Nutrition

Learn more about Nutrition and it’s effect on living a healthy lifestyle. Nutrition is a factor in stress and weight gain.

Why Potassium is so Important for your Body

fitness classes in gymA few weeks ago we published a blog called “Electrolytes: Myth-Busted” in response to a question posted on our Facebook page by a Mountain Trek alumni. The article garnered huge interest and prompted another alumni, James, to ask, “Please speak more on potassium.”

So herewith are the facts everyone should know about potassium and how this important mineral applies to your overall health.

What is potassium?

This mineral is one of the main electrolytes in your body (others include sodium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium). Electrolytes are electrically charged particles that our cells use to maintain voltage across our cell membranes and carry electrical impulses to other cells.

What does it do?

Potassium aids nerve conduction, muscle contraction and heart beat regulation. It also helps maintain normal blood pressure by blunting sodium’s effects and ensures proper fluid balance between your cells and body fluids.

Why is it important?

In addition to helping maintain a proper fluid balance in your body, potassium also performs the following functions:

  • Keeps the blood from clotting
  • Maintains the body’s pH balance
  • Carries nutrients to the cells
  • Protects the stomach lining from the damage that could be caused by stomach acids
  • Maintains healthy blood pressure
  • Promotes heart health
  • Preserves bone health

Raw almondsWhat are some sources of potassium?

Potassium is found in a wide variety of foods but bananas are the ones most famously associated with the mineral. Other sources include:

  • Citrus fruits and tomato juice
  • Melons
  • Leafy greens
  • Broccoli
  • Avocados
  • Almonds and peanuts
  • Raisins and prunes
  • Milk
  • Sweet potatoes and legumes like lima and kidney beans are also high in potassium.
  • Interestingly, sports drinks are typically a poor source of potassium.

Why should you be aware of your potassium levels?

When you sweat (whether from working out, sitting in a sauna or living in a climate with hot, humid temperatures) your perspiration releases potassium out of the body. These decreased levels can lead to adverse effects such as muscle cramping, weakness, fatigue, heart palpitations and constipation. The good news is that potassium is easy to replenish and most people do so by maintaining a diet that includes the above foods. For example, eating almonds after you work out or detoxify in a steam room will help replenish your stores.

When is potassium harmful?

Too little potassium is just as dangerous as too much. A short-term deficiency can cause elevated blood pressure and muscle cramps but on a chronic level (hypokalemia) it is associated with a risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and strokes. If your kidneys are working normally, they’ll regulate the amount of potassium that your body needs but people with diabetes who have kidney disease, for example, need to be especially careful of their potassium intake, as levels can get too high in the body (hyperkalemia), which can, in turn, damage the heart.

What is the suggested intake of potassium?

The recommended intake for adults is 4,700 milligrams daily. People who eat a healthy diet will get enough potassium naturally. However, those who eat mostly processed foods can be short up to a total of 1,000 milligrams. (Some medications for blood pressure could also cause a potassium deficiency, so check with your doctor.)

Should you take potassium supplements?

Unless you have a chronic illness your body will regulate your potassium levels provided your diet consists of certain whole foods like fruit, vegetables and nuts. (See list above.) The only time supplements are recommended is if you require electrolytes due to exertion or excess sweating (Mountain Trek clients might take one daily electrolyte supplement, like Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator, due to their high amounts of perspiration) or if you suffer from certain chronic ailments like diabetic ketoacidosis, a metabolic condition more commonly seen in people with Type 1 diabetes.

Blood Glucose testerWhat is the relationship between potassium and diabetes?

Interestingly, some Type 1 diabetics may have too much potassium in their systems while many Type 2 diabetics have too little. Yet, because of certain medications, some Type 2 diabetics may not be able to excrete potassium in the way they should. If you have (or at risk of getting) diabetes, definitely have your doctor perform a potassium test to determine your levels and ensure that your medications or supplements are not negatively impacting your body’s potassium levels.

Top 5 On-the-Go Snacks

Healthy Snacks
It seems the word ‘busy’ doesn’t even begin to cover most of our days. And finding healthy snacks when you are constantly on the go can seem like a hard task. Especially when many of the store-bought snack options are not even real food.

It may be tempting to grab that processed protein bar, but don’t act so fast. Here are five great, on-the-go snack options that will give you even more energy than processed bars but are made from whole foods, won’t break the bank and are easy to prepare.

Yum! Hummus and veggies! Hummus and Veggie Sticks

This is a great mix of carb and protein that you can throw together in under 30 seconds as you walk out your door in the morning. Hummus which is made from the king of beans – the chick pea, is packed with fiber, folate, zinc and B vitamins – talk about an energy boost! And if you have that extra minute, add a few slices of cucumber for some extra crunch and vitamins.

Dried Fruit & Seeds

Dried Fruit and Seeds

A mix of your favourite dried fruit – raisins, apricots, mangos, figs, papaya and even tomatoes to name a few – along with some crunchy nuts is an easy-to-assemble snack. Plus, a handful of this delicious combo is the perfect fuel for your body to tackle that late morning slump. Dried fruit contains fiber, vitamins A, C, E and Iron. If you include dried mangos you’ll also add omega 3 and 6 fatty acids to the mix, which are necessary for healthy skin and immunity health. The crunchy nuts add essential minerals such as magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc as well as loads of vitamins.

Coconut Bliss Balls

Coconut Apricot Bliss Balls

These take a bit of planning but are so worth it. You can find the recipe here. Trust us, there’s a reason we put “Bliss” in their name. With just the right amount of spice and sweetness these homemade bars are easily prepared over the weekend to last you the entire week ahead. Imagine creamy almond butter creamed together with cranberries, apricots and a healthy dose of dried coconut. Add to that the perfect blend of ginger, cardamom and zest of orange and you have a pop-in-your-mouth energy boost.

Loki Dip

Veggie Sticks and Loki Dip

Eat your veggies! We know we should. If only there was a way to enjoy those relatively boring but vitamin- and fiber-packed sticks of carrots and celery. Allow us to introduce you to veggie sticks with loki dip, a snack that is the perfect combination of salty and sweet. The sweet crispy veggies dipped in a salty, lemon and creamy dip will fill you up while satisfying your taste buds.

Low Sugar Fresh Fruit

Low-Sugar Fresh Fruit

If you like super simple, you’ll like this snack idea. No cutting, stirring or assembly required. A quick visit to your local organic grocery store can stock you with enough fruit to last a couple of weeks at a time. Fruit is filled with vitamins and many also contain fibre. This combination will satisfy your sweet cravings while also keeping you feeling fuller longer. Pick your favourites: apples, oranges, raspberries, bananas, blueberries, pears – there are so many tasty and sweet choices. As a general rule, pick those that are in season for best flavour.

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Coke Vs. Pepsi … Vs. Water

water cokeIn the 1970s the makers of Pepsi Cola, started what was to become known as the “Cola Wars” when it launched a blind taste test campaign targeting the Coca-Cola Company. The concept was that average people would try the two sodas and choose one over the other.

Since then the two companies have engaged in many different marketing campaigns and today they own some of the most recognizable brands on the planet. In fact, 1.8 billion bottles of Coke are consumed around the world…every day!

However, with concerns of heart disease, obesity and diabetes on the rise, people are starting to rethink the types of liquids they consume. (Even the cola companies are starting to show concern judging by Coca-Cola’s recent obesity commercial.)

The fact is, no matter how the companies spin the message, their products will never touch water in terms of health benefits. Sure, water may not taste as sweet, but have a read of the following and decide what you’d rather drink: Coke or Pepsi…or water.

WATER

  • Drinking 5 glasses of water daily decreases the risk of colon cancer by 45% and bladder cancer by 50%
  • Drinking 5 glass of water can slash the risk of breast cancer by 79%, and one is 50% less likely to develop bladder cancer.
  • One glass of water shut down midnight hunger pangs for almost 100% of those who participated in a University of Washington study.
  • Preliminary research indicates that drinking 8-10 glasses of water a day could significantly ease back and joint pain for up to 80% of sufferers.
  • Lack of water is the #1 trigger of daytime fatigue. Drinking a few glasses of water easily rectifies it.
  • Consuming water is the #1 method of flushing impurities from the body.

COKE AND PEPSI

  • The active ingredient in Coke and Pepsi is phosphoric acid. Its pH is 2.8. It will dissolve a nail in about 4 days.
  • Phosphoric acid also leaches calcium from bones and is a major contributor to the rising increase in osteoporosis.
  • One can of Coke or Pepsi contains the equivalent of 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • To clean corrosion from car battery terminals pour a can of cola over the terminals to bubble away the corrosion.
  • To carry Coke and Pepsi syrup (the concentrate) commercial trucks must use the Hazardous Material stickers reserved for highly corrosive materials.
  • To clean a toilet bowl, pour a can of Coke or Pepsi into the bowl and let it sit for one hour, then flush clean. The citric acid in the cola removes stains from vitreous china.
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How your Diet can Kick Pre-Diabetes to the Curb

By Jennifer Keirstead, Holistic Nutritionist 

Fresh vegetables

Fresh vegetables

Along with stress reduction for staying clear of insulin resistance, as discussed in our prior blog by Kirkland Shave, what could be more impactful in preventing Pre-Diabetes than what you eat? Working powerfully together as the one-two punch in regulating blood sugar, lowered stress and a healthy diet are vital to avoid insulin resistance, and ultimately Type 2 Diabetes.

Tips for Preventing Pre-Diabetes with Diet:

  • Focus on a diet full of healthy fats, protein and complex carbohydrates. Complex carbs include whole grains complete with all of their fibre and nutrients intact.  Some of my favorites include millet, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat and steel-cut oats.
  • Eliminate processed foods from your diet, such as packaged snacks, refined sugar, baked goods, cookies, candy, fruit juices, soda and aspartame.
  • Avoid hydrogenated oils or trans fatty acids such as margarine and canola oil. Replace these fats with the healthy ones found in avocados, eggs, nuts and seeds, flax meal, plain yogurt, olive and coconut oil.
  • Enjoy organic, nutrient-rich meat and wild fish, such as grass fed beef, lamb, organic chicken and fatty fish such as wild salmon and cod.
  • Limit refined grains. These are characterized as being “white” and void in fibre and nutrients, and include anything with white flour (breads, rolls), white rice, processed cereals and white pasta.

Ideally, the majority of your diet should consist of leafy green vegetables, squashes, eggs, nuts and healthy meats for protein, and good fats, while avoiding sugar and refined or simple carbohydrates.

Did you know?

An increase in trace minerals can help regulate blood sugar levels.  Supplements such as chromium, magnesium and zinc can be found at your local health and vitamin store.  Food sources high in trace minerals include dark leafy-green vegetables such as chard, spinach, kale, collards and sea vegetables.  Instead of regular table salt, choose Celtic sea salt as an excellent source of trace minerals.

King Kale

King KaleBy Jennifer Keirstead, Holistic Nutritionist

Kale seems to be the new, up and coming super food. One reason is it’s loaded with naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. Kale is a great source of vitamin C, beta carotene (vitamin A) and also contains various B-vitamins. It’s loaded with minerals, including bone-loving calcium and magnesium.  It contains plenty of trace minerals and will provide valuable toxin-busting antioxidants to your diet.

This humble green, leafy vegetable can be found in any grocery store and even better news, grows well in the cooler temperatures of fall and even California winters, so you’ll likely see it fresh and perky, waiting for your purchase, at this very moment.

When shopping for kale, it should be brightly colored and quite firm. Take a pass on kale that’s faded in color and wilted. If it looks yellowish in color, it may mean it was harvested too late. Avoid bunches that have bruised leaves, as this means they’re already slowly decomposing. Remember, leafy greens should always be purchased organic since they’re very vulnerable to absorption of toxic sprays.

Consuming dark, leafy greens like kale on a regular basis can help with gentle, daily detoxification.

How to Use It

Cooked Kale

These greens can be used in any soup, stew, or side dish where you would use Swiss chard or spinach. You can also lightly steam the greens and add a little fresh lemon and sea salt – yum!

Salads
Slice the green leaves as thinly as possible to create the best texture. Kale by nature, is a tough vegetable. Thin slicing makes it easier to consume raw.

Commercial Kale Chips
These chips you increasingly see in the stores are dehydrated at very low temperatures, so they are qualified as a raw food. They make a great snack for adults and kids!

Homemade Kale Chips
Why not make your own? Baked kale chips are quick and easy. Bake only as much as you plan to eat in a sitting as these chips lose their crunch in a few hours. Google “kale chips” and you’ll find plenty of recipes to choose from.

Smoothies
Green leafy vegetables make an excellent addition to your favorite smoothie. Start off by adding just one or two leaves and see if you even notice it. A small handful of kale leaves with the stems removed (or not) boosts the nutrition of any smoothie. Try our Green Goddess Smoothie after your next workout.

Enjoy your kale!

How is Sprouted Grain Bread Different?

By Jennifer Keirstead, Holistic Nutritionist

Now you can Have Your Bread and Eat it Too

Sprouted Grains

Sprouted grain bread is becoming increasingly mainstream, and for good reason.

Sprouting is the practice of germinating seeds. This process makes the seeds come to life, as they literally begin to grow little shoots, making their nutrients more digestible.

Whole grains naturally contain valuable vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins, and phytochemicals. When grains are sprouted, it makes these valuable nutrients more bio-available; offering more absorbable nutrients.

A wise teacher once told me, “You are what you absorb, not what you eat.”

Dr. Mary Enig explains how sprouted grain breads contain enzymes to effectively break down gluten and other difficult-to-digest wheat components. She notes, that “if you’re diabetic, sprouted breads have a lower glycemic index and won’t cause post-meal blood-sugar levels or blood-fat counts to spike upwards.” Enig also points out that if you’re reducing calories, sprouted wheat breads provide ounce-for-ounce, more protein and nutrition than many pre-packaged, highly-processed “diet foods.”

Sprouted grain differs from other whole grains in 3 important ways:

  1. Sprouting activates live enzymes;
  2. Sprouting increases vitamin content;
  3. Sprouting neutralizes anti-nutrients like phytic acid, which bind up minerals, preventing your ability to fully absorb them.


When examining the nutrient density of sprouted wheat to un-sprouted wheat on a calorie-per-calorie basis, you’ll find that sprouted wheat contains four times the amount of niacin and nearly twice the amount of vitamin B6 and folate compared to un-sprouted wheat. It also contains more protein and fewer starches than non-sprouted grain, making it more suitable for those suffering from blood sugar issues.

As you may already know, we love Sprouted Manna bread at Mountain Trek! Try one of the sprouted grain breakfasts we offer our guests.

 

The Discomfort of too much “Comfort” Food

Getting a Handle on Emotional Eating

The holiday season is here, and eating healthy can be hard when you are surrounded by temptation. The holidays can also be stressful and trigger psychological reasons to munch, even though we’re not hungry. Whether it’s due to loneliness, or to distract from an issue brewing in our life, it’s tempting to snack or over-eat to fill a void that isn’t in our stomach.Donut

We equate a lot of emotion and nostalgia with food, from associations formed in childhood and clever advertising that equates eating with happiness. But we’re certainly not happy when we gain weight and become burdened by extra pounds, elevated cholesterol, heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes.

Recognizing the triggers that compel you to snack is an empowering eye- opener.  Observe yourself to become aware of your eating habits, and with each mouthful, understand exactly why you are eating, and if you’re really hungry or not.

Eating in response to emotions or certain situations can be a habit well ingrained since childhood. But you can break that habit.  Here’s how:

  • Commit to a daily log of everything you eat, and when. Include a column for writing the reason you’re eating at that time. Is it because you’re hungry or something else?
  • Recognize your eating patterns, and become aware of emotional issues that are “eating you” and trigger you to over-eat.
  • Consider therapies such as counseling, life coaching, or hypnotherapy to address unresolved emotional patterns, and meet with a Nutritionist to establish new food choices.
  • Catch your negative food choices (like reaching for the chips) and choose another action.  Distract your mind by replacing the snack with another activity. Fill up with water or a cup of tea, write in your journal, do something physical like a walk, stretch- you get the idea.  Set new habits in motion, which make you feel better about yourself and motivate you to keep at it!
  • Keep only healthy foods in your kitchen, and stop buying junky snack food.  If you find yourself craving something sweet in the evening, try chamomile tea with honey or natural sweetener, or a few dates instead of chocolate to reward yourself.
  • Relieve stress in other ways besides eating.  You know, that e-word (exercise!), meditation or by doing something creative.
  • Incorporate new routines and activities in your life to reduce boredom, and decrease your “trigger” times. Instead of watching TV, talk to a friend, do housework or a project you’ve put off for too long.

Enjoy the holiday season, knowing your waistline doesn’t have to expand!

Nutrition Tips for Beating the Winter Blues

Part 1 of Blog Series, “Combating Seasonal Affective Disorder” 

By Jennifer Keirstead, Holistic Nutritionist 

Do you get the winter blues, and eat more sugar and junk food than you care to admit?

The weather and season affects our mood and health in profound ways. The lack of sunlight affects our serotonin and melatonin levels, and disrupts our circadian rhythm – the body’s internal clock for sleeping based on exposure to light.

Seasonal Affective Disorder “SAD” is characterized by the onset of depression at certain times of year. Even if you don’t develop all the clinical symptoms of SAD, the most cheerful among us can still feel these seasonal effects.  From low energy, irritability, depression, and cravings for carbohydrates and sweets, the symptoms of SAD can be difficult to manage.

From a Nutritional standpoint, there’s a lot you can incorporate in your diet alone to help your body adapt to the darker days and combat SAD:  winter vegetables

  • Omega 3 fatty acids from food and/or supplement capsules. Dietary sources include hemp seeds and oil, flax meal and oil, wild fish, sesame seeds, walnuts and chia seeds. These fats have a powerful role in helping cells take up essential hormones, including those involved in mood regulation. Having enough Omega 3 in your diet helps prevent depression, heart disease, inflammation, and strengthens the immune system.
  • Eggs from free-range chickens are packed full of choline, which has been shown to regulate mood and energy levels.
  • Sprouted, whole grain breads are easier on the digestive tract than regular wheat bread, and is lower in sugar. This helps prevent your levels of blood sugar from crashing, and will helps maintain our energy and ultimately our mood.
  • Protein is essential for energy and stamina, and helps your brain produce dopamine, norepinephrine, and other neurochemicals that keep you calm yet alert.
  • Fresh, raw vegetables, ideally organic, which are packed full of vitamins, minerals and enzymes.
  • Nutritional supplements such as super greens, Vitamin D and all the B’s are essential to keep your immune system revved up, and have more energy and vitality.

What should you skip in your diet to prevent the winter blues?

Sugar. We know, this isn’t as easy as it sounds but give it a try.  Next time you are feeling particularly low, pass on the cookies and indulge in a serving of sashimi instead. 

Eat well this winter to improve your mood and well being!

Are Protein Bars Really a Health Food?

Are protein bars healthy for you?

By Jennifer Keirstead, Holistic Nutritionist  

Investigating “Healthy” Meal Replacements in a Wrapper  

It seems that in today's fast-paced world, we’ve developed the need for quick snacks and meal replacements. Protein bars saturated the market in the 80’s and have since been widely accepted as a healthy snack, or a quick meal on-the-go. While these bars are indeed a quick and easy source of, "fast food", they certainly aren’t a replacement for a healthful meal; nor do most of them substitute as a whole foods snack.  Finding a protein bar that can actually stand up to a good quality meal; loaded with vitamins, minerals and fibre, is pretty much impossible. This is because most protein bars are made from processed ingredients, preservatives and flavour enhancers. In fact, most protein bars aren’t much better for you than that Hersey’s chocolate bar, and some brands actually contain more sugar than a candy bar!  This is certainly a red flag, as after some label reading, I found some protein bars to contain upwards of 300 calories per serving. Most health bars and even protein bars also contain trans fats, simple carbs and processed sugars. Here are some common ingredients found in so called, “healthy” protein bars:

  • Genetically modified soy protein;
  • Poor quality vegetable oils such as high fructose corn syrup, canola oil, peanut oil or palm kernel oil;
  • White, processed grain;
  • Refined sugar;
  • Refined salt.

As an alternative, I suggest making protein bars at home. When you make things yourself, you have control over the ingredients going into your body. Here’s one of my favorite recipes.

Healthy Protein Bars Recipe

Home-made Protein Bars:

 Ingredients

  • ½ c.  raw almonds, slivered
  • ½ c.  raw pecans
  • ¼ c.  raw hazelnuts, ground up into a flour (I use my coffee grinder)
  • ¼ c.  unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ¼ c.  pure almond butter
  • ¼ c.  virgin coconut oil (check your local health food store)
  • 1 tsp.  pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp.  raw honey
  • ¼ tsp.  sea salt
  • ¼ c.  dried, unsweetened cranberries
  • ¼ c.  dried, unsweetened apricots
  • sprinkle of hemp seeds (on top)

Method 

  1. On a cookie sheet, lightly toast nuts and shredded coconut until just golden brown. *You may need to shake the tray once or twice to make sure they cook evenly.
  2. Once toasted, pour mixture into a food processor and pulse until nuts are chopped and mixture becomes coarsely ground.
  3. In a small pot, melt coconut oil and almond butter on medium-low, via stovetop for about 20 seconds. Remove and stir until smooth.
  4. Next, add vanilla extract, honey and sea salt. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Fold in nut mixture and hazelnut flour, until mixed thoroughly.
  6. Fold in cranberries and apricots.
  7. Press mixture into a coconut oil-greased, 8 x 4 glass loaf pan and sprinkle with hemp seeds.
  8. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes, or until firm.
  9. Cut “loaf” width wise, as this should make 6 hearty – sized protein bars.
  10. Store bars in refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap.

Enjoy!  These make an excellent snack to enjoy through-out the week. Just remember to try and stay away from not-so-healthy protein bars, thinking they all make healthful snacks, or even worse, meal replacements. After all, one of my favorite Food Rules by Michael Pollan is:  “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”

To find more great recipes and to connect with Jennifer and ask questions about nutrition, download Mountain Trek’s Guide in your Pocket App for iPhone.

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