fruits and veggies that are boiled and poached but even for foods that steamed as well.

Of course, if you’re a savvy health nut, you’ll probably keep that liquid to use in your next soup or sauce to preserve those nutrients that are left after cooking. Just don’t overheat it or you may lose what you were aiming to keep.

But, how much loss are we talking about?  Well, of course, it ranges but can go from as low as 15%, up to over 50%.

In short, the water soluble vitamins like vitamin C and the B vitamins degrade with heat and some of what’s left over after they’re heated dissolves into the cooking water. So be sure to cook your fruits and veggies as little as possible, and keep that cooking water to use in your next recipe.

Soaking nuts and seeds

Regarding raw nuts and seeds, it may be beneficial to soak them. Soaking nuts and seeds (for several hours at room temperature) allows some of the minerals to become “unlocked” from their chemical structure, so they’re more absorbable.

Foods to eat cooked

Cooking certain orange and red “beta-carotene rich” veggies (e.g. tomatoes, carrots, & sweet potatoes) can help make this pre-vitamin A compound more absorbable.

Fun fact: One study found that absorption of beta-carotene was 6.5 times greater in stir-fried carrots than in raw carrots!

Of course, eating your fat-soluble vitamins with a bit of fat will help you to absorb more of them, so that’s one factor to consider.

One vegetable that’s best eaten both raw and cooked

Spinach!

And I’m not just saying this to get everyone to eat it any way possible (although, I would love for this to happen…unless you’re allergic, of course).

Spinach contains so many beneficial compounds that it’s great eaten both raw and cooked.

Eating raw spinach preserves the water-soluble vitamins C & the B vitamins.

Eating spinach cooked allows the pre-vitamin A, as well as some of the minerals like iron to be better absorbed. Not to mention how much spinach reduces in size when it’s cooked, so it’s easier to eat way more cooked spinach than raw spinach.

Conclusion:

The old nutrition philosophy of making sure you get a lot of nutrient-dense whole foods into your diet holds true. Feel free to mix up how you eat them, whether you prefer raw or cooked just make sure you eat them.

Having trouble eating enough spinach? Try this flavourful recipe.

Recipe (cooked spinach): Sautéed Spinach

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 bag baby spinach leaves
  • 1 dash salt
  • 1 dash black pepper
  • Fresh lemon

Directions:

  1. In a large cast iron pan heat olive oil.
  2. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute.
  3. Add spinach, salt, pepper and toss with garlic and oil.
  4. Cover pan and cook on low for about 2 minutes.
  5. Saute cook spinach for another minute, stirring frequently, until all the spinach is wilted.
  6. Squeeze fresh lemon juice on top.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Enjoying the cooked spinach with the vitamin C in the “raw” lemon juice helps your body absorb more of the iron.

__________________________________

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/cooking-nutrient-content/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/10-ways-to-get-the-most-nutrients

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chai Tea Latte

I’m not sure what I enjoy the most about Chai tea; its flavour or its smell.  Perhaps it’s the combination of the two that has won my heart.

Chai tea is made from a combination of black tea, ginger and other spices like cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, black pepper and cloves.  And it is these spices that give Chai its many health benefits including anti-inflammatory and anti-tumorigenic properties:

The chemopreventative benefit of a whole foods diet is often attributed to phytochemicals, such as terpenoids and polyphenols, found in fruits, vegetables, and grains. Spices, (which) tend to have high concentrations of these classes of potentially therapeutic agents…Many spices, including cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, clove and ginger, have shown promise as chemopreventative and therapeutic agents in cancer. In vitro and in vivo, each of these compounds has demonstrated potent anti-inflammatory and anti-tumorigenic properties. Thus, chai tea, which contains a combination of all the aforementioned spices, represents an enjoyable means of chemoprevention.

~The Anti-Inflammatory and Chemopreventative Effects of Chai Tea; Tina Kaczor, ND, FABNO

The recipe below is a twist on the normal Chai tea latte that is milk-based.  As well as tasting great, this latte offers you:

  • Antioxidants
  • Healthy fats
  • Fiber

And you can enjoy it cooled, outside on a hot summer day. Or hot, snuggled up by the fire on a cool winter’s night. A true functional food that can really be enjoyed all year long!

Chai Tea Latte Recipe

Serves 1-2

Ingredients

  • 1 bag of rooibos chai tea (rooibos is naturally caffeine-free)
  • 2 cups of boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter (creamy is preferred)
  • 1-2 dates 
  • Cinnamon (optional)

Directions

  1. Cover the teabag and dates with 2 cups of boiling water and steep for about 4-5 minutes.
  2. Discard the tea bag and place tea, soaked dates, tahini and almond butter into a blender.
  3. Blend mixture until creamy.
  4. Sprinkle with cinnamon (if using) and serve right away.

If you want a cold beverage, simply chill it in your refrigerator for a bit and serve over ice.

Enjoy!


References:How Chai Tea Can Improve Your Health: Healthline

The Anti-Inflammatory and Chemopreventative Effects of Chai Tea; Tina Kaczor, ND, FABNO

Common Is Not A Bad Word

I have a great spaghetti sauce recipe that I got from my mom many years ago.

I make it A LOT! It’s a family favourite.

In fact, it may just have been the first meal that I cooked when I got married.

Fast track a few years from that first meal and I became a nutritionist. And with that I thought, it became incumbent upon me to nutricize everything that we ate.  A pinch of chia.  A dash of hemp.

Well the team started to revolt.  Old favs, like gran’s spaghetti sauce, fell from grace.

And here is the thing.  The spaghetti sauce is a simple recipe made up of healthy ingredients.

I learned my lesson quick and hard. Don’t try and fix it if it’s not broken.

One of the seasonings that I use in my spaghetti sauce recipe is Black Pepper, a very common seasoning that I think is under appreciated and quite honestly not given the respect that it deserves.

Heap On Those Seasonings!

Herbs and spices play a big role in the kitchen and flavouring food is only of their amazing skills.

Have a look:

  • The strong aromatic flavour of herbs and spices stimulates the palette and the digestive juices
  • Each culinary herb plays some role in the GI tract
  • Every herb and spice have health promoting phytonutrients

And there is a growing body of evidence to support the notion that culinary herbs and spices have multiple anticancer characteristics including antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-tumorigenic properties.

Health Benefits Of Black Pepper

So back to that common old everyday spice Black Pepper.  Black Pepper is harvested from a flowering vine and cultivated for its fruit, the peppercorn.  Usually the peppercorn is dried and used as a seasoning.

Along with its often-partnered pal salt,  Black Pepper is used in many, many recipes that we google.

And it truly does bring a lot to the party.

Here are some of the amazing health benefits that Black Pepper has to offer:

√It stimulates the taste buds which signals the stomach to secret Hydrochloric Acid (HCL)

√It helps prevent the formation of gas

√It promotes sweating and urination 

√It is an antioxidant and  an antibacterial

√It is an anti-inflammatory

And perhaps its greatest benefit is that it aids in the absorption of other nutrients. 

Black Pepper has been shown to enhance the absorption of calcium and selenium as well as beneficial plant compounds such as those found in green tea and turmeric

Black Pepper deserves its spot on the top shelf of our spice rack and is a great example that sometimes, often times, common is just fine!


References

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27529277/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29497610/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/black-pepper-benefits#710.-Other-benefits