3 anti-inflammatory foods you should eat…NOW

p.s. recipe for this super awesome juice is coming your way (and you don't need a juicer)

p.s. recipe for this super awesome juice is coming your way (and you don’t need a juicer)

We’ve heard of these magical food properties called anti-inflammatory agents, but what are they? Answer: when our cells excrete waste it is sometimes in the form of oxidative waste, which can be toxic and harmful to the body. These waste particles are like little fists that can punch the cells and tissues, causing inflammation. Kinda like when you scrape your elbow or get a deep paper cut, the area around the injury becomes reddened and inflamed. That’s a good thing, because your body is healing. BUT there is also a type of inflammation that can happen at a cellular level and is referred to chronic low-grade inflammation.

Why does inflammation happen? And what’s the big deal?

Inflammation can take place when we bombard our body with things like sugar, refined grains, stress, environmental toxins, aging etc. There’s a lot we’re still learning about low-grade inflammation. The reason why we’re concerned is because this very type of inflammation is linked to heart disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and neurological degeneration.

But here’s the cool news….

Anti-inflammatory agents come in like the heroes that they are and swiftly carry away those feisty little guys to ensure that nothing is being irritated and swollen inside the body.  Anti-inflammatory is goooood news! Even better news is that we can find it in all sorts of foods!

Here are JUST three anti-inflammatory foods you ought to be eating, and all just in time for the upcoming harvest season.

ONE.

Beets – the deep red/purple color of beets indicates a lot of functional health properties. Anti-inflammation included! Boil, pickle, roast, juice, whatever! Just get these beautiful root plants into your diet and let your digestive system reap the benefits.

TWO.

Turmeric – let’s not forget that herbs and spices have endless medicinal properties. Turmeric is a root plant that is often dried and ground into a lovely yellow spice. The flavor is subtle, a bit pungent but also warm and peppery. It’s commonly used for mustard and curry dishes but the options are endless. Add to scrambled eggs at breakfast, rice for a hint of flavor or soups to bring even more warmth. Or hey, how about making this Kaju Korma over some baked tofu cubes?

THREE.

Olive Oil – Those Mediterranean folk, famous for their lack of inflammatory disease and in part due to their high fat diet. High fat?! Crazy right? The thing is that they are eating some majorly clean, healthy fats over in Greece such as fatty fish, olives and oils.

When fishing for the anti-inflammatory properties of cooking oils (ha, fishing) we have to make sure we grab Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Cold-Pressed Olive Oil, the cold-pressing form of processing keeps all their health benefits in tact. Limit the EVOO to your salads or for bread dipping because high temperatures will destroy those anti-inflammatory agents before they can even get to your cells…dangit. But feel free to use canola oil which is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids in your frying pan or the oven.

Now, here’s a wild idea to tie it all together…toss your chopped beets in some olive oil, sprinkle with turmeric and any other spices of your choice and roast for 25 minutes at 425F. Voila! A beautiful, fall-harvest, anti-inflammatory dish!

If you want to learn more about this specific diet, get your hands on Desiree Nielsen’s book Un-Junk Your Diet: How to Shop, Cook, and Eat to Fight Inflammation and Feel better Forever.

If you’re interested in eating more in the way of an anti-inflammatory diet, contact me. I’d love to help!

Please note the content of this post was written by 4th year Human Nutritional Sciences student Johanna Adriaansen. Johanna also maintains her own website and is an aspiring Dietitian!

Don’t forget to follow Carrots and Cake on Instagram to see tiny square snap shots of my life.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

The Whole Grain and Nothing But the Grain (Part 2: Free Gluten)

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeA couple of posts back we talked about the goodness of whole grains and why grain-excluding diets aren’t so great after all. Today we’re going to shift your focus and delve into the increasingly popular gluten-free diet trend that has everyone going cross-eyed with confusion.

WHAT ON EARTH IS GLUTEN?

Well, I guess clarifying things would help. Let’s pause. Contrary to popular belief (thanks to loads and loads of marketing and misinformation) it is not some horrifyingly fattening, health-impeding substance that will cause you to drop dead. Gluten is a protein found in the center (endosperm) of wheat, barley, and rye. Physically speaking, it helps the grain maintain it’s shape and elasticity when used in baking or cooking.

NOT FOR EVERYONE

As wonderful as whole grains are (as previously established here), there are a few instances where they are not well tolerated. Celiac disease for example is an auto-immune disorder that affects 1% of the Canadian population. With this condition, gluten proteins are not digested or absorbed, leading to some pretty unpleasant symptoms and in severe cases, anaphylactic shock – yikes! Remember, in Celiac Disease there is an immune response.

To make matters more confusing we are also noticing a number of folks struggling with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Symptoms are similar to those of celiac disease but luckily the overall clinical picture is less severe. Folks with a non-celiac gluten sensitivity don’t experience an immune response per se, but they may feel groggy, bloated, experience pain, headaches etc when gluten is ingested. In these cases it is always best to STAY CLEAR of wheat.

If you suspect you have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, contact a physician or Registered Dietitian to get some help.

1BlackBeanBrownies_squares

Gluten free brownies.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Gluten containing yummy mac and cheese (veggified of course!).

BUYER BEWARE: GLUTEN-FREE vs HEALTHY

As the incidence of celiac disease increases, more and more gluten-free products are constantly becoming available on supermarket shelves. With this shift in the market, gluten-free products have been promoted as “healthy” or “trendy”, which is confusing to the average consumer. Note to self: the words “gluten-free” in bold on a package is not code for healthy. Gluten-free products when refined (ex. white rice crackers) can be just as harmful as the refined, gluten-containing grains described in the previous post.

For those who have trouble tolerating gluten, I recommend experimenting with gluten-free options such as amaranth, buckwheat, uncontaminated oats, quinoa or brown rice pasta to create healthy snacks and meals at home.

BUT IF I GO GLUTEN-FREE, I’LL LOSE WEIGHT RIGHT?

Think of it this way: when a person with celiac disease is properly diagnosed and begins a prescribed gluten-free diet, they may in fact gain weight since the malabsorption that was once happening subsides and they are better equipped to absorb the nutrients and calories they have been consuming. You heard me right! – gluten-free diets were actually intended for people to maintain their ideal weight, sometimes meaning weight gain.

Whether or not you lose weight on a gluten-free diet all depends on how you go gluten-free. Giving the boot to gluten-containing refined grains like white-flour bagels, pasta, and crackers, and processed snacks will definitely be an effective weight loss method if you are replacing them with wholesome, high fiber alternatives. However, if these gluten rich foods are replaced by hyper-processed gluten-free products weight loss isn’t a guarantee. Besides, it never truly is.

FREE GLUTEN

The stigma surrounding gluten deserves to be squashed! Consider how silly this sounds: “My friend is allergic to peanuts – therefore they must be terrible for my health and I must give them up immediately!” That would never fly in one million years – so why would we apply this mentality with gluten? (on a side note: you would have to pry the jar of PB out of my cold dead hands before I would give it up).

The takeaway:

whole grain, gluten-containing foods are absolutely A-OKAY in our books. Unless you have been properly diagnosed with an allergy or intolerance keep munching on whole-grain goodness!

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

That’s Ceone rocking some gluten love.

If you’re not in a rush to leave this blog page, check out this video by Jimmy Fallon. Jimmy is notorious for his comedic ways, pranks and well, making us laugh a little more in our day. Enjoy.

Food photography and blog post written/captured by a talented student volunteer, Ceone Dyck. To learn more about Ceone click here or follow her on Facebook.

Don’t forget to follow Carrots and Cake on Instagram to see tiny square snap shots of my life.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

The Whole Grain and nothing but the Grain (Part 1)

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeAs soon as you type the word “diet” into your preferred internet search-engine, you’ll probably be met with results like “gluten-free,” “low-carb,” or “cutting out wheat for weight loss.” This grain-free diet trend has become increasingly popular, compliments of endorsements by many celebrities and Instagram stars. But before you write off grains for good, take a look at some of the top reasons we love whole grains, and why they’re essential to your health.

SO…. WHAT IS A WHOLE GRAIN?

What makes a whole grain whole? Well, really ALL grains start out as “whole.” The harvested seed is made up of three edible parts: the bran, germ, and endosperm.

  • The bran is the darker coloured, outer skin of the seed, which is where most of the antioxidants, B-vitamins, and fiber is stored.
  • The germ is the center embryo of the seed, which stores B-vitamins, but also protein, minerals, and healthy fat.
  • Lastly the endosperm, which is the largest portion of the seed, contains starchy carbohydrates, protein, and small amounts of vitamins and minerals.

When whole grains are refined, the bran and the germ are kicked to the curb, leaving all those wonderful and healthy vitamins, minerals, and fiber behind. Whole grains are not refined, and because of that all parts of the seed are included in the final (healthy) product. Remember, you don’t want to go grain-free, you want to go whole grain.

THE GOOD STUFF

Clearly, those un-refined whole grains have got a lot of good things going on. Here are a few of the amazing benefits of whole grains:

  • Dietary fiber helps you feel fuller, faster, and longer. It also aids in digestion and promotes gut health. Fiber is found only in plant sources (nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains), and grain fiber specifically has been shown to be protective against digestive cancers even more so than other forms of fiber. Beta-glucan, found in high concentration in both oats and barley, has been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels remarkably. Personally, we love starting our day with a big bowl of oatmeal and fruit – which honestly keeps us feeling satisfied all the way until lunch.
  • B vitamins are metabolic champions which you need, in order to make use of all those other amazing super-powered nutrients you are consuming. These power house vitamins ensure that the food you consume is utilized and absorbed to the full extent so you can get the most out of your daily nutrient consumption! They also maintain healthy skin, hair, muscles, form red blood cells, and promote healthy immune & nervous system function – kind of incredible, right?
  • Minerals – such as zinc, magnesium, phosphorous, selenium, and iron are abundant in whole grains. Collectively, these compounds have the power to boost your immune system, regulate metabolism, reduce blood pressure, and keep your skin & hair looking healthy!

The moral of this story: whole grains keep you looking and feeling like the total 10 you are.

kjkj
Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

HIGH QUALITY VERSUS LOW QUALITY GRAIN

So, after reading that first section, it’s probably clear to you that not all grain products are created equal in terms of nutrient value. It’s important to choose the right grain products in order to get all those wonderful benefits described above. Refined grains, which is the bulk of what people consume today since they’re the bulk of what’s stocked on market shelves, have been linked to obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes – whoa! Just about the exact opposite effect of whole grains. That can feel overwhelming, but here’s something to hold on to: little changes in your diet can make a huge difference. (psst, looking to make smart goals, click here). Look for the words “whole wheat flour” or “100% whole grains” as opposed to “enriched wheat flour” or “wheat flour” on the ingredient lists of your favourite grain products. Or, even better, opt to make more snacks and meals at home ahead of time with a healthy whole grain flour (try whole-wheat flour, oat flour, buckwheat, or spelt). And hey! Bake these super seedy chocolate chip cookies made with whole wheat flour, you won’t regret it I promise!

Drumroll please…. a few of my favourite whole, unrefined grain swaps are:

  • Overnight oats as a replacement for boxed breakfast-cereal (get the recipe here)
  • Quinoa or brown rice noodles as a replacement for white rice in stir-fry or soup
  • 100% whole wheat wraps to replace refined, white flour sandwich bread
  • Whole-wheat or oat flour to replace white flour in baking (replacing even half is a great way to start)

It is important to note that a lot of whole grain products on the grocery shelf today get a bad rep for being “unhealthy” due to some of the other ingredients included in their making. For instance, certain brands of 100% whole wheat bread, crackers, or pre-packaged snacks may also contain high levels of sodium, sugar, or additives which are admittedly not so great. Because of this, often the whole grains themselves take the blame. The best way to avoid some of those unhealthy extras is to incorporate unprocessed whole grains into cooking or baking at home and get familiar with reading nutrition labels.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

TO SUM IT ALL UP

Whole grains are the BOMB! (The capitalization is totally needed, I promise!). Whole grains are jam-packed with nutrients, energy, and overall deliciousness, so they make a great addition to just about anyone’s diet. Now that you’ve received a brief grain education (you are hereby granted your diploma in grain education!) you are ready to navigate the grocery store and pick out some seriously nutritious whole grains! Go forth, be adventurous, and enjoy adding those amazing whole grains into your life!

Food photography done by the talented Ceone Dyck. To learn more about Ceone click here or follow her on Facebook.

Don’t forget to follow Carrots and Cake on Instagram to see tiny square snap shots of my life.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

2015: Taking the Weight Off Weightloss

Pictured above is a baked apple dessert my husband and I enjoyed before the countdown to 2015. Yum.

Pictured above is a baked apple dessert my husband and I enjoyed before the countdown to 2015. Yum.

Wow, what a year it has been. In 2014 I opened up to the cyber-universe and gave birth to this baby I call Carrots and Cake. How was your 2014?

And now, to think it’s January 2015! This means for many North Americans, the diet has been “on” (or not) for 3 weeks?  This time around, I encourage you to forgo those rather “hardcore” New Year resolutions for weight loss. Even with the best of intentions it can be hard to stick to a weight loss resolution because we often view excess pounds as the “bad guy”.  Focusing so intently on weight can actually backfire.

I often see people resort to intense and unrealistic exercise regimes, give up staples in their diet, experiment with cleanses and dangerous detoxes and limit themselves to only a few select food items.  The result is usually an epic fail, physiological harm to your body and a lot of self-loathing. Does that sound like fun? This year, be kind to yourself.  Perhaps work on evolving a past resolution or mindfully select one specific goal unrelated to weight loss.

This year, be kind to yourself. 

Small steps and simple changes are easiest to achieve and will make a big difference as you move towards a healthier you.  If you want to cut down on fat intake, you’re more likely to stick with a switch from whole milk to 2% milk versus going all the way to skim milk.  If your goal is to be more active, it will be more manageable to start exercising 2 days a week versus heading to the gym 5 days a week.

To make sure you’re successful in achieving your goals, enlist support from friends and family.  Often, when you tell others what your resolutions are, they can offer encouragement and accountability to help you get over any stumbling blocks along the way.

If you’re still contemplating a few different ideas for a resolution as you welcome February 2015, here are a few suggestions to  improve your nutrition (and hey, maybe the weight will change, maybe it wont):

  • Incorporate a salad into one meal every day
  • Pack your lunch for work the night before
  • Drink more water—purchase a 1L water bottle and try to get through 1 – 2L during your work day
  • Increase your fibre intake by incorporating whole grains into your diet and munching on fresh fruits and vegetables
  • During winter months, take that daily Vitamin D supplement
  • Try going “meatless” on Monday’s
  • Limit eating at fast food restaurants

Before signing off on this article, I’d like to publicly declare that my personal goal this year is in fact an evolution of a previous goal I set in 2014. And that is, to eat more fish. I’ll keep everyone posted on how I do.  Happy New Year!

Want to know more about my personal thoughts on “Detoxes”? Click here.

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda