A GUT-HEALTHY PERSPECTIVE ON THE NEW CANADA'S FOOD GUIDE

Last month the Government of Canada came out with a new Canada’s Food Guide that is radically different from the old one. This new guide was formed with a lot of public input, whereas previous versions were influenced heavily by industry input, which was evident in the strong focus on dairy, meat and grains. In this blog I’d like to summarize some of the good and bad in the new guide (in case you haven’t perused it yet), and give you some tips on how the guide can be easily modified for gut-health.

Canada’s Food Guide suggests filling half your plate with Vegetables and Fruit, 1/4 of your plate with protein from sources such as legumes, dairy and animal proteins, and 1/4 of your plate with whole grains. In addition, it suggests drinking water as your drink of choice. Check out the pie chart below for my Gut-Healthy version.

Canada’s Food Guide suggests filling half your plate with Vegetables and Fruit, 1/4 of your plate with protein from sources such as legumes, dairy and animal proteins, and 1/4 of your plate with whole grains. In addition, it suggests drinking water as your drink of choice. Check out the pie chart below for my Gut-Healthy version.

A SUMMARY OF CANADA’S FOOD GUIDE

Here are some of the great things about the new guide that you’ll want to include:
- choose healthy fats: healthy fats are incredibly important, but the Food Guide missed the mark with healthy fat recommendations (see below). Recommended fats that you can keep are olive oil, avocado, fatty fish, and nuts and seeds.
- water as your main drink
- limit processed foods
- be aware of food marketing
- mindful eating
- cook
- eat with others
For more information on these recommendations go to Canada’s Food Guide and click on Food Choices and Eating Habits.

Here are some of the NOT so great things - make sure to avoid these:
- breakfast recipes included with the guide are very carb/grain heavy. Eating the suggested breakfasts can set you up for blood sugar imbalances for the rest of the day.
- corn, canola, peanut, soybean, safflower and sunflower oils are listed as healthy fats, and saturated fats are still considered bad. Butter/ ghee and coconut oil, and saturated fats from pasture raised animals are fats that have many health benefits. Butter is a good source of butyrate, which is important for colon and brain health, and vitamin A (retinol), which supports repair of the gut lining and other epithelial tissues. Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides, which rapidly convert to ketones in the body and provide energy. Ketones can benefit the brain, and improve biomarkers associated with heart disease (1).
- the grains and legumes recommended in the Food Guide can be okay for some individuals when they are prepared using traditional methods of preparation that include soaking and sprouting, but these foods are problematic for so many people, and in most cases they are not prepared using traditional cooking methods.

A GUT-HEALTHY PERSPECTIVE

It’s pretty easy to fit a Gut-Healthy model into Canada’s Food Guide. I’ve kept the same basic framework of dividing your plate into 1/2 - 1/4 - 1/4, but have switched the contents up a little bit. I’ve included some images of my recent meals, so have a look!
- Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, turnip, rutabaga and cabbage, or colourful veggies such as beets, carrots, asparagus and squashes.
- Fill 1/4 of your plate with animal protein that includes pasture-raised meats, free-range poultry and eggs, and wild fatty fish. Meat stocks and bone broths would fit into this category as an important part of a gut-healthy diet.
- Fill 1/4 of your plate with gut-healthy carbohydrates. These will vary depending on what protocol you are on. Fruit fits into this category, and tubors such as sweet potatoes and yams are good if you are on an autoimmune or paleo protocol. If you are on an SCD or GAPS diet, then tubors aren’t normally a part of these protocols, but you may be able to tolerate them cooked and cooled (like a cold potato salad). If you have IBS or SIBO, then tubors are out for now. Honey is well tolerated by most people, and fits into this category.
- Add healthy fat to all your meals. Olive oil drizzled over salads or into soups and stews is great. Cooking vegetables in coconut oil or fat rendered from a pastured animal is yummy, and healthy too!

Remember that this is a framework to start from. We all have different needs, and you have to listen to your body. If you are thriving on a ketogenic diet, then filling 1/4 of your plate with carbs doesn’t work. If you are struggling with hormonal issues or hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal dysfunction, then you may need a few more carbs. If you have SIBO, then initially you won’t have any carbs, and will then slowly build the amount up as you undergo treatment with a qualified practitioner.

FOR KIDS!: These recommendations are for adults! Children often need higher amounts of protein and carbohydrates, so you can add more fruit, tubors or animal proteins. If you have a picky eater, then don’t worry about specific quantities - just stick with gut-healthy foods.

A Gut-Healthy version of the Food Guide changes the sections to Vegetables (1/2 plate), Carbohydrates that include tubors (sweet potatoes, yams etc.) and Fruit (1/4 plate), and Animal Proteins (1/4 plate). The Whole Grain section from Canada’s guide has been changed to Carbohydrates, with fruit and tubors being removed from the Canada’s Vegetable section and put into their own category. Proteins are limited to animal varieties. Water should still be your drink of choice, but I’ve included adding Healthy Fats to your meals.

A Gut-Healthy version of the Food Guide changes the sections to Vegetables (1/2 plate), Carbohydrates that include tubors (sweet potatoes, yams etc.) and Fruit (1/4 plate), and Animal Proteins (1/4 plate). The Whole Grain section from Canada’s guide has been changed to Carbohydrates, with fruit and tubors being removed from the Canada’s Vegetable section and put into their own category. Proteins are limited to animal varieties. Water should still be your drink of choice, but I’ve included adding Healthy Fats to your meals.

Here’s an example of an AIP or Paleo meal. 1/2 plate filled with Red Cabbage-Carrot-Pea Shoot salad with olive oil, 1/4 plate with a piece of pasture-raised, traditionally cured ham, and a 1/4 plate with a mix of sweet potato and yams roasted in bacon fat.

Here’s an example of an AIP or Paleo meal. 1/2 plate filled with Red Cabbage-Carrot-Pea Shoot salad with olive oil, 1/4 plate with a piece of pasture-raised, traditionally cured ham, and a 1/4 plate with a mix of sweet potato and yams roasted in bacon fat.

This meal is GAPS and SCD compliant. I have some Sunworks sausage, a Tomato and Basil salad with olive oil, a piece of broccoli, and a bowl of cauliflower soup. Not many carbs here.

This meal is GAPS and SCD compliant. I have some Sunworks sausage, a Tomato and Basil salad with olive oil, a piece of broccoli, and a bowl of cauliflower soup. Not many carbs here.

Had a lot of leftover steamed broccoli! Filled half my plate with broccoli and topped it with an Olive Bruschetta made from olives, capers, garlic and olive oil. The Salmon Patties contain salmon and yam, so are a source of animal protein and carbs.

Had a lot of leftover steamed broccoli! Filled half my plate with broccoli and topped it with an Olive Bruschetta made from olives, capers, garlic and olive oil. The Salmon Patties contain salmon and yam, so are a source of animal protein and carbs.

Here’s an example of ingredients for a Blueberry Avocado Smoothie that fit my Gut-Healthy criteria for the new Canada’s Food Guide. 1/2 the plate is filled with leafy greens and avocado (technically a fruit, but since it’s low carb, I include it in my Vegetable section), 1/4 plate with blueberries, and I’ve added a scoop of collagen powder for my protein. The avocado also provides the healthy fat, and makes this smoothie rich and creamy. I just blend the vegetables and fruit up with water, and then add the collagen at the end.

Here’s an example of ingredients for a Blueberry Avocado Smoothie that fit my Gut-Healthy criteria for the new Canada’s Food Guide. 1/2 the plate is filled with leafy greens and avocado (technically a fruit, but since it’s low carb, I include it in my Vegetable section), 1/4 plate with blueberries, and I’ve added a scoop of collagen powder for my protein. The avocado also provides the healthy fat, and makes this smoothie rich and creamy. I just blend the vegetables and fruit up with water, and then add the collagen at the end.

As you can see from some of my meals, I end up roughly following the guidelines, but am not a stickler about it. While many of my meals don’t contain carbs, I put honey in my tea everyday, so get some extra carbs there, and I like to indulge in homemade chocolate and coconut or almond flour muffins that are also sweetened with honey. In the summer I eat more fruit than I do in the winter, but in the winter I have more root vegetables, so my sources of carbs vary depending on the time of year.

Do you agree with my Gut-Healthy version of Canada’s Food Guide? Let me know if you find it helpful to think of your meals using the 1/2 - 1/4 - 1/4 breakdown as a guideline.

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey

TURN YOUR FAVOURITE TEA INTO A FAT BOMB

Heard of intermittent fasting?  It’s one of the latest dietary trends that has some good research to support it. There are some great benefits to intermittent fasting including balancing of blood sugars (1), decrease cardiovascular risk (2), and improved brain health (3)… and it can be an easier way to reap these benefits, than a more restricted diet such as ketogenic diet or calorie counting.  Turning your favorite teas into a Fat Bomb, can be a great way to support intermittent fasting.

The goal with intermittent fasting is to extend your nightly fast.  As you sleep your body uses up glucose stores in your body, and by the time you wake up your body is starting to metabolize fat stores.  Your body will use the fat on your body, and convert it to ketones, which are an alternative fuel source for your cells.  The goal is to keep using energy from your own fat cells, which is one of the reasons this approach is so great for weight loss.  By waking up, and continuing to fast (not eat), you encourage the continual burning of stored fat into ketones as a source of energy for your body.  As it happens, your brain cells really like ketones too, so even if you aren’t trying to lose weight, intermittent fasting will do a great job of fueling your brain, and it’s a great way to support neurological health.

Here’s my favourite Herbal Chai Fat Bomb, straight out of the blender.

Here’s my favourite Herbal Chai Fat Bomb, straight out of the blender.

One of the favorite drinks amongst intermittent fasters is Bulletproof coffee.  This drink was popularized by Dave Asprey, who has created the Bulletproof brand.  Many people refer to the blend of ingredients in this coffee as Bulletproof coffee, even if they aren’t using the Bulletproof brand.  The formula is pretty simple.  Good quality brewed coffee + MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil + grass-fed butter.  You put your hot coffee into a blender with the oil and butter, and blend on high speed to emulsify the ingredients into a creamy beverage.  This beverage is consumed in the morning as breakfast. The MCT oil rapidly converts to ketones in the liver, which supports the body’s continuation of using ketones to fuel your cells.  Typically people will try to fast for 14-16 hours (or longer), and not eat a meal until mid-morning, noon, or even later.  Bulletproof coffee can help sustain your energy until your first meal of the day. Typically intermittent fasting is done in conjunction with a low carb diet such as a Paleo or gut-healthy diet that removes grains and legumes.

But what if you are on a dietary protocol that doesn’t recommend coffee, such as an AIP diet, GAPS diet or other protocol focusing on gut health.  While coffee is rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, it can be problematic for many people.  For a detailed look at the complexity of coffee’s affects on the body read Sarah Ballantyne’s recent blog article Coffee and Autoimmune Disease.  If you don’t know how coffee is impacting your health condition, it is always a good idea to remove it for a period of time.

The good news is that tea can be the perfect replacement, or if you are like me and dislike coffee, then tea can provide a morning beverage to support your intermittent fasting.

Tips Before Starting

You’ll need to make a strong tea. I recommend using 3 times the amount of tea you usually use, otherwise the flavour of the tea will get lost when you add your choice of fat.

If you are new to this type of drink, then make sure you start with a small amount of the fats, and slowly work your way up. If you get diarrhea, or start to experience stomach upset, then you have more fat than your system can handle. Use the amount that works for you. You may find that later you are able to tolerate greater amounts of fat, but you need to listen to what your body can handle now. Remember: start small and slowly build up (trust me on this!)

If you have an allergy or sensitivity to dairy, you may be able to use grass-fed ghee instead of butter, but you know your body best. If you know you react, then don’t use dairy fat.

Initially you may only be able to extend your fasting period for an hour or two, but as you slowly increase your fat intake, and your body gets used to using ketones as a fuel source, you’ll be able to go for longer periods of time without a solid meal.

You cannot add any kind of sugar, including honey to your drink. If you do, then your body will preferentially start using the glucose, and it won’t continue using ketones. If you need a bit of sweetness for your Tea Fat Bomb then try mixing in a bit of monk fruit.

3 Ways to Create Tasty Tea Fat Bombs

1.    Follow the same formula as a Bulletproof coffee.  Start by adding 1 teaspoon each of MCT oil, and grass-fed butter or ghee to your strong tea and remember to blend at high speed to emulsify those fats into a creamy drink. You can gradually build up the amount of oil and butter to 1 tablespoon each, but doing so too quickly can cause diarrhea, so it’s important to start slowly and gradually build up the amount (I can’t emphasis this point enough!)

2.    Blend full-fat coconut milk or coconut oil into your tea.  Coconut milk and coconut oil are rich sources of MCTs.  Try a spoonful of coconut oil blended into your favorite tea, or try blending in some full-fat coconut milk.  If you like the milk, look for a brand that is carrageenan free (I like Natural Value, which is available at health food stores.)  As with the previous formula, slowly build up the fat content to avoid diarrhea. 1/3 cup of full-fat coconut milk is roughly the equivalent of 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil. Start small! You can also add the grass-fed butter or ghee to this if you want.

3.    If you tolerate dairy, and know you don’t have a food sensitivity toward it (word of caution – many people have a hidden sensitivity), then you can add heavy cream or whipping cream.  The nice thing about this option is that it doesn’t require blending, but the fats in dairy also won’t convert to ketones as easily as MCT oil, so you may not get the rapid energy that you need to support your fasting.

Best Teas

Black teas are good choices if you have troubles stopping caffeine consumption.  Since black teas are traditionally consumed with milk or cream, this can be a comforting, familiar beverage.  Try an Earl Gray, English Breakfast, or other traditional flavour. There is evidence that caffeine supports the production of ketones (4), so you might find black tea works well for you with intermittent fasting.

Chai teas are also excellent choices, and there are a wide variety of these teas.  Some include black tea, but there are herbal varieties as well for those trying to avoid caffeine.

Rooibos teas can also be great options depending on the flavours.  Try a plain rooibos, or something like a vanilla or Earl Grey rooibos.

If you love herbal teas, there are some great possibilities.  One of my favorite tea shops in Calgary is The Naked Leaf.  I love the Herbal Chai, and am excited to try creating a Fat Bomb with their new Powerhouse Tea, which has some medicinal mushrooms.

Have you tried turning your favourite hot drink into a Fat Bomb? Try this with your favourite tea, and let me know how it works out for you.

Happy, Healthy Drinking!
Tracey

 

READY FOR RADICAL WEIGHTLOSS?

A gut healthy diet aims to address a contributing factor to your health, and if you’re on the diet you are hopefully beginning to see it’s benefits. But what if you aren’t? Have you failed to see desired weightloss results despite doing everything right? If this sounds like you, you may be interested in the latest book by Anne Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS. In, Radical Metabolism, she lays out a 21-day plan to support weight loss by rebooting your metabolism while adhering almost completely to a traditional gut healthy approach. Anne Louise, who is respected for her integrative approach to wellness nutrition, ties in research and anecdotes to support her Radical Metabolism plan, while including a meal plan and recipes to help you implement it. In this, she recognizes the importance of gut health, but focuses on addressing a much more overlooked aspect of health which may be causing your problems – the gallbladder.

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Why Does Your Gallbladder Matter for Weight Loss?

Your gallbladder acts as a storage facility for bile, and bile is key for the proper digestion and utilization of those healthy fats I’m always encouraging you to consume. The benefits of healthy fats are increasingly gaining recognition, and are well supported by the research literature. Many gut-healthy dietary approaches such as SCD, GAPS, Paleo, and AIP are encouraging the consumption of healthy fats.  The highest fat consumption is with a ketogenic diet, which is widely being promoted for successful weight loss.  But what happens when you can’t actually digest all that good fat you are eating?  For people who are experiencing weight loss resistance while on a higher fat, lower carb protocol, Radical Metabolism is worth reading.

Your Poop Can Tell You a Lot

Next time you poop, take a minute to look in the toilet.  Your poop can give important clues as to the health of your gallbladder, and whether or not you are digesting your fats properly.  Signs that you may have poor fat digestion include an oil slick on the surface of the water, stools that float, diarrhea (especially with high fat consumption), stomach upset or nausea when fatty foods are consumed, and light coloured stools.

Additionally, if you’ve had your gallbladder removed, have ever had gallbladder attacks, or have pain under the right side of your rib cage, then these are all indications that you need some additional support for your gallbladder.

Who should read this book?

Anyone struggling to lose weight.
Anyone who has any of the symptoms listed above.
Anyone who has had their gallbladder removed.
Anyone who has had gallstones.

Anne Louise Gittleman shows how the digestion and absorption of healthy fats is critical for successful weight loss, and for overall health.  She ties this information into a comprehensive nutritional approach that takes a holistic view.

She lays the book out in a simple format that is easy for the reader to understand and follow.  Her tables and quizzes add to the user-friendly aspect, and make this a good book to pick up even for those who don’t like to read.

Where to get Radical Metabolism

At Amazon for a Kindle, hardcover or audio version, or
at Indigo for hardcover or KOBO ebook

Happy, Healthy Eating Fats!
Tracey

YOU'LL LOVE COOL CUCUMBER SOUP ON HOT SUMMER DAYS

Cold soups don't have a lot of appeal most days of the year, especially living in Canada, but on those days where it's sweltering hot, nothing beats a cold soup.  In Calgary, we had some of those sweltering days last week, and a few more are expected in the coming days, so cold soup will be a welcome treat.  The best part is that Cucumber Soup only requires a blender to prepare, so in addition to being a tasty, cool meal, it is incredibly easy to make.

I have a simple Basic Cucumber Soup recipe, and then you can choose from any of the following variations, or create your own.  These recipes are gut-healthy, Paleo, and can easily be adapted to a Keto diet, by adding more olive oil.  Serves 4.

Have you made a cold soup before?  Has soup making ever been this easy?

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey

 

Basic Cuke Soup

2 English cucumbers, chopped
1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small clove of garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt or Himalayan salt

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until creamy.  Add water if needed to create a thinner consistency.

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Herb & Lemon Soup

Juice from a lemon
Handful each of fresh dill, and oregano (or your favourite fresh herbs)

Add these two ingredients into the basic soup and blend on high-speed until the herbs are chopped.  If you like an intense lemon flavour, add the zest from the lemon a well.

Green Curry Soup

Juice from 3 limes
3 handfuls fresh mint
1 heaping tablespoon green curry paste
dash of your favourite hot sauce (optional)

Add the first 3 ingredients into the basic soup and blend on high-speed until the herbs are chopped. Sprinkle in a bit of hot sauce to taste.

Sweet Green Goddess

3 pears, chopped and seeded
3 handfuls fresh mint

Add these two ingredients into the basic soup and blend on high-speed until the herbs are chopped.  The pears might seem like an unusual addition for soup, but they make this soup very refreshing on a hot day.

I HAVE THE GENETIC MARKER FOR ALZHEIMER'S! HERE'S WHY I'M NOT WORRIED.

Ever wonder if you are going to get a dreaded disease that you have a family history of?  That was the case for me with Parkinson's disease.  My grandfather had Parkinson's, and sometimes I wondered if I had the same genetic markers that predisposed my grandpa to getting the disease. About a month ago I got an email from 23andme letting me know that they were going to be changing their website, and that if I wanted access to locked genetic information, I would have to access it before those changes came.  The locked information included genetic markers for Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and breast cancer.  I had previously decided to keep that information locked, because I know that diet, exercise and stress management are key factors involved in gene expression.  As a nutritional consultant I'm pretty confident that my diet is good, I exercise regularly, and while my life can be pretty stressful, I do have regular practices that I use to manage it.  

I changed my mind though when I realized I would lose access to that information.  I gave a huge sigh of relief when I found out that I don't have any of the known Parkinson's markers, but was surprised to find that I have the APOE 4 gene.  APOE 4 carriers are prone to high LDL cholesterol and Alzheimer's.  The reason the E4 variation is associated with higher risk for high LDL is because the Apolipoprotein E (the protein produced by the gene) binds with VLDL, which reduces the clearance of LDL from the blood, resulting in higher blood levels of LDL.  Ideally you want low LDL, so having a genetic variation that predisposes you to higher LDL increases your risk for certain diseases, such as cardiovascular disease.  The connection between APOE 4 and Alzheimer's is not well understood at this time.

WHY I'M NOT WORRIED

1. Known risk factors:
There are many known risk factors for Alzheimer's including family history, having the APOE 4 gene, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, stroke, depression, smoking and traumatic brain injury (Source).  
Besides the genetic marker, I have no other risk factors for Alzheimer's.  A good reason not to worry.

2.  A healthy gut microbiome:
Research into the area of the microbiota-gut-brain axis has exploded in recent years, and includes the effects of the microbiome on Alzheimer's (Source).  Since my area of specialization as a nutritional consultant is teaching people how to eat to support a healthy microbiome, I feel pretty confident that I'm addressing my microbiome.  I eat a Paleo, gut-healthy diet that includes animal proteins, lots of vegetables, some fruit, healthy fats like fats from grass-fed animals, coconut oil and olive oil, as well as some nuts and seeds, and fermented foods.  

3.  Occasional ketosis as prevention:
A 2008 study showed that glucose transport across the blood brain barrier is impaired in an Alzheimer's brain (Source).  When brain cells are deprived of glucose they need another fuel source, which can be obtained from ketone bodies.  There are different ways for the brain to get ketones.  One is to eat a very low carbohydrate, moderate protein, high fat diet (also known as a ketogenic diet), which will cause your body to shift from glucose metabolism to fat metabolism.  When you metabolize fat, you start producing ketones, which are a great fuel for brain cells.  The other way is to supplement with medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which rapidly get metabolized into ketones. A double blind, placebo controlled study has shown that MCT supplementation improves memory in Alzheimer's patients (Source).  It's important to note that no dietary changes were made in the study, but that the changes happened with supplementation alone.

A ketogenic diet that is high in saturated fat could be problematic for someone like me who has the APOE 4 gene variation.  I never recommend a diet low in fats, but at the same time I don't necessarily want to eat a high fat diet if I can't metabolize fats well. I decided on a modified ketogenic diet with MCT supplementation.  Right now I'm eating a very low-carbohydrate diet, moderate protein, moderate fat with the addition of MCT oil supplementation daily.

My long-term plan is to go back to a Paleo, gut-healthy diet, with occasional periods of ketosis.  Some of those periods might look like the one I'm in right now that uses a modified ketogenic diet, but some of those periods might be a 3-4 day fast, which also induces ketosis.

Have you considered a preventative approach to your brain health?  Have you reversed symptoms of a neurological condition using diet?  What has worked for you? Or what hasn't?

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey