Category: Lifestyle

Beans, healthy food

Top 10 Sources of Plant Protein

What is Plant Protein?

By now, we’re all getting used to the idea of protein coming from sources other than meat. It’s found in legumes, vegetables and whole grains and we don’t have to be vegan to prefer it.

Without reeling off big words in physiology, plant protein is just that: protein from plants. Your body doesn’t mind whether you nourish it with protein from steak or nuts, so you’re not losing anything by choosing plant protein. In fact, by reducing your meat intake, you are lowering your risk of heart disease and you will get the satisfactory feeling of knowing you ate your veggies. You’re choosing a sustainable and healthy option!

“I think that the U.S. is one of several developed countries that have just made it seem like protein is so pivotal to our health when in other countries their base diet is plant protein, beans and grains. I think it’s just evolved to be a cultural thing”
~ Dr. Michael Greger, internationally-recognized lecturer and physician

You do not need to combine a plant-based protein with a meat protein for it to become a “complete protein.” This is a myth. Plant protein is made up of essential amino acids, which our bodies can’t produce so they must come from our diet. All essential amino acids come from plants.

Top 5 Sources of Plant Protein

If there’s one thing you take from this post, is should be which foods are rich in plant protein. Dr. Leslie, registered dietitian and instructor at University of Hawaii, explains ideal sources of plant proteins:

“Any type of whole grain, beans (including tofu and edamame and soy milk), and nuts (including peanut butter). In terms of vegetables – primarily from the dark green leafy vegetables, so broccoli, spinach, kale, all of those have protein and a lot of people don’t realize that.”

Here’s our Top 10 List:

(1) Lentils

Lentils are affordable and easy to cook. From soups to curries and salads, lentils are a versatile ingredient that make for a great meat substitute.

Beans, healthy food

(2) Beans

Beans, especially soy beans, are a great source of protein. Beans are great for salads, tacos, chillies, or simply baked and seasoned on their own. If you buy dried black beans, remember to soak them for a few hours minimum, and then simmer them over heat before eating them. 

Source: Ruby Ran/Flickr

(3) Hemp Hearts

Hemp hearts have a sweet and nutty flavour. Sprinkle them on salads and cereal, add them to smoothies and baked goods and blend into stews and soups to thicken.

chia seeds, healthy food

(4) Chia Seeds

Similar to hemp hearts, chia seeds have a mild natty flavour. Sprinkle them on cereal, sauces, vegetables, yogurt or rice dishes. Add them to a glass of water and they will expand and create a gel-like texture.

quinoa salad, healthy grain, healthy food

(5) Quinoa

Quinoa is similar to couscous and is as versatile as rice. It can be served as a side dish with butter or oil, salt and pepper or other seasonings. It goes very well in veggie burgers, tossed in salads or mixed into stews. If you’re looking for a warm, hearty, flavourful breakfast on a cold day, you can’t go past a quinoa breakfast bowl. Trying mixing quinoa with dried or fresh fruit, cinnamon, almond or coconut milk and honey.

Sesame seeds, plant protein, healthy food

(6) Seeds

Protein-rich seeds include hemp, flax, chia, sesame and sunflower. Sprinkle seeds on salads and mix them into desserts and snacks.

Nuts for protein, healthy food

(7) Nuts

Protein-rich nuts include almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios and brazil nuts. Nuts can be blended into smoothies, mixed into salads, yogurt and can be enjoyed on their own as a snack.

edamame, vegetable protein, healthy food

(8) Edamame

If you’ve been to a Japanese restaurant you’ve probably enjoyed edamame as a snack. Edamame are fresh green soybeans. To cook edamame that’s still in the pod, boil the pods in water with some salt, or steam them. They can be eaten hot or cold and can be added to risottos, stir frys or salads.

chickpeas, healthy legume, protein rich

(9) Chickpeas

Chickpeas are incredibly versatile. You can eat them hot or cold, canned or dried. They can be roasted and added to salads, used as a substitute for croutons in soup, or simply seasoned with salt and eaten on their own. They are best known for being turned into hummus.

tofu, protein rich, healthy food, plants

(10) Tofu

Derived from soya, tofu is a staple ingredient in Chinese and Thai cooking. Tofu is an excellent source of not only protein but amino acids, iron and calcium. It’s best enjoyed stir fried or in noodle bowls.


How much is enough?

You don’t have to spend too much time worrying about your protein consumption, provided you eat an array of grains and vegetables.

According to Harvard Medical School, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. That is the bare minimum you need to eat to prevent getting sick. This is calculated by: Weight (in pounds) x 0.36 = recommended daily protein intake (grams).

A sedentary young woman that weighs 155 pounds should be consuming 56 grams of protein per day.

Further reading:

If you’re curious about the risks associated with animal proteins such as meat and dairy, this article by the the University of Hawaii will be of interest to you.

Decoding egg carton labels

Shopping for eggs can be confusing when cartons are plastered with marketing jargon. Cage-free? Organic? Brown or white? We have decoded egg carton labels for you and have compiled some tips on what really matters and what doesn’t, when it comes to buying eggs.

The label: Conventional eggs (Grade AA, A, B)

What it means: The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a rating system for eggs that is based on quality factors including freshness, defects and shell attributes. Eggs are given grades:

  • Grade AA have thick, firm whites and are best for frying
  • Grade A are similar to AA eggs, except the whites are slightly less firm
  • Grade B usually have thinner whites and are ideal for omelettes and cake mixes

These are eggs originate from “commercially farmed” chickens that are typically housed in dark, enclosed spaces with no access to the outdoors.

The label: Cage-free

What it means: Cage-free eggs are laid by hens that are free to roam in an open space. This term is deceiving because they are not completely free-roaming hens – the “open space” is typically inside a barn or poultry house without access to the outdoors. Organic and regular hens can be cage-free.

The label: Free-Range

What it means: Free-range eggs are one step up from cage-free eggs. The hens have access to the outdoors, though the duration or quality of time spent outdoors is unclear. These are better than regular eggs because of the superior treatment of the animal.

The label: Certified organic

What it means: USDA organic certified eggs means the hens receive organic feed that does not contain toxic pesticides or herbicides. These hens are never caged and must have access to the outdoors (free-range).

The label: Omega-3 enriched

What it means: Omega-3 enriched eggs come from hens whose feed is enriched with healthy fatty acids, typically in the form of flaxseed. If your diet contains oily fish (such as salmon, trout and sardines) or you take fish-oil supplements, consuming Omega-3 enriched eggs may not have a huge impact on your diet.

The label: Pasture-raised 

What it means: Pasture-raised eggs are laid by hens that are free to roam on fresh pasture. Their diet is organic. The colour of the egg yolk will be bright orange, in comparison to egg yolks from caged hens that tend to be dull and pale yellow. You can find these at a Farmer’s market or your local farmer.

Source: Jules
Source: Jules

Tips:

  •  Terms such as “Natural” or “hormone-free” shouldn’t be a determining factor in your decision making. According to the USDA, these term mean that nothing was added to the egg. All eggs satisfy this criteria
  • Colour: Eggs typically come in brown or white. The difference in colour is due to the breed of the chicken. A brown egg is no healthier than a white egg – there is no difference in nutritional benefits
  • General rule of thumb: the more expensive the egg, the better quality it is
  • Choose organic eggs if you eat eggs regularly
  • When it comes to size, Extra Large, Large and Medium are commonly found in stores. Larger sized eggs will contain more protein
  • For further reading, see the University of Berkeley’s Supermarket Buying Guide on eggs

6 health boosting smoothie additions

Smoothies can be a nutritional powerhouse if they are created with health-boosting bonus ingredients. Aside from fresh fruits and vegetables, adding some powerful powders and seeds to your blended beverage is a simple way to include more vitamins and minerals in your diet. Here’s a list of some of our favourite options:

1. Cacao powder and cacao nibs

Zebra-Organics-Cacao-11 copyNaturally loaded with antioxidants, cacao can help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, which can translate to a healthier heart. Cacao can help trigger the release of feel-good chemicals such as serotonin and endorphins. Instead of a chocolate milkshake, add cacao powder or cacao nibs to your smoothie. They blend well with banana and almond butter.

Here’s a delicious recipe that includes a raw cacao blend called Anandamide: Blissful Anandamide: Tonic Recipe for Beginners

2. Maca powder

coffee-powder-263355_1280

Originating from the Peruvian Andes mountains, maca is believed to enhance your mood, reduce stress and assist in easing tension, while boosting energy. Made from the maca root, maca has a distinct caramel or malt-like flavour that will give you smoothie a hint of sweetness and a touch of bitterness. Try adding a hint of cinnamon with maca.

If you’re a fan of nut milk-based smoothies, try adding maca to your next smoothie. Here’s how to make Homemade Nut Milk.

3. Bee pollen

bee-pollen

The packed pollen ball found in pellets inside bee hives is a highly nutritious food according to a study. It contains a balance of vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, fats and essential amino acids. It may help foster digestive and immune system function and support the cardiovascular system.

Commonly used by herbalists as a holistic remedy, high-quality, fresh bee pollen granules will be soft and fragrant. The tiny yellow, orange or brown granules can be added directly to your smoothie (if you haven’t tried them before, don’t be afraid to chew on some granules). Note that natural honey does not contain bee pollen.

4. Chia seeds

Source: Stacy Spensely
Source: Stacy Spensely

When exposed to liquid chia seeds form a gelatinous, sticky coating that helps them act as a bonding agent to foster digestion. Rich in fibre, chia seeds contain more healthy Omega-3 fatty acids than flax seeds and other grains, according to Harvard Medical School.

Adding a table spoon of chia seeds to your smoothie will give it a nutritious boost. Two varieties of chia are most commonly found in health food stores and supermarkets; white and gray-black seeds, which can be used interchangeably.

5. Hemp seeds

Source: Ruby Ran (this image has been modified)
Source: Ruby Ran (this image has been modified)

Containing protein and healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, hemp seeds are soft and very easy to digest. Adding a tablespoon to your smoothie will give it a slightly nutty and earthy taste. The seeds are small and blend well, so it’s likely you won’t even notice them in your smoothie.

Further reading: Health Benefits of Hempseed

6. Matcha (Green tea powder)

Source: Mattie Hagedorn
Source: Mattie Hagedorn

Originating from Japan, this concentrated powdered form of green tea contains 137 times more antioxidants than brewed green tea, according to research. Although matcha contains caffeine, it also contains a substance that unlike coffee, slows the release of caffeine into the bloodstream, as reported by the Daily Mail.

Matcha has a noble aroma and will add a hint of sweetness to your smoothie, along with a deep vegetal taste. Its fresh taste awakens the senses.

Making your own smoothie is the best way to know exactly what ingredients it contains. Smoothies can be water or milk-based. They are quick and easy to prepare, taste great, and are a fantastic way to help achieve your daily recommended serving amount of fruits and vegetables.

Top 4 Reasons to Eat Slower

Today our pace of life is faster than ever. Many of us find ourselves with little time in our daily lives for anything and operate with a sense of urgency. When we do find the time to eat, we we gobble down our food. This lifestyle is concerning because it’s stressful and unhealthy.

The simple act of eating slower can bring positive change to your lifestyle immediately. Next time you eat, we suggest clearing your mind and drawing attention to your food. Focus on taking smaller bites and chewing each bite more times, to stretch out the amount of time you enjoy your meal. It will add on a few extra minutes, but the effects will be profound.

The Slow Food Movement was launched in Italy in 1986 in response to the growth of fast food companies. It was an attempt to salvage the slower-paced lifestyle that was historically more common and involved eating food in a more relaxed and social way.

Noodles-chopsticks

If find you’re always the first one to finish your meal, here are some reasons why you should consider slowing down your consumption:

1. Maximize enjoyment of food

Eating slowly allows you to experience the flavours, textures and smells of what you’re eating. You might find that you do eat slower when you’re consuming a meal you value more than your typical meal. Learn to savour every meal and enhance the pleasure of eating by chewing food slowly – this means 10-20 chews per bite.

2. Improve digestion

A smooth and complete digestion involves chewing thoroughly. As digestion begins in the mouth, you have the ability to kick off your body’s natural digestion process by eating slowly. An uncomfortable feeling in your stomach after a meal is an indication that you may be experiencing indigestion from eating too fast.

3. Reduce stress

“Mindful eating” in a calm and relaxed environment can reduce stress and increase satisfaction. Be in the moment and give your food your undivided attention, instead of rushing through a meal and thinking about what you’re going to do next.

According to the New York Times, mindful eating “Involves becoming aware of that reflexive urge to plow through your meal like Cookie Monster on a shortbread bender. Resist it. Leave the fork on the table. Chew slowly. Stop talking. Tune in to the texture of the pasta, the flavor of the cheese, the bright color of the sauce in the bowl, the aroma of the rising steam.”

4. Assists with weight control

Many sources suggest that eating slowly will lead to you eating less food than if you ate quickly and hence, consuming fewer calories. It takes approximately 20 minutes for the brain to tell your body that you’re full. If you’re a fast eater, you’re more likely to eat past the point where you’re full. Harvard Medical School has addressed this: Why eating slowly may help you feel full faster. In addition, the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that eating slowly reduces energy intake between meals.

This is way of life that requires sure and steady support. Here are some additional tips for slower eating:

  • Place utensils down between bites
  •  Make conversation at the dinner table
  • Use different utensils such as chopsticks
  • Set aside time to eat. Make an appointment to refuel your body
  • Create a pleasant eating environment with relaxing music

7 Scents that Foster your Wellbeing

As one of the five ways in which we connect with the world around us, smell is a powerful trigger of memories, moreso than any of our other senses. We’ve all smelt something that has transported us back in time, experiencing vivid emotions as they were back then. When you get a whiff of pine trees, you’re reminded of summer camp. When you smell freshly baked muffins, you may think of baking in your mom’s kitchen. It is no coincidence smell is intimately linked with memory; there is science backing why we treasure these aromas.

The part of our brain that processes smell, the olfactory bulb, is directly linked to the emotional centre of our brain, creating a sense of nostalgia with a simple sniff. Scents, unlike taste or touch, are directly correlated with past experiences.

Memory-inducing powers aside, aromas have a significant impact on our mind and body. We’ve highlighted 7 scents that boost wellbeing through aromatherapy.

1. Lavender can help you sleep

Well-known for its calming and soothing effects upon inhaling, lavender has been used as a remedy for an array of ailments, including anxiety, depression, and fatigue. It has been added to baths historically to help purify the body and spirit. Perhaps its most powerful feature is that it’s able to help treat insomnia. In folklore, restless sleepers stuffed their pillows with lavender flowers. This would slow down nervous system activity, enhance sleep quality, promote relaxation, and improve mood in those suffering from sleep disorders – and this is backed by science. Try adding a couple of drops to your pillow before you go sleep.

Further reading: 9 Natural Remedies for Anxiety

lavender

2. Cinnamon boosts brain function

As one of the world’s most popular spices, cinnamon has some fantastic health benefits when consumed and inhaled. When consumed, it’s been found to help lower blood sugar and ward off Alzheimer’s disease. Aside from consuming cinnamon, the aroma of cinnamon fosters brain function.

One study found that chewing cinnamon flavoured gum improved cognitive processing in participants. Compared to peppermint and jasmine, cinnamon significantly produced positive effects on brain function specifically related to attention processes, virtual recognition memory, working memory and visual-motor speed. Try keeping a bottle of cinnamon oil on your desk to help boost concentration at work or home.

Zebra-Organics-Cinnamon

3. Pine can reduce stress

Known for its strong, woody, fresh, coniferous scent, pine refreshes the mind and soothes emotions. Pine as a stress management tool helps reduce anxiety. See our blog post 9 Natural Remedies for Anxiety to learn what participants in a Japanese study experienced as they walked through a pine forest.

pine-forest

4. Citrus boosts energy levels and alertness

Instead of a cup of coffee, opt for citrus as a pick-you-up. The invigorating smell of lemon and orange scents help boost energy and alertness. According to a study conducted at a University in Holland, citrus aroma was found to increase physical activity, reduce response times in young participants and diminish negative emotions.

lemon

5. Vanilla can lift your mood

Medical studies have revealed that the scent of vanilla decreases stress and anxiety. Cancer patients that underwent Magnetic Resonance Imaging, a diagnostic procedure known to be stressful, described a huge 63 per cent less anxiety when heliotropin (a vanilla fragrance) was administered during the procedure.

Another study published in Chemical Senses Journal revealed that taking a whiff of vanilla bean amplified participants’ feelings of joy and relaxation. The results were presented on a mood map, which measures emotions ranging from happy and relaxed to depressed and apathetic.

Source: Ted Major
Source: Ted Major. This image has not been modified.

6. Peppermint may enhance concentration

Peppermint is commonly known for its cooling and relaxing effects, and because it’s an effective relaxant it is often used to treat sufferers of stress, anxiety, and restlessness. 

A study at the University of Cincinnati showed that test subjects who were exposed to the aroma of peppermint demonstrated increased performance on tasks requiring ongoing focus. Further research may be required to confirm this as “hard science”. Skeptics argue that peppermint is more likely to enhance performance in common tasks.

7. Jasmine helps with restful sleep

Considered to be one of the most exotic scents, jasmine has been described as smelling heavenly, sensuously rich, intense, sweet and warm with fruity undertones. Like lavender, drops of jasmine oil can also be applied to your pillow before going to bed if you have trouble sleeping. In fact, one study revealed that compared to the scent of lavender, inhaling jasmine resulted in greater sleep efficiency and reduced sleep movement. Another 2010 study found that not only does the scent of jasmine enhance alertness, it can also be a way to help aid the relief depression by uplifting mood.

jasmine

For quick reference here’s a list of essential oils and their suggests uses:

Calming: Lavender, vanilla, sandalwood
Waking up: Peppermint, rosemary, lemon or orange peels
Soothing: Ginger, pine needles

We encourage you to introduce these aromas into your life and to monitor how you feel to determine positive change.

The Medicinal Chaga mushroom

Chaga resembles a large body of growth and can look like burnt charcoal. Grown on white birch trees within cold climates, Chaga can be found in Russia, Korea, eastern and northern Europe, northern United States in the mountains of North Carolina and in Canada. Chaga absorbs and concentrates the immune compounds in the birch tree and over 15-20 years reaches maturity, and brings the important nutrients into a form we can consume. It can actually grow on other trees but then it’s not Chaga and it’s not medicinal.

It has been used as a health remedy by the people of Siberia, Japan and China for hundreds of years. After a long history of being ignored by western pharmacologists, Chaga is currently enjoying a resurgence as a possible treatment for a wide variety of diseases and health problems.

Photo by Charles de Mille-Isles via Flickr

Health benefits

The Chaga mushroom may constitute the greatest healing properties of a single mushroom. It’s primarily food for the immune system, much like reishi. The medicinal mushroom has a long history in folk medicine in Russia, Poland, and the majority of the Baltic countries, for cleansing and disinfecting uses. Chaga has many notable attributes and has been used to treat stomach diseases, intestinal worms, liver and heart problems and cancer. Many studies exist that reveal the health promoting functions of Chaga, including antibacterial, hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, and antioxidant activities (National Institute for Health).

Chaga is distinct from other medicinal mushrooms due to its high concentration of the antioxidant enzyme SOD (superoxide dismutase). While nearly all medicinal mushrooms contain SOD, Chaga is nearly 50 times higher than reishi in SOD (source). Chaga contains an abundance of B vitamins and is one the densest sources for Panothenic acid, that is vital to proper functioning of the adrenal glands.

Containing various anticancer and antitumor properties, Chaga is currently being used as a possible treatment for an array of diseases and health problems, including certain types of cancer.

​In Russia, Poland, Korea, China and Japan, Chaga teas and extracts are taken to boost the immune system, reduce hypertension, stop tumor growth and inhibit cancer, especially breast, liver, uterine and gastric cancers (source). Chaga is considered an adaptogen and its use by the peoples of Siberia point towards its ability to offer support to those under climatic stress.

“I got so into reishi and chaga that I actually bought a house way up in the woods in the middle of nowhere so I can hunt medicinal mushrooms and make that part of my lifestyle, part of my diet” – David Wolfe at The Longevity Now Conference, Costa Mesa, California (2011)

Chaga mushroom for tea by William Ismael
Chaga mushroom for tea by William Ismael

Preparation

Although chaga is hard, it is not dry. Like any fungus, it must be either dehydrated or refrigerated immediately after harvest.

Chaga tea is popular during the winter season and is safe for daily use. It is typically used to make tea by stripping the raw Chaga of tree bark and grating it into a fine powder (you can do this yourself or you can purchase the powder). According to Mushroom for Health, the tea must be steeped in nor warm, nor boiling water. As with miso soup, it can be steeped or simmered in a crock pot with hot water for 6-8 hours to maintain its healing properties. Chaga makes a dark colored beverage that resembles black coffee. It has a mild taste, with a hint of woody and earthy tones. After straining, enjoy it as a warming comforting beverage morning, noon or night. Those on-the-go can place a teaspoon of Chaga in a warm beverage of choice.

Learn why Chaga is a top superfood mushroom. Raw food authority and bestselling author David Wolfe presents “CHAGA: King of the Medicinal Mushrooms”, a webinar designed to teach you about the single most powerful healing herb in the world.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

5 Tips for a Healthy Christmas

We often get swept up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas time and sometimes we put our health on the back burner. During this busy season, it’s important to take time for yourself. Be mindful of the following tips to help you feel your best while you’re shopping for gifts, enjoying good food and perhaps indulging slightly more than usual.

1. Make a list and check it twice

Lists can be a powerful tool that help keep the mind calm, relaxed and focused. Keep track of groceries, gift ideas and errands and you’ll be more organized and less likely to stress out over last-minute Christmas shopping.

2. Don’t forget about your greens

During the holiday feasting month of December, try your hardest to include greens in your diet and eat sensibly. Parties and functions leading up to Christmas can create opportunities for unnecessary weight gain, with carb-loaded dishes and irresistible sweet treats often being served up. Try to maintain reasonable portion sizes while indulging and
don’t forget that your body is still craving nutritious, healthy foods such as fruits, veggies, lean meats and grains.

healthy-salad

3. Choose healthy sweets

Those with a sweet tooth can opt for healthy, lighter alternatives that still taste great.

  • For Christmas baking, choose almond or oat flours instead of refined white flour
  • Coconut sugar or maple syrup is a great alternative to refined white sugar
  • Avocado puree has nearly the same consistency at room temperature as butter. Its subtle flavour and creaminess lends it to be a suitable substitute for butter in brownie recipes
  • Mashed, ripe banana has a creamy, thickening power and can be used instead of butter or oil in some recipes, such as muffins

If you need something sweet after dinner and want to serve up healthy options for your friends and family, consider the chocolate dipped strawberry or chocolate-coated frozen banana. A yogurt parfait with nuts, fruit and chocolate shavings is another great, simple option. Use the healthier dark chocolate instead of milk or white.

chocolate-bananas

4. Limit alcohol consumption

If you drink, keep it moderate. Be mindful that some drinks are more than one standard drink. You may choose to avoid top-ups so that you can better keep track of your drink count. Alcohol is a diuretic that encourages fluid loss from the body, so remember to alternate alcoholic beverages with glasses of water to maintain hydration. Coconut water is also a great way to rapidly restore electrolytes.

5. Exercise

Whether you hit the gym for a workout or head outdoors for a stroll with family or friends, adding some physical activity to your daily routine during the festive season is a fantastic way to keep your body and mind feeling fresh. Enjoying the outdoors can break up the day and you’ll find that the fresh air will leave you feeling rejuvenated.

6. Spend quality time with family and friends

The most important part of the festive season is spending time with loved ones. Remembering this may help reduce the stresses associated with this time of year and distance you from the commercial side of the holiday. Be sure to remind the special people in your life how much they mean to you.

Photo_FamilyFun

Blessings,
The Team at Zebra Organics

Top 3 Sources of Vitamin D

According to Harvard School of Public Health, an estimated one billion people of all ages and ethnicities have insufficient levels of vitamin D, ‘the sunshine vitamin’, in their blood.

When our skin is exposed to the sun’s rays, it triggers a chemical reaction that produces vitamin D3. There are many factors that influence the amount of sunlight that reaches the skin and its effectiveness. The time of day, season, altitude, clothing, sunscreen use, pigmentation and age are some of these factors. Even those that reside in a sunny climate can be deficient in vitamin D due to cultural traditions and/or dress (National Institute of Health). If you don’t get out for a 15-minute walk in the sunlight every day, the odds are you’re deficient.

In a nutshell, we need this vitamin to:

  • Promote calcium absorption
  • Bone and muscle strength

A vitamin D deficiency may increase the risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, osteoporosis, some cancers and multiple sclerosis, as well as contagious diseases such as tuberculosis and even the seasonal flu (Harvard School of Public Health).

Sources of Vitamin D

Dairy products and fatty fish

The few foods that vitamin D is naturally present in includes the flesh of fatty fish, such as salmon, herring, tuna and mackerel. Beef liver, cheese and egg yolks contain small amounts. Breakfast cereals are manufactured to contain added vitamin D, along with some brands of yogurt, orange juice and other food products (National Institute of Health).

The New England Journal of Medicine has a great table lists how much of this vitamin occurs in natural foods, fortified foods and supplements (page 270).

salmon-plate

Supplements

Vitamin D is naturally present in very few foods so one of the best sources of it is supplements. The level in most multivitamins is too low (400 IU). You want at least 600 IU, which is more commonly found as a separate supplement. The National Institute of Health outlines how much Vitamin D and calcium is recommended depending on age. You can view the table here. This recommendation has sparked some controversy and is argued by one of the leading vitamin D researchers, Michael F. Holick, among others, that we should be consuming a lot more than we are now, with 800 to 1,000 IU per day being the minimum and more than 2,000 IU per day being ideal (see VITAMIN D: A D-LIGHTFUL SOLUTION FOR HEALTH).

Cod Liver Oil

By the late 1930s the use of Cod Liver Oil was widespread and was successful in eradicating significant health problems, including rickets. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, Cod Liver Oil contains between 400 – 1,000 IU of vitamin D3.

In his paper Sunlight, vitamin D and Health: A D-lightful story, Michael F. Holick says;

“Cod liver oil is an excellent source whereas the flesh of cod and salted cod is not” – Michael F. Holick

Because Vitamin D is concentrated in the liver of the fish, it is abundant in cod liver oil. Fish oil on the other hand, is made from the whole body of the fish and has inferior levels of this vitamin.

You can learn more about cod liver oil in our post Sources of vitamin D for mood support.

Sunlight and Your Health: An EnLIGHTening Perspective

Check out this energetic talk on the positive impacts of sunlight on your health by Michael F. Holick, PhD MD, of Boston University Medical Center.

If you think you may be deficient in vitamin D, consider taking a supplement and including more foods that are rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids in your diet.

Sea Salt vs Table Salt: Is there a difference?

Salt plays a very important role in human history and its use dates back thousands of years. It is vital to human existence and without it, life would be much different. It has been critisized in modern history, mostly because it is misunderstood.

Sodium chloride, also known as table salt, is what most of us are familiar with but sea salt can now typically be found beside table salt on supermarket shelves. So which type should you choose? The biggest difference between them is taste, texture and processing.

You don’t need to have a trained palate to detect the subtle differences in taste between sea  and table salt. Sea salt has a course, crunchy texture and a strong flavour. Unprocessed or undergoing minimal processing, it is obtained through the evaporation of seawater and therefore retains traces of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium and other nutrients. Table salt is mined from salt deposits and processed to produce a fine texture.

“It’s very important for people to be aware that sea salt often has as much sodium as table salt” – Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., R.D., an American Heart Association spokeswoman and the Bickford Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont

According to the American Heart Association, both types of salt often contain the same amount of sodium. If you’re consuming more sea salt because you think it contains less sodium, you may be at risk of developing high blood pressure, which increases your risk of heart disease.

Taste is the main reason for choosing between the two varieties of salt. Sea salt flakes are great for all kind of savoury cooking. Try sprinkling it over meats and poultry.

sea-salt

Salt helps control fluid balance and the way our muscles and nerves function. Our bodies possess the natural ability to scavenge salt from what we eat and drink so it’s rare for people to have low levels of salt in the body based on diet alone. A common problem facing Canadians and Americans alike is too much salt intake. When cooking meals at home, use salt in moderation and outside the house, be aware of its content of the foods you’re eating. High sodium levels can have a negative impact on your heath.

Types of Sea Salt

Some different brands of sea salt to choose from are Celtic and Himalayan Sea Salt.

Himalayan Sea Salt offers a sweetness and rounded flavor which enhances but  doesn’t overpower food. It is made up of fine ground 250 million year old salt crystals that are hand mined in the sacred Himalayan mountain range in India.

Himalayan salt is an excellent additive to a bath. Research show that adding some of it to a bath can stimulate circulation, ease muscle cramps, help relieve stiffness in joints, aid with arthritis or back pain, and soothe achy, overworked legs and feet. It also helps cleanse and detoxify the largest organ in the body, your skin and enhances skin hydration.

Celtic Sea Salt is hand-harvested from the salt marshes of Guérande, France where the harvesters adhere to strict standards and practices that are 2,000 years old. It is the number one recommended salt for use in these Diets : Paleo Diet, Body Ecology Diet, Water Cures Diet, Westin A. Price Diet, Master Cleanse Diet.

Did you know? Salt was so important to humans that it was once used as a currency. The word “salary” originated from the word “salt”. The ancient Romans paid their soliders with it and their custom of salting leafy greens and veggies led to the creation of the word “salad”.

Sources of vitamin D for mood support

Cod Liver Oil and Vitamin D will help support mood, especially during winter months. Cod Liver Oil is one of those time-tested remedies, that your parents and grandparents may have talked about. It has been used as a food and medicine for centuries. Reports indicate ancient Vikings would store cod livers in caskets to ferment.

The first official medical documented use of Cod Liver Oil was in 1789 when a doctor in Manchester, England, used it to treat rheumatism. In the following centuries doctors began to use Cod Liver Oil to treat rickets; a disease linked with vitamin D deficiencies. The use of Cod Liver Oil for this condition and related conditions continued into the 20th century.

 Vitamin D and Fatty Acids for mood support

Only in the last 15 years or so has the idea of a vitamin D deficiency became more apparent. Researchers have discovered that this deficiency is far more common than previously thought. An area of concern regarding this is in depression. Studies indicate that  approximately 63% of women and 35% will experience clinical depression at some point in their life.

Research from Oregon State University shows that low blood levels of vitamin D are associated with significant clinical symptoms of depression in otherwise healthy individuals. Receptor sites for vitamin D are located in the same part of the brain that processes emotions. Exhibiting some similar symptoms to depression, evidence exists that suggests Seasonal Affective Disorder is linked to the level of vitamin D in the blood.

So how can vitamin D support mood? A supplement can help regulate the production of key brain chemicals, such as serotonin, that are involved in the regulation of mood. Vitamin D also dampens the inflammatory response in the brain, which is key in influencing mood by activating the stress response.

Fish oil supplement

In addition to supplementing with vitamin D, adding a fish oil supplement such as Fermented Cod Liver Oil to your diet can help counter a deficinecy. Studies have also reported that there is a correlation between countries with high rates of fish oil consumption and low rates of depression. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fermented cod liver oil improve cell membrane and nerve function, which is critical to the richest source of fats in the body, the brain.

The bottom line is that fish oils rich in fatty acids provide powerful nutritional support for brain health and a positive mood. Cod liver oil is a rich source of fatty acids and vitamins A & D. To starve off mood disorders, it is recommended to supplement with vitamin D and fish oil.