Organic or Gimmick?

5 12 2013

Photo 63

Hey everyone- check out my latest post on organic food over at the Huffington Post!




Got Milk?

25 10 2013

The truth about MILK

After writing my piece on soy a few days ago, I got a request to elaborate on my comments about milk:

“It’s funny that soy gets hammered for its phytoestrogen content, but another staple in the North American diet- dairy- provides 60-80% of the estrogens in the human diet. Drinking milk every day is far more likely to affect sex hormones than moderate amounts of soy.”

Now, before we get carried away, just remember: I love dairy. Milk is a wonderful blend of protein, fat and carbohydrate, has anabolic effects, is a great source of calcium, and is a much healthier choice (on the surface) than soda or a glass of juice. There have been times in my life when I was drinking a lot of milk, and I have seen friends use milk as a muscle/weight gainer with great success. With that being said, I have taken dairy out of my diet. Despite the macronutrient benefits of milk (which are especially beneficial to someone like myself who is trying to build muscle), this is my personal choice based on the information that I have at hand.

Sidebar: I continue to supplement with whey protein, which comes from milk, because it is arguably the best fuel for building muscle and I wouldn’t be able to get enough protein in my diet otherwise. Additionally, high levels of the amino acid cysteine in whey have demonstrated the ability to prevent the buildup of free radicals in the human body, decreasing cancer risk.

To start, let’s address the estrogen comment above. All milk, no matter the source, contains estrogen (and progesterone), as the milk comes from female cows which are most always pregnant. As I’ve mentioned before, estrogen is bad because it has fat-storing properties, not to mention that elevated levels of estrogen in men have been correlated to the incidence of prostate cancer in men; some studies also show a drop in testosterone in men consuming 2+ glasses of milk daily. These hormones could also affect the sexual maturation of children, delaying the process for boys and accelerating the process for girls. As far as I know, there’s no way to avoid ingesting these hormones in milk; if the milk comes from a cow, it contains these hormones.

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On to the next hot topic: cancer. From what I’ve seen, there are studies linking milk to increased rates of certain cancers, but decreased rates of others. For one, casein (milk protein) has been linked to an increased incidence of cancer. This claim comes from The China Study, which essentially tells us that eating animal protein will kill us. The thing about The China Study is that it was epidemiological in nature and can therefore not conclude cause and effect; the study essentially cherry-picked the results it wanted to find and neglected to write about the other possibilities. I could elaborate more, but if you want to read the details, check out this breakdown. If not, just understand that anything from The China Study should be ignored, as it is not fact.

There are other claims that cancer in humans can be caused by elevated levels of Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) and Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). IGF-1 is a hormone that is important for cell growth. As such, it is important for developing children and for building muscle, but elevated levels increase cancer rates in humans (it accelerates the growth of cancer cells). Cows contain Bovine Growth Hormone naturally, but in the 80s they found a way to create rBGH to increase milk production in cattle. rBGH stimulates increased levels of IGF-1 in milk. This may slightly increase IGF-1 levels in humans, although studies show that ingesting IGF-1 leads to negligible increases in human IGF-1 levels, as it is digested much like other proteins. The bad news? rBGH tends to increase the number of udder infections in cattle, so the animals are given antibiotics, meaning that both pus and antibiotics can sometimes be found in milk. The good news? rBGH is only used in the US and is banned in Canada and other industrialized countries; it’s good to be Canadian!

And rBGH free!

And rBGH free!

Other notes?

  • Some studies link milk consumption in children to the development of type-1 diabetes. Other studies do not. It is however, in my opinion, just another reason to delay or completely prevent giving milk to children.
  • Milk does not necessarily give you strong bones. Adequate levels of vitamin D are far more important, as it is this vitamin that regulates calcium absorption; without vitamin D, calcium will not give you strong bones. Some milk is indeed fortified with vitamin D, but the amount is very, very low. As a matter of fact, the countries with the highest levels of osteoporosis and associated fractures are those that consume the most milk. Not coincidentally, these countries are located in northern countries and receive little-to-no vitamin D from the sun. Additionally, new studies have shown that excessive calcium levels can actually be detrimental to health, leading to heart disease and an increased mortality. Adequate calcium levels can be achieved through other sources like leafy greens and canned fish.

In the end, I’ve made a personal decision to limit dairy, and especially milk, in my diet. In my opinion, there are simply too many better options for things that I can put in my body. Additionally, I feel pretty strongly that children should consume very little milk; it’s certainly not a matter of life or death, but I don’t feel like taking the risk of altering the sexual development of my children… you know, the ones that I might someday have. For those out there who want to keep milk in the diet, it would be prudent to look for 3 things:

  1. rBGH-free – not an issue here in Canada, but Americans beware.
  2. Buy organic. Organic milk ensures that it comes from cows that have access to an open pasture, have not had infections/been treated with antibiotics, and eat organic feed that does not consist of any harmful pesticides, chemicals, fertilizers, or genetically modified ingredients. Organic milk also has more beneficial fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins and comes from healthier animals.
  3. Choose raw milk from a local farmer. There are risks associated with drinking raw milk, but it has the best nutritional profile of any milk and poses the least threat to the development of human disease.

As with most things, a bit of dairy here and there likely won’t be an issue for most adults (unless lactose or casein intolerant), but unlike what we’ve been told our entire lives: milk is certainly not a necessary part of a complete diet.

For more information on milk or other nutrition advice, don’t hesitate to drop me a line.


So What’s the Deal with Soy?

18 10 2013

Soy-Bean-Safe-by-Flickr-kattebelletjeFor as long as I can remember, I’ve had a pretty negative image of soy in my head. I’ve heard that it can cause cancer. I’ve heard that it affects hormones in the body. I’ve heard that it can be detrimental to overall protein absorption. For these reasons, I’ve always kept a solid distance from any product containing soy: tofu, soy milk, miso soup; if it contained soy, I wasn’t interested. All because I’ve heard that soy is the devil, but without ever having looked into the matter. Well, I’ve finally looked into it, and this is what I’ve found…

What is soy?

Soy is derived from soybeans, a plant native to eastern Asia, where it was originally grown for use as a fertilizer. Although not introduced to North America until the 18th century, the US now produces roughly half of the world’s soy crops. Originally grown in the US as a source of animal feed, soy became part of the human diet in the early 1900s, mostly because there was a limit to the amount of soy that could be fed to animals (too much soy caused reproductive issues and other diseases in animals), so they started to market the excess soy as human food; sounds legit. Soy production began to boom during the industrial revolution as technologists experimented with cheap meat alternatives; it was marketed as a “health food” to mask its reputation as a cheap animal feed and the soy industry spent millions of dollars to establish the FDA’s cholesterol-lowering campaign. The crop really took off in the 1990s, especially when genetically modified beans were introduced; upwards of 90% of all soy beans are now genetically modified in some way or shape. This has made the export of US soy crops quite difficult, as most other countries have far stricter regulations on genetically modified foods.

From a nutrition point of view, soy contains roughly 42% protein, 35% carbohydrate (mostly fiber and slow-digesting starches) and 23% fat (mostly polyunsaturated). Soy protein is a complete protein, which is why it has been marketed as a great solution for non-meat eaters. The PDCAAS for soy (a measurement of protein quality) is just under 1.0, which is the highest score. Soy protein isolate has a score of 1.0, making it one of highest quality sources of protein. alongside animal sources.

Fermented vs. Nonfermented

Soy foods can be broken down into two categories: fermented and nonfermented. The fermentation process deactivates some of the anti-nutrients (toxic phytates, etc.) in soy that cause digestive distress and inhibit mineral and protein absorption; the highest-quality fermented soy products are also made with organic soybeans. Popular fermented foods include miso, tempeh, natto, tamari/soy sauce, and fermented versions of tofu and soy milk. Popular nonfermented soy foods include soy milk, tofu, soybean oil, edamame, and processed meat alternatives, supplements, drinks and snacks that contain soy protein isolate, soy protein concentrate, texturized vegetable protein, or other soy additives (soy lethicin is an extremely popular emulsifier and is found in an outrageous number of processed foods. Studies show mixed results, but packaging never indicates if the lecithin has come from a fermented or unfermented source. We have all ingested this product at one point or another, and at such low levels, I don’t imagine it can do much harm, but it’s just another reason to avoid processed food). These nonfermented soy products have been linked to digestive distress, immune system breakdown, reproductive issues, higher risk of heart disease and cancer, and a variety of other issues. Additionally, please do not feed your baby soy-based formulas, as high levels of this low-quality can drastically affect the sexual development and reproductive health of children.

Regarding fermented soy, these foods can be quite beneficial to overall health. Fermented soy products are high in vitamin K, which is one of the most difficult vitamins to get through food, and a vitamin that acts synergistically with vitamin D to help prevent osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and other health problems.

In a nutshell, fermented soy is healthy and high levels of unfermented soy is detrimental to overall health.

Makes you think...

Makes you think…

Does soy lower testosterone levels?

Soy contains phytoestrogens (such as isoflavones) which are a group of natural estrogen receptor modulators found in various foods; soy is the most potent food source. Now, when soy protein is extracted from the bean, most of these phytoestrogens are lost; the ones that are left however are similar to the estrogen hormone, estradiol, which can potentially affect our human hormones estrogen and testosterone. At low levels (ie, with unexcessive soy consumption), these phytoestrogens are quite unlikely to affect human hormones. However, at high levels, soy consumption has a far greater chance to affect our sex hormones. To back-up the statement that reasonable soy intake is unlikely to affect our sex hormones, there are several studies that demonstrate that soy protein acts much like any other source of protein when it comes to building lean muscle or improving athletic performance. If soy negatively affected testosterone levels, muscle synthesis and athletic performance would suffer. Unless you are crushing back veggie burgers topped with tofu and edamame on a daily basis, you can probably mix in a bit of soy protein every now and then without any detrimental effects.

On that note, it’s funny that soy gets hammered for its phytoestrogen content, but another staple in the North American diet- dairy- provides 60-80% of the estrogens in the human diet. Drinking milk every day is far more likely to affect sex hormones than moderate amounts of soy. Again, low amounts of these foods are unlikely to cause a problem, but it is interesting how some foods get a free pass and others get demonized.

NOTE: I still love dairy, but I rarely consume it anymore because of this issue. In my opinion, there are simply better products to consume.


Should I avoid soy?

Despite the muddy history and bad reputation, a little bit of soy in the diet appears to be harmless, and if you are only consuming fermented sources, it can likely benefit your health. However, excessive consumption of soy could very well lead to health issues. What is excessive? Consuming soy at every meal is definitely excessive. I’d go as far as to recommend limiting soy consumption to a few times a week, just to be safe; I’d definitely be wary of daily soy consumption. As I mentioned earlier, avoiding soy on a daily basis can be difficult for most people as it is a part of nearly all processed foods, but this is just another reason on the long list of why natural unprocessed food sources should make up the majority of the human diet.

In conclusion…

Soy is not the devil. As a matter of fact, fermented soy products can be quite beneficial. Even unfermented soy products don’t appear to be too harmful if consumption is low, so as usual, moderation and balance reign supreme; it’s all about avoiding the extreme. As a general rule of thumb, don’t fear fermented soy sources and do your best to avoid processed foods, as this is your best defense against harmful unfermented soy. After all my research, I’m not going to change my diet to include more soy, and I’m certainly not going to start using a soy protein supplement, but it’s nice to know which soy products can benefit my health and which soy products I should continue to avoid.

That’s it and that’s all for today- happy Friday!



Eggs: Still Awesome

26 07 2013


A quick one for all you egg-lovers or haters out there. Remember when I told you that eggs were awesome? Well, they’re still awesome, according to Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition. And if you’re going to trust any one person in this world about nutrition, it’s Berardi. The major take-home points:

1) In controlled trials (the best kind of research, not cherry-picked data) where people were instructed to eat up to three eggs per day on a weight loss diet, the subjects lost weight, decreased inflammation and either maintained or improved their blood cholesterol levels- and these folks were consuming 555 mg of cholesterol every day from eggs alone, which is almost double the recommended daily allowance by the American Heart Association (again, dietary cholesterol has next-to-nothing to do with blood cholesterol!)

2) Unless you have diabetes or a rare genetic disorder, eating a few eggs every day is not bad for you.

3) Egg yolks (you know, the part that people throw away?) are one of the most nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich and vitamin-laden foods on the planet, containing 90 percent of the calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, thiamin, B6, folate, pantothenic acid and B12 of the egg, as well as all of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E, the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and the ever-important choline (massively important for pregnant women, and great for anyone as it acts as an anti-inflammatory, and is associated with lowered risk of heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and more).

4) The only reason to throw away yolks is if you want to cut some calories while still getting a high-quality protein from the egg white… but don’t neglect yolks entirely, for the reason stated above.

5) Eggs don’t cause heart disease. Diets high in sugar and refined carbs are the culprit, as I’ve mentioned before.

In the end, don’t over think things. Eggs are a nutrient-rich superfood and almost everyone should eat a few from time to time. As with most things, avoid the extremes (don’t ban eggs from the diet but don’t eat 10 every day), and eggs will surely be a tremendous addition to your life.

For more info on eggs or nutrition plans, you know how to find me!

Happy Friday!


Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate: Try Again

20 05 2013

Not long ago the US government came out with the Choose My Plate campaign, aimed to show Americans how to eat properly. This is what they concluded:myplate_green

In essence, fill your plate with half fruit and veggies, a quarter grains, a quarter protein, and a glass of milk. Not bad… but where are the fats? Why so little protein? Fruit at every meal? Grains at every meal? Dairy at every meal? No water??? Obviously this could use some tweaking.

Enter, the new Health Eating Plate published by the “experts” at the Harvard School of Public Health. Their take on things?:


For details on what they changed and why they changed it, feel free to take a look at their website here. Or read their side-by-side comparison. It’s great because they do make some improvements, but they are definitely still off target. To me, this comes across as an organization shooting off at the mouth parading as a “nutrition expert” without actually having done all their homework. They deliver some important points, but they absolutely whiff on others. Here’s my breakdown:

Grains: MyPlate doesn’t specify whole grains, which is bad. Harvard specifies whole grains and suggests avoiding refined grains, which is great. My only beef with this section is that grains really aren’t all that necessary in the diet at all (the fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc., can all be found in other foods like fruit, veggies, fats and lean protein) and it’s legitimately difficult for the average person to ensure that they are consuming actual whole grains and not unhealthy, refined carbs due to misleading advertising and nutrition facts labels. There’s really no need for people to consume this many grains, and the correlation between grains and a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease is about as accurate as saturated fats leading to higher risk of CVD- there are many other factors in play- if you’re eating lots of grains alongside lots of sugar, I’m going to bet your health isn’t great.

Fruits and vegetables: Harvard breaks huge news by specifying that potatoes and french fries are not vegetables; they also make is very clear that MyPlate overlooks this distinction. If this isn’t grasping at straws, trying excessively hard to make the old recommendations look bad, then I don’t know what is. Both specify half a plate of fruit and veggies. I won’t argue with this. I can’t put enough emphasis on the importance of eating your veggies!

Protein: MyPlate doesn’t specify which kinds of protein are healthy, so Harvard took it upon themselves to do so. Their conclusions?

  • Red meat and processed meat (read: saturated fat) is unhealthy “since eating even small quantities of these foods on a regular basis raises the risk of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, and weight gain.”
  • Eggs should be limited (despite a link to another Harvard paper indicating that eggs have a ton of health benefits and should only be limited for people with pre-existing health problems)
  • Beans and nuts are good sources of protein

This is where I start to get frustrated. The Harvard School of Public Health (and many other outlets) have pumped out lots of articles indicating the opposite of these findings. You know how I feel about saturated fat, and bacon, and eggs. Additionally, beans and nuts do contain protein, but they are no substitute for animal protein in both quality and quantity. Sure, the MyPlate guidelines didn’t specify anything, but at least they didn’t perpetuate outdated myths about healthy eating. For shame Harvard, for shame.


Healthy oils: “MyPlate is silent on fat, which could steer consumers toward the type of low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet that makes it harder to control weight and worsens blood cholesterol profiles.” Is it not incredible that they mention this here, but overall are suggesting the kind of diet that will inevitably end up being high carb, low protein and low fat??? Suggesting that people use healthy oils but avoid saturated fat will not result in enough fat in the diet. Additionally, they go on to suggest using “healthy vegetable oils, like olive, canola, soy, corn, sunflower, peanut, and others, in cooking, on salad, and at the table. Limit butter, and avoid unhealthy trans fats from partially hydrogenated oils.” So wait, now vegetable oils like soy, corn, and sunflower are healthy? Are we trying to increase our omega-6 levels to the point where we develop chronic disease? But saturated fat is the devil? Congrats to Harvard for suggesting that oils and fats should be part of a balanced diet, but they certainly failed on their recommendations; as I’ve been saying all along: balance those fats!

Water: Harvard puts this in, where MyPlate does not. This is most excellent. It doesn’t give any indication about how much should be consumed daily though, and I think this is a huge oversight. Water is extremely important!

Dairy: MyPlate suggests dairy at every meal; this is a bit much. Harvard goes to the opposite extreme, saying that we should “limit milk and dairy products to one to two servings per day, since high intakes are associated with increased risk of prostate cancer and possibly ovarian cancer.” I’ve never read about any links between dairy and cancer, nor does Harvard provide any research links. Dairy certainly isn’t necessary in the diet, but I don’t think there’s any reason to avoid it like the plague. Stick to low-fat dairy, and consume it in moderation, and everything will be OK.

Sugary drinks: MyPlate makes no recommendations, whereas Harvard says that juice should be limited to 1 glass per day, and other sugary drinks should be avoided completely. I love that they bring to light the pitfalls of juice and other sugary beverages, but why does juice get a pass? It’s just as bad as soda! Avoid sugar, and avoid liquid calories as much as possible for optimal health.

Staying active: MyPlate says nothing, Harvard has a little red dude running across their plate. The mere fact that they mention staying healthy is great. Kudos.

In conclusion, Harvard made a lot of improvements, but I think it comes across as cry for attention- “Look at us! We’re from Harvard! We know everything about everything!” If Harvard wanted to make improvements, they could have done so without haphazardly dissecting the MyPlate suggestions and playing a game of one-upmanship. In the end, they took a few steps forward and a few back; not much to write home about.

As always, I’m going to defer to the real experts and suggest you read this article by Precision Nutrition. They’re the industry leaders, and they will not lead you astray. Their Plate?:Berardi-Anytime-Plate-S

Yep, that about covers it; and they have different “Plates” for different diets and for different activity levels. Again, give this article a read, and you’ll be ahead of the game.

For more information on proper nutrition, you know how to find me!

Happy short week Canada!


Coconut Oil: About The Only Oil You Need

10 03 2013

I often get asked about fats and oils, and which are actually best for your health. The answer really isn’t cut and dry, but I will sing the praises of one product in particular: coconut oil. I will also mention the value/risks associated with other options, but here is why you should consider coconut oil as the main cooking oil in your diet.


What is coconut oil?

Coconut oil is extracted from the meat of coconut. It is solid at room temperature and is slow to oxidize, resistant to rancidity, and can last on the shelf for up to two years. It has been used for generations as a primary source of fat for millions of people in heart-healthy tropical countries like the Philippines, India and Thailand, etc., with seemingly no adverse side effects.

Why coconut oil so great?

NOTE: Many commercial coconut oils are refined, bleached and deodorized and contain chemicals used in processing. Make sure that your coconut oil is certified organic, which  means it contains no genetically engineered ingredients, and is free of bleaching, deodorizing, refining and hydrogenation.

Coconut oil has gotten a bad reputation because it contains a very high amount of saturated fat (almost 90%), which has been linked to cardiovascular disease, obesity, etc.  As I mentioned in my post on fats, saturated fat is only dangerous to human health if consumed disproportionately to unsaturated fats, and especially if consumed in a diet alongside many sugar-laden, highly-processed foods. The saturated fat content of coconut oil is actually beneficial due to its composition of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs such as lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid) which possess antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. Lauric acid is critical against viruses and bacteria associated with herpes, flu, HIV,  Listeria, and giardia, capric acid is the main combatant against Candida albicans (cause of yeast infections), and caprylic acid is particularly good at battling Staphylococcus and Streptococcus bacteria. Long story short, coconut oil keeps crappy health problems at bay.

**Bonus tip for pregnant/lactating mothers: Virgin coconut oil increases the amount of capric acid in breast milk; this helps to increase levels of good cholesterol (HDL) relative to bad cholesterol (LDL). HDL helps protect children from infections and toxins and infections in children are typically accompanied by high levels of LDL relative to HDL.

MCTs are additionally beneficial due to the way they are handled by the human body. Most saturated fats are made of long-chain fatty acids, which undergo a long digestive process in the body and are therefore not a great energy source (they are better used for cellular function, etc.). MCTs are broken down quickly and processed in the liver, bypassing the long lymphatic system route followed by most fats, and can therefore be used as an immediate source of energy for the body (remember when I said you should drink coffee with coconut oil first thing in the morning before working out?…) Studies have also shown that MCTs may lead to greater energy expenditure and assist fat and weight loss by promoting healthy  functioning of the thyroid gland and by reducing stress on the pancreas, resulting in a more efficient metabolism.


If this weren’t enough, coconut oil also reduces the work load on the liver and prevents the accumulation of fat; it helps dissolve kidney stones;  it is useful in treating pancreatitis; it helps regulate blood sugar thereby preventing and treating diabetes; it encourages the absorption of calcium and strengthens teeth and stops decay. Coconut oil is also rich in linoleic acid, oleic acid, polyphenols, vitamin E, vitamin K, and iron.

In the end, coconut oil has been linked to many health benefits which include hair health, skin health, increased metabolism, improved weight loss/fat loss, overall immune health, teeth health, bone health, maintenance of healthy cholesterol levels, and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

Cooking with oil

As coconut oil is solid at room temperature, it is used almost exclusively as a cooking oil in the diet. Technically you could eat it with a spoon, or spread it over other foods, but you will only do this if you absolutely love the rich taste and texture. NOTE: Most coconut oil does not taste much like coconut, it typically has a very neutral, unaggressive taste- I am not a big fan of coconut, but love the taste of coconut oil. Heating fats/oils changes their characteristics and can turn healthy products into dangerous/carcinogenic chemicals. This is why it is critical to match an oil’s heat tolerance with cooking temperature (some oils must be cooked on low heat, others can handle high heat). Some studies have found that polyunsaturated oils like soya, canola, sunflower, and corn oils degrade easily to toxic compounds when heated. This can lead to cancer, cardiovascular disease, birth defects, etc. As I also covered in my post of fats, polyunsaturated fats are important in the maintenance of general health, but heat- and oxidative-degradation turns these oils into very harmful substances.

Please don't put this in your body.

Please don’t put this in your body.

Coconut oil is truly the king of cooking oils as its structure doesn’t change under high-heat conditions (it does not release free radicals when cooking).  The only other alternatives that I would condone are butter (although it has a very low smoke point, but at least doesn’t turn into a harmful product) and extra virgin olive oil- just make sure you don’t overheat it!  You can literally switch over to coconut oil for any kind of stove-top cooking/frying – I now use it for everything from sauteing vegetables to frying eggs; and it is all delicious. The health benefits alone are worth making the switch. Extra virgin olive oil is a great oil, but not if used to cook at high temperatures.

Notes on other common fats/oils:

Extra virgin olive oil: A monounsaturated fat, and a great choice in the diet in a non-heated form, such as in a salad dressing. Extra virgin olive oil, however, begins to oxidize at around 375 degrees F, killing the antioxidant polyphenols that make the oil so healthy and creating a harmful product to the body; cook over medium heat if you must use it for frying.

Flaxseed oil (linseed oil): Full of the essential omega-3 fatty acid ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). Must be kept refrigerated or it will go rancid, and is rarely used for cooking due do its lower smoke point (~350 F). You can use it unheated in shakes, salad dressing, etc.

Palm oil: Similar to coconut oil in that it is a tropical oil, it has a high saturated fat content (~40%, half that of coconut oil), and can withstand high heat without turning into a harmful substance; unlike coconut oil in that its molecular structure and fatty acid content do not offer the same health benefits, and there are sustainability/ethical issues surrounding its production. I would suggest avoiding it.

Butter: Yes it is a saturated fat, but it is nutritious (contains vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, antioxidents, etc.) and it can be used safely for cooking applications. Whipped butter has fewer calories, and is a good choice; spreadable butters usually contain canola oil or trans fats, so read your labels! Ghee is also a good option, and is essentially a butter that is free of impurities and cholesterol.

Margarine: It honestly has no place in any diet. Most forms are hydrogenated (contain trans fat), and it is extremely harmful if heated. Margarine is one molecule away from being a plastic. There are simply too many other options to choose from.

NOTE: When comparing butter vs. margarine, think: natural animal product vs. hydrogenated, oxidized, chemically created substance. It’s a no-brainer. This is a pretty great article on fats/oils in general.

Polyunsaturated oils: Mostly vegetable oils including corn, soy, safflower, sunflower and canola (rapeseed oil), are not recommended for cooking, nor do they have any real advantages over other options. These oils contain high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids (remember, we want to limit our omega-6 and increase our omega-3, ie fish oil), which are highly susceptible to heat damage: frying destroys the antioxidants in these oils resulting in damaged/mutated omega-6 fats in your diet (potentially carcinogenic), further compounding the health issues associated with a poor omega-6:omega-3 ratio. NOTE: Canola oil is a very common cooking oil (especially in restaurants), but it contains few antioxidants/health benefits and over 90% of it is GMO (genetically modified- so if you’re not into that…); its high smoke-point (it can handle being cooked at high temperatures before turning harmful) is really its only advantage- it does contain a good amount of the omega-3 ALA, but you’re better off getting this from flax, nuts, fish, fish oil, etc.


In conclusion

Oils, no matter the type, should be consumed in small amounts. Oils are highly caloric due to their high fat content, but this is why it is important to choose healthy oils when we do use them. I now literally only purchase coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, and flaxseed oil. Coconut oil for my coffee and for frying, extra virgin olive oil for salad dressing/toppings, and flaxseed oil for shakes. Along with my fish oil, this combination gets me all the nutrition one could ask for from oils, and without any of the harmful trans fats and degraded compounds associated with other oils on the market.

For more information on fats/oils, or their associated cooking applications, don’t hesitate to reach out to me, or to post a comment below.


Bacon Wins Again!

2 03 2013

Ladies and gentlemen, it is no longer a myth: bacon actually is the ultimate cure for a hangover.

The ultimate hangover cure. Seriously.

The ultimate hangover cure. Seriously.

Tell me more awesome things about bacon you say?

– Choline, found in bacon, has been found to increase the brain development, memory and recall of unborn babies. Pregnant women have been found to have lower reserves of this important micronutrient.  Pregnant ladies- eat your bacon!… or you know, eggs, which have a lot of choline too, and many other health benefits.

– A single serving of bacon (3 strips) has roughly 100 calories, 8 of fat and 7 g of protein. FACT: The majority of the fat in bacon is unsaturated (the healthier kind), at a ratio of about 2:1. The fat in bacon is actually pretty healthy.

– The more fat you can drain away from cooked bacon, the less caloric it will be. If you don’t mind using a microwave, you can microwave bacon between pieces of paper towel to slightly lower the fat and caloric content.

– Bacon contains a lot of sodium. I can’t sugar-coat this. If you have hypertension, you might want to stay away. However, if you are an athlete, eat up!

– Healthy, but untasty, foods can be made palatable with bacon. Don’t like liver? Wrap it in bacon. Brussel sprouts? BACON. Do it.


These are merely suggestions, there are no rules.

– Bacon reduces stress. Case in point:

You smiled. Don't act like you didn't.

You smiled. Don’t act like you didn’t.

Also, there is this.

– Bacon is the perfect breakfast. Protein and fat to fill you up and prevent a huge insulin spike caused by evil carbohydrates. Add some incredibly nutrient dense eggs into the mix with some dark leafy green vegetables and you couldn’t draw up a better way to start the day.

Seriously, bacon isn’t all that bad for you. Avoid eating copious amounts (much like with any other food) and it has a place in any diet.