Dr. Laura’s Nut Cheese Recipe

Have you tried this? Dairy free, gluten free dreamy nut cheese. Made from raw cashews and nutritional yeast, herbs and spices, this is sure to be a holiday favourite.

A few of my patients came in to me and asked if I had tried nut cheese. I hadn’t. Until this past weekend. It’s much like the cashew basil pesto I made in the summer with lots of basil from the garden, garlic and cashews, but this is more like cheese. It’s the nutritional yeast that seems to give it that tangy cheese like flavour. You can buy it already made and I have found it at Stone Store in Guelph and Goodness Me!

Making nut cheese takes a little forward thinking, but it is not difficult. You can customize the flavour when you make it yourself. So you could do a cinnamon and cranberry, or a garlic and herb, or use crazy amount of basil.

Start with some raw unsalted cashews available at places like Costco, Bulk Barn or Goodness Me! The later two have nutritional yeast (Bob’s Red Mill brand) as well. You can get herbs and garlic, or other ingredients just about anywhere.

Some blogs on line suggest a food processor works better than a blender. I think if you have a high speed Vitamin or Blentec you might get a way with the blender and not have to make it too runny.

Ingredients
  • 2 cups (240 g) raw cashews
  • 1-2Tbsp minced garlic (depends on how strong your garlic is and how you like it)
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 2 lemons, juiced (1/4 cup or 60 ml)
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) water
  • 2 Tbsp (6 g) nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
FOR SERVING
  • press on dried parsley, dill or other dried garden herbs, as you like.
Instructions
  1. Place cashews in a bowl and cover with cool water. I use a pyrex glass one with a fitted lid. Do it in the morning and leave on the counter for the day (12 hours).  If you can’t get to them right away, drain, place back in bowl, and store in refrigerator for up to 24-36 hours.
  2. Once soaked, drain cashews thoroughly and add to blender/food processor. Add minced garlic,  lemon zest, lemon juice, water, nutritional yeast, salt and olive oil.
  3. Process until very creamy and smooth, scraping down sides as needed. It should look like the consistency of hummus. Then taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more lemon zest for tartness, nutritional yeast for cheesiness, garlic for zing, or salt for flavour/balance.
  4. If it is a bit wet, scoop out the contents and drain a fine mesh strainer over a large mixing bowl. Discard any liquid.
  5. Otherwise you can directly lay down two layers of cheesecloth (or a clean, fine, absorbent towel) and place nut mix into the centre. Gather the corners and twist the top gently so you may form the cheese into a what looks like a gouda cheese round.  A twist tie or elastic might help hold it.
  6. Place the drained cheese round into a sealed glass container in refrigerator to set for at least 6 hours, preferably 12, or until excess moisture has been wicked away. It is ready if it holds its form when unwrapped from the cheesecloth.
  7. To serve, unwrap from cheesecloth and place onto a serving board. Gently pat a coat of chopped herbs on to the round.
  8. Enjoy chilled with crackers or vegetables. Cheese will hold its form for 1-2 hours out of the refrigerator, but best when chilled. I’ve also seen it whipped up with the herbs and placed in a dollop on the serving tray.
  9. Leftovers keep well for up to 5 days,  if covered in the refrigerator.

From the heart and kitchen of Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND

Dr. Laura: Is your thyroid to blame?

One in eight women will develop thyroid disease in her lifetime and 15 Million women have a dysfunction, but don’t even know it. Men can have issues too, although at a less rate than women.

Environmental toxins are largely to blame for the rising rates of thyroid disease. Years ago, it was mostly iodine deficiency and this is why iodine was added to salt. Now we point the finger more often at the rising rates of hormone mimickers in our environment like BPA’s and their alternatives in plastics, cadmium, circadian light disrupters, pesticides, herbicides and more.

Untreated thyroid dysfunction can lead to feelings of:

  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Brain fog, difficulty focusing thoughts
  • Unexpected weight gain, and with it increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease
  • High LDL cholesterol – the thyroid plays an important role in fat metabolism
  • Depression – as many as 15% of women on antidepressants have an undetected thyroid problem as the root cause of their depression –but their problem hasn’t been fully investigated. When I check thyroid I check more than the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone).  I look sub functioning gland by checkin TSH, T3, T4, thyroid antibodies and look for how well cortisol is clearing on the DUTCH hormone test.
  • Anxiety – often because cortisol is not clearing
  • Increased risk of cardiac arrhythmias and congestive heart failure due to the regulatory control of this hormone has on heart rate and rhythm.

Troubles in the digestive track and liver can lead to poor activation of the T4 to T3 hormones. When I work with patients I am always looking for clues in the skin, stress, and sleep and how well the micro biome functions. A good clue to micro biome function is the Comprehensive Stool Analysis by Doctors Data.

If you suspect you may have a thyroid issue, get it tested!  I’ll look at results from a functional medicine perspective, which mean optimal performance, not disease levels of lab markers.

From the heart and research of Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND.

Feel Rested: How to get a full night’s sleep

How Heart Math has changed my practice

This past spring I had a patient with a really challenging case.  They told me that they have been sleeping less than 6 hours a night for years and that even that was only possible with the help of sleeping medication.  Most nights they were so tired they’d pass out in minutes but weren’t able to stay asleep and never felt rested in the morning.  Worst of all, in the morning they felt groggy and felt slower.  If you were to ask any of my colleagues they’d tell you that I think medications really do have a time and place.  I take comfort in the fact that my patient was being pro-active and reached out for help with their doctor when they needed to. However, not all medications are meant to be taken long-term and in this case my patient really wanted to get off them.

Luckily for me I added Heart Math to my practice this past May.  It uses over 25 years of science to help people like my patient find relaxation and even better sleep.  My patient had just retired and STRESS was a huge reason of why they couldn’t sleep.  Heart Math uses something called Heart Rate Variability (HRV) to see how healthy someone’s nervous system is.  Unlike other stress management exercises like meditation, in heart math you can see your progress in real-time.  Over time my patient could see the changes they were making to their health with every week of practice.

Over the course of a few months I am happy to report my patient finally feels rested.  They do not instantly fall asleep when they rest their head on the morning and they feel awake in the morning.  Instead of going to another pill or supplement my patient was able to train powerful skills that they can use anywhere to feel more relaxed and get better sleep.

Last Call!

Dr. Graeme Rowell is finishing his Heart Math certification and had only a few spots left at a reduced rate.  If you or a friend are looking to get better sleep feel free to book a free 15 minute consult or phone Forward Health at (519) 826-7973 to see if Heart Math is right for you.

 

 

Dr. Laura’s Rosemary Nut Recipe

Rosemary Nuts

1 pound raw unsalted nuts of your choice

(I love an assortment of almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, pecans)

2 tablespoons butter OR coconut oil, melted

1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)

2 tablespoons dried rosemary

½ tsp Himalayan sea salt

One serving is about 1/4 cup.

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Spread the nuts evenly on a baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes or until fragrant and beginning to brown. Transfer the nuts to a large bowl (set the baking sheet aside). ( Note! in our oven only took 6 min and be sure to place on lower level rack and watch closely.)
  3. Mix the melted butter or coconut oil with the rosemary, and salt, optional to add a little maple syrup, pour it over the warm nuts, and toss with a wooden spoon. Spread the nuts back on the baking sheet and let them cool on the counter for 30 minutes, or until all elements have solidified and cooled. Serve at room temperature. (They’re not as good if you try to eat them while they’re still warm.)

Nuts are a good source of magnesium, healthy fats and protein. Magnesium is critical in relaxing muscles, regulating the HPA axis and in many other metabolic transactions in the body. Brazil nuts are a source of selenium, important for thyroid health. Almonds are a source of vitamin E. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc, important in a healthy gastrointestinal tract, immune function, thyroid health and sperm production. Rosemary helps the liver’s detoxification process. Olive oil is a healthy fat important in cardiovascular health. Coconut oil is high in caprylic acid and helps regulate healthy intestinal flora. Sea salt is a good source of minerals.

From the kitchen of Dr. Laura M. Brown,  ND.

Picture from www.kitchenparade.com

Interview with Dr. Graeme

Dr. Laura:

Meet Dr. Graeme Rowell, a genuine, grateful guy. We sit casually in our shared office at Forward Health, and learn what lies beneath his smiling face and sincere nature.

 

Dr. Laura: Dr. Graeme, what makes you different?

Dr. Graeme:

I’d like to say I am a very unique thinker! What I mean is when I view a case, break it apart, and then reassemble the pieces, I seem to find connections most people miss.

 

Dr. Laura: Tell us about your general approach.

Dr. Graeme:

I like to help people achieve a love for their own health. I feel it is important and serves as a great vehicle to initiate self-care. There really is nothing like seeing people feel well for first time in their life. Sometimes it means they get back to work after being on disability, sometimes they get enjoy things they had thought they would never do again and sometimes they are able to end a dependency on drugs or medication.

 

Dr. Laura:  Is there an area of practice you that is particularly attractive for you?

Dr. Graeme:

Weight management is a big focus for me.  It is something I have dealt with personally and is a topic I have 10 years of experience helping people attain results. It also a topic that everyone has thought about and can relate to in one way or another. I like it because it is completely different with every person. Motivations varies. It’s great finding ways to make it fun and manageable. For the record, I’ve put together a new five-week weight management program. Click here to better understand the expectations and outcomes of the program.

 

Dr. Laura: Above all what is it you are really passionate about?

Dr. Graeme:

Dr. Laura I really want to return people’s belief that they can care for themselves in better ways. You know, to be empowered and take ownership of their health. Moving beyond labels. Not being defined by an illness but rather the capacity to live as human beings. Health is so multidimensional. We must gain identity through wellness instead of disease.

 

Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND and Dr. Graeme Rowell, ND are part of Forward Health’s circle of care. We welcome you to learn more about naturopathic medicine. Call 519.826.7973, email info@forwardhealth.ca to book an appointment or a free 15-minute consult today.

Recipe for BBQ Lamb & Meal Plan

Lamb finished

New Zealand Spring Lamb

Follow this meal plan and Father’s Day dinner will be simple to prepare for and easy to please Dad on his special day.

Chops are easy to manage and quite tasty. I buy mine at Costco on Imperial Road in Guelph. One tray has about 8 chops.  Of course if you are an Ontario Lamb fan, that’s always fantastic to support local farmers.  Marinade 12-24 hours ahead of cooking and if you don’t need all 8, freeze the remaining marinaded chops for a future date. They easily defrost within 12 hours in the fridge, so take them out in the morning and they’ll be ready for BBQ that night.

Marinade

Olive oil – about 1/4 cup

Fresh Sliced Garlic – 1 bud

Rosemary – about 1 Tbsp

Ground black pepper corns – about 1 Tbsp

Lamb1

Usually I find a glass Pyrex rectangular container or something similar works best for this. One with a plastic seal able lid so the whole fridge doesn’t smell like garlic while it is marinading. Use about 1/4 c of olive oil, pour this in the glass container, then add about 1 tbsp of dried rosemary, slice up one bud of garlic thinly or in chopped finely. Course ground black pepper or grind peppercorns fresh with mortar and pestle – about 1 Tbsp. Rinse lamb chops off in cold running water, drip dry for a moment, then transfer to container with oil and herbs. Roll the chops around in the marinade so each is well coated. Arrange in the pan – a tight fit is good as it keeps the air out. Allow to marinade in fridge for 12-24hours.

BBQ Time

Lamb3Heat the grill with all burners on high. Allow to come to 500 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter. We have three burners on our BBQ, which is average sized. After all is hot, turn the one burner at the far end where you will place the meat on low, the middle burner with nothing on it at medium and the burner furthest from the meat, leave on high. This will give lots of heat to the cooking (mine went up to 700degrees Fahrenheit) and will minimize flares. Note to the chef… charring meat to a crisp is not healthy! Close the lid. Cook on one side for 6 min. Then turn meat over. Cook on other side for additional 6 min. When lamb comes off the BBQ it will continue to cook for a minute or two. Once it reaches the plate it will be pink in the middle but cooked.

Side Dishes

BBQ Lamb goes great with whipped sweet potatoes. Peel, chop and boil in a little water. Drain water once potatoes are soft. (Hint: I save the water the sweet potato boiled in a mason jar and will add to soups or use as a stir fry base later in the week.) Back to the day: Add 1 Tbsp of coconut oil to the cooked sweet potatoes and use a hand mixer on medium or high for 2-3 minutes until all the lumps are out.

Lamb isn’t the same without mint sauce or jelly. Mint is growing fresh you might take task to do this at home. Everyone in our home likes the Presidents Choice Mint Sauce and Mint Jelly you can find in the condiments section at Zehrs. Even the smaller Zehrs at Gordon and Clair area in Guelph carries this.

Veggies: hmm… any will do & lots. Steamed organic broccoli or peas and mushrooms or grilled or steamed asparagus is always a great companion. Of course always a big side serving of healthy leafy salad greens with a balsamic and olive oil vinaigrette.

New thing we found follows the meal very well  is sliced mango. Peel the mango and slice onto a plate – it’s great to taste near the end of the meal.

Vino – a glass a day is OK

I would pair this lamb meal with a glass of Valpolicella Ripasso, Amorone or Chianti Classico.

 From the heart and kitchen of Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND.

The Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

The Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

Four Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

It could help you lose weight.
Consuming vinegar with your meal can increase feelings of fullness, which should keep you from overeating. One study found that people ate 200-275 fewer calories for the rest of the day when they consumed vinegar with their meal.

It’s been shown to reduce and regulate blood sugar.
ACV contains acetic acid, which has been shown to slow down the absorption of sugar into your blood stream. Subjects in a study at the University of Milan saw a 34% drop in their blood sugar if they drank 1 gram of acetic acid in olive oil before eating 50 grams of white bread. In contrast, if one were to usually consume white bread, this would cause a spike in blood sugar.

It can clean fruits, veggies, and more.
When mixed with lemon juice, ACV has been proven to clean fruits and veggies and eliminate traces of salmonella.  ACV can also be used to clean surfaces around the house.

It may reduce risk of heart disease.
Multiple studies have shown that vinegar reduces blood pressure in rats and in another study rats that consumed ACV also showed a decrease in cholesterol and triglyceride levels. And while there hasn’t been much research on similar effects in humans, one observational study found that women who ate salad dressings with vinegar had a reduced risk of heart disease.

 

What Apple Cider Vinegar Might Not Do

Whiten your teeth.
The antibacterial properties of ACV could very well remove some gunk off your teeth, but it’s also extremely acidic. Too much acid can lead to erosion of the enamel, so rinsing your mouth with ACV could do more harm than good.

Clear your skin.
ACV has antimicrobial properties that could help to clear up acne, but right now there are only personal testimonials for this, no scientific studies.

Soften your hair.
The acetic acid in ACV could remove excess buildup from hair products, but again, there’s a lack of science to back up this claim.

 

How to use Apple Cider Vinegar:

Do not drink this stuff straight. If you’re going to ingest ACV, mix one tablespoon with at least eight ounces of water. You’ll want to dilute it because it tastes (and smells) quite pungent, and because acetic acid can be dangerous when consumed in high concentrations. If you’re going to put it on your skin, you should still dilute it in water. If you’re cleaning with it, you can mix it with water or lemon juice to create a super cleaning concoction. It’ll also go further that way.

One of the most popular brands of ACV is Braggs. It’s unfiltered, non-processed, and organic. It comes with “the mother,” a cloudy substance at the bottom of the bottle that produces the good bacteria and enzymes responsible for many of ACV’s healthy benefits.

Although there is some scientific data to back many of the claims ACV lovers espouse, much of what’s being discussed on the Internet is lacking solid evidence. Much like those quotes erroneously assigned to Abraham Lincoln. So, if you’re going to use it on your hair or skin, we recommend you proceed with caution.

Thank For Sharing Beachbody.com

 

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health

10 Steps to Changing Your Life for the Better in 2016

apple steth

Happy New Year! This year, what do you say we all skip the New Year’s resolution? About half of North Americans make them, and most start out strong but come February or March, many have already thrown in the towel.

Overall, it’s estimated that 92 percent of Americans fail to achieve the goals they commit to on New Year’s Day.1 And so, I’m proposing this instead: in place of a New Year’s resolution, make a commitment to simply live better this year.

This is an ongoing process, a lifestyle change, not an impulsive resolution that you blurted out at midnight and have all but forgotten by morning. It’s also not something you can achieve overnight. Rather, this is a plan you can live by.

10 Steps to Changing Your Life for the Better in 2016

It’s the start of a new year — what better time to start fresh with some positive changes? The 10 that follow are the crème de la crème of lifestyle tricks you can use to live better and be happier — and isn’t that really what virtually all of us are after?

Below follows a brief introduction to the 10 points I suggest you commit to this year. In the coming months, stay tuned for an updated comprehensive nutrition plan, which is scheduled for release in 2016.

It will include these points in detail along with a plethora of additional recommendations, tips, and strategies to help you live the best life possible.

And, starting next week, look for forthcoming articles in the newsletter, which will cover each of these topics in depth. Are you ready to start fresh in 2016? Then keep on reading.

1. Give Up Soda

Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, liver damage, osteoporosis, and acid reflux are just some of the health conditions linked to soda consumption. No wonder nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of Americans say they actively try to avoid soda in their diet.2

If you’re not yet among them, commit to swapping your soda for healthier beverages like water, sparkling water, and, occasionally, tea and/or organic black coffee.

When you consume soda your body increases dopamine production, which stimulates the pleasure centers of your brain — a physically identical response to that of heroin, by the way.

This explains why so many people find it difficult to give up their daily soda “fix.” But, it can be done and you’ll feel better for it.

2. Eat Two Meals a Day, Within an Eight-Hour Window

Your body probably only needs two meals a day, and eating this way allows you to restrict your eating to a window of six to eight consecutive hours each day, while avoiding food for at least three hours before bedtime.

As long as you restrict your eating to a six- to eight-hour window, and avoid eating for at least three hours before bed, you can choose between having breakfast and lunch, or lunch and dinner, but avoid having both breakfast and dinner.

Which two meals you prefer are up to you; let your body, and your lifestyle, be your guide.

This type of intermittent fasting has numerous benefits for your health, including weight loss, disease prevention, resolving insulin resistance, optimizing your mitochondrial function, and preventing cellular damage from occurring.

3. Get Eight Hours of Sleep Each Night

I used to think I was immune to needing adequate sleep. I would routinely get less than six hours a night and thought I could function this way. But, I’ve since realized that most adults really need about eight hours of sleep every night.

What makes sleep deprivation so detrimental is that it doesn’t just impact one aspect of your health; it impacts many.

Sleep deprivation has the same effect on your immune system as physical stress or illness,3 which may help explain why lack of sleep is tied to an increased risk of numerous chronic diseases.

Sleeping less than six hours per night more than triples your risk of high blood pressure, and women who get less than four hours of shut-eye per night double their chances of dying from heart disease.4

Sleep is also intricately tied to important hormone levels, including melatonin, production of which is disturbed by lack of sleep.

This is extremely problematic, as melatonin inhibits the proliferation of a wide range of cancer cell types, as well as triggers cancer cell apoptosis (self-destruction). Lack of sleep also decreases levels of your fat-regulating hormone leptin, while increasing the hunger hormone ghrelin.

The resulting increase in hunger and appetite can easily lead to overeating and weight gain. Not to mention, poor or insufficient sleep is actually the strongest predictor for pain in adults over 50.5

Small adjustments to your daily routine and sleeping area can go a long way to ensure uninterrupted, restful sleep and, thereby, better health.

If you’re not sure how much sleep you’re getting, a fitness tracker can be beneficial for helping you keep track of the actual time you’re asleep (as opposed to the time spent in bed).

If you need more sleep, I suggest you read through my full set of 33 healthy sleep guidelines for details on proper sleep hygiene

4. Eat More Healthy Fats and Fiber

Public health guidelines condemn healthy fats from foods like butter and full-fat dairy, and recommend whole grains and cereals — the opposite of what most people need to stay healthy.

The latest science suggests healthy fats (saturated and unsaturated fats from whole food, animal, and plant sources) should comprise anywhere from 50 to 85 percent of your overall energy intake. Healthy fat sources include coconut and coconut oil, avocados, butter, nuts, and animal fats.

That’s right; butter need not be shunned and, in fact, is a beneficial source of healthy saturated fats, especially when it’s raw, organic, and grass-fed. In addition to eating more healthy fats, most Americans need to eat more fiber. A high-fiber diet can help reduce your risk of premature death from any cause, likely because it helps to reduce your risk of some of the most common chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

When it comes to boosting your fiber intake, be sure to focus on eating more vegetables, nuts and seeds (not grains). Organic whole husk psyllium is a great fiber source, as are sunflower sprouts and fermented vegetables, the latter of which are essentially fiber preloaded with beneficial bacteria. Flax, hemp, and chia seeds are also excellent fiber sources.

5. Eat Fermented Vegetables

Fermented foods are potent chelators (detoxifiers) and contain much higher levels of beneficial bacteria than probiotic supplements, making them ideal for optimizing your gut flora.

In addition to helping break down and eliminate heavy metals and other toxins from your body, beneficial gut bacteria perform a number of surprising functions, including helping with mineral absorption and producing nutrients such as B vitamins and vitamin K2. They may also play a role in:

  • Preventing obesity and diabetes, and regulating dietary fat absorption
  • Lowering your risk for cancer
  • Improving your mood and mental health
  • Preventing acne

In the US, imbalances in gut flora are widespread due to diets high in sugar and processed foods as well as exposure to antibiotics, both in medicine and via CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) meats in your diet.

The solution is simple — in addition to cutting back on sugar and antibiotics, consuming fermented foods will give your gut health a complete overhaul, helping to clear out pathogenic varieties and promoting the spread of healing, nourishing microorganisms instead.

Just one-quarter to one-half cup of fermented vegetables, eaten with one to three meals per day, can have a dramatically beneficial impact on your health. You can even start a new tradition by getting together with friends and family to make big batches of fermented vegetables together.

6. Sit Less and Walk More, Work on Your Flexibility

On average, a U.S. adult spends nine to 10 hours each day sitting,6 which is so much inactivity that even a 30- or 60-minute workout can’t counteract its effects.7

While it might seem natural to sit this long since you’ve probably grown used to it (physically and mentally), it’s actually quite contrary to nature. Studies looking at life in agriculture environments show that people in agrarian villages sit for about three hours a day.

Your body is made to move around and be active the majority of the day, and significant negative changes occur when you spend the majority of the day sedentary instead.

Setting a goal of taking 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day (which is just over three to five miles, or 6 to 9 kilometers) can go a long way toward getting more movement and less sitting into your life. This should be over and above any exercise regimen you may have.

In addition, stand up at work if you can, rather than sitting at your desk. Meanwhile, make it a point to gain flexibility, which will help keep you functional well into old age. Pilates, yoga, and whole body vibration training are options to help increase your flexibility.

7. Have Your Vitamin D Level Tested

It’s incredibly easy to boost your vitamin D levels, so there’s no reason to put your health at risk from low status. Yet, researchers such as Dr. Michael Holick estimate that 50 percent of the general population is at risk of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency. If you’re among them, your risk of multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and other chronic disorders may be significantly increased.

In a study of more than 100 people, those with low vitamin D levels were more likely to have type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, or metabolic syndrome, regardless of their weight.8

Dementia is also directly linked to vitamin D. Seniors who have low vitamin D levels may double their risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.9 As noted by the authors, “This adds to the ongoing debate about the role of vitamin D in nonskeletal conditions.” Incidence of several types of cancer could also be slashed in half if more people increased their vitamin D levels.

One of Dr. Holick’s studies showed that healthy volunteers taking 2,000 IUs of vitamin D per day for a few months upregulated 291 different genes that control up to 80 different metabolic processes.

This included improving DNA repair to having effect on autoxidation (oxidation that occurs in the presence of oxygen and /or UV radiation, which has implications for aging and cancer, for example), boosting your immune system, and many other biological processes.

If you don’t know what your vitamin D level is, get tested. The vitamin D test you’re looking for is called 25(OH)D or 25-hydroxyvitamin D. This is the officially recognized marker of overall D status and is most strongly associated with overall health.

The other vitamin D test available, called 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25[OH]D), is not very useful for determining vitamin D sufficiency. While sunlight is the ideal way to optimize your vitamin D, winter and working indoors prevent more than 90 percent of those reading this article from achieving ideal levels.

A high-quality tanning bed is your next best option, but if your circumstances don’t allow you to access the sun or a high-quality tanning bed, then you really only have one option if you want to raise your vitamin D, and that is to take a vitamin D3 supplement.

Regular testing is crucial in this case to keep your level within the optimal range. If you live in the U.S., January and February are ideal months to find out if you’re vitamin D levels are low.

vitamin d levels
Sources

8. Eat Nutrient-Dense Protein (Quality not Quantity)

Protein is essential for your health as it’s a structural component of enzymes, cellular receptors, signaling molecules, and a main building block for your muscles and bones. But, eating excessive amounts of protein could actually be worse than eating too many carbs. Excessive protein can stimulate two biochemical pathways that accelerate aging and cancer growth.

For optimal health, I believe most adults need about 1 gram of protein per kilogram of lean body mass (not total body weight), or 0.5 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. In this formula, you must first determine your lean body mass. To do that, subtract your percent body fat from 100. For example, if you have 30 percent body fat, then you have 70 percent lean body mass.

Then multiply that percentage (in this case 0.7) by your current weight to get your lean body mass in pounds or kilos. As an example, if you weigh 170 pounds; 0.7 multiplied by 170 equals 119 pounds of lean body mass. Using the “0.5 gram of protein” rule, you would need just under 60 grams of protein per day. Substantial amounts of protein can be found in meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, and nuts.

The quality of the meat you eat is just as important as the quantity. As a general rule, the only meat I recommend eating is pastured, grass-fed, and grass-finished, ideally organically raised meats (and of course, the same goes for dairy and eggs). Wild-caught Alaskan salmon and sardines are also excellent protein sources.

You can also get plenty of protein from plant foods. Consider hemp seeds (hemp hearts), chia seeds, spirulina, sprouts, and bee pollen, for instance.

9. Meditate for 5 to 10 Minutes a Day

Stress-related problems, including back pain, insomnia, acid reflux, and exacerbations to irritable bowel syndrome may account for up to 70 percent of the average US physician’s caseload.10 Such health-care expenditures are the third highest in the US, after only heart disease and cancer. New research suggests, however, that such costs could be cut drastically simply by becoming more relaxed.11

Both meditation and mindfulness are excellent for stress relief and relaxation, as are prayer, keeping a gratitude journal, and the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT).   One simple way to incorporate such relaxation techniques into your life is to meditate first thing in the morning, even before you get out of bed, to take advantage of your mind being in a quiet zone.

10. Help Others and Be Active in Your Community

Volunteering is a simple way to help others, but it’s also a powerful way to help yourself. Beyond the good feelings you’ll get from donating your time, and the potential to develop new, meaningful relationships with people in your community, volunteering has a significant impact on your physical health, including a boost to your heart health.

In one study, people who volunteered for at least 200 hours a year were 40 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who did not.12 People who volunteer for altruistic reasons, i.e. to help others rather than themselves, may even live longer than those who volunteer for more self-centered reasons.13

The benefits of being active in your community are particularly pronounced among older adults, a population that tends to slow down once retirement hits. There’s a definite social aspect, as if you’re socially isolated you may experience poorer health and a shorter lifespan.

Volunteering also gives you a sense of purpose and can even lead to a so-called “helper’s high,” which may occur because doing good releases feel-good hormones like oxytocin in your body while lowering levels of stress hormones like cortisol.

Giving back is about so much more than even that, though, as it will help you to connect with your community and contribute your time and/or talents to promoting the greater good.

Remember, most New Year’s resolutions do fail for one reason or another. So this year, try making a simple commitment to live healthier from here on out. Start slow and small as little changes can make a huge overall difference in your health. And, when you commit to a lifestyle, it’s no longer about meeting a particular goal, like losing 10 pounds. It’s about living a little bit differently, a little bit better, so that ultimately you’re happier and healthier for it.

By Dr. Mercola @  http://www.mercola.com

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health

9 Tips for Fighting the Winter Blahs as the Days Grow Shorter

Picture of person biking in the evening time

We’ve rapidly approached the shortest days of the year. In some places, it’s getting dark as early as 4:30 right now. I often hear people comment about how depressing it is when they drive to work in the dark and return home in the dark.

Or if they have an office job, and leave at the end of the day and it is already dark. But from a yoga perspective, the winter solstice is the true new year, where you let go and bring closure to the past year.

Out of the dark comes the seeds of new growth, and the emergence of light and new beginnings. It is a time to contemplate all that doesn’t serve you anymore and let go, as you allow for more space to let the new in.

But still…on an every day basis, the dark days of winter can be a bit of a downer.

For some people, the lack of sunshine leads a condition even more severe than the winter blues – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  Causes of SAD may arise from a change in serotonin levels due to lack of sunshine, as well as possible hormonal imbalances.

Even if you don’t meet the clinical requirements for a diagnosis of SAD, the winter blues are understandable. Lack of sunshine, bad weather and stress from the holidays can all leave you feeling more than a little frazzled.

For many people, stress can also trigger poor dietary and sleep habits. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Harness this potent time for new beginnings and growth.

Here are my recommendations for a little pick-me-up during the winter months.

1. Get outside  Sure the weather is poor in many parts of the country, but that doesn’t mean you need to stay holed up in your house. Try to spend a little bit of time outside during daylight hours every day.

According to an article in Issues in Mental Health Nursing, insufficient vitamin D levels are associated with depression. Since your best source of vitamin D is sunlight, it’s understandable that during the winter months these levels drop.

To counteract this, head outside for 20 minutes whenever possible. Try taking a brisk walk during your lunch hour or stepping outside for a few minutes during your breaks at work.

The sunlight and fresh air will give you a mental boost that can make you feel better! Just bundle up with a hat and gloves, if needed, and you’ll be happy you got out.

2. Exercise You have to move that body to avoid feeling lethargic and heavy! According to the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, exercise is an excellent way to fight the winter blues.

Picture of sneakers walking

One study showed that getting some form of aerobic exercise three times per week effectively improved symptoms of mild to moderate depression.

Another study showed the regular practice of yoga could lessen anxiety in women. Don’t you love modern studies that back up ancient practices that have been used for centuries prior? :)

3. Take vitamin D supplements While your best source of vitamin D is sunlight, getting enough sunshine during the winter months isn’t always possible in certain climates.

In an article for Psychology Today, James M. Greenblatt, MD recommends D3 supplementation as one factor in improving mood for cases of SAD.

4. Include whole grains and raw seeds in your diet  Whole grains such as quinoa  contain high levels of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that regulates the levels of serotonin in the brain.

Picture of a pumpkin seeds

Studies have shown that tryptophan is better than placebo at alleviating depression. Other foods high in tryptophan include raw sesame and pumpkin seeds.

5. Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids The typical Western diet creates an imbalance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. This imbalance can lead to a host of health issues, including depression.

Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include flax, hemp, chia, and pumpkin seeds, as well as vegetables like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and purslane.

6. Avoid caffeine, refined sugar, and alcohol The winter blues can leave you feeling a little blah. When this happens, many people feel it’s natural to self-medicate by turning to substances that pick you up and/or calm you down.

Using these substances, however, can wreak havoc on your energy, lifting you up and then causing you to crash.

To keep your mood steadier (and your body healthier), stick to a non-processed diet ofwhole foods and skip these unbalancing entities, like fish oil capsules.

7. Relax It’s easy to burn the candle at both ends during the winter. Relaxation is an important part of fighting anxiety and depression, however.

Picture of candles lit

It’s important during these winter months you take regular time for yourself. Sit with your feet up, gaze out a sunny window (another great way to get sunlight without going outside on the coldest of days, by the way), meditate, or engage in hobbies you enjoy.

Stopping and taking time for yourself is essential for recharging and renewing during the busy winter months. Reflect on what you are letting go of, and what you want to create as the light comes forth again.

8. Laugh Whether you spend time with funny friends, go to a comedy club, or take in the latest funny movie (Wedding Crashers, Zoolander and Forgetting Sarah Marshall are some of my personal classic funny faves!), laughter is a great way to fight the winter blahs.

 

Picture of woman laughing

Multiple studies have shown just how effective laughter is at staving off anxiety and depression, so make sure you take time regularly to get your funny on, and you’ll feel better this winter.

9. Start each day with a Glowing Green Smoothie   Winter causes many people to eat heavier, heartier foods in an attempt to warm themselves from the inside. Lightening up what you eat, however, may just help lighten your mood.

Picture of the Glowing Green Smoothie

That’s because when you eat heavy foods, your body diverts a great deal of energy to digestion.

Lighter fare allows you to use that digestive energy for – well – energy! Packed with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and fiber, the Glowing Green Smoothie (GGS) is energy in a glass.

And since it won’t weigh you down, the GGS gets every day off to the perfect start, helping you feel light and energized all day long.

Say goodbye to those winter blues!

Thanks to http://kimberlysnyder.com

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph

10 Healthier Holiday Treats For The Whole Family

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Fruity Candy Cane
Delight your kids with this candy cane from Rabbit Food for My Bunny Teeth. All you need are strawberries, a banana, and a knife!
Banana Strawberry Candy Cane

 

Christmas Tree Pizza
Lunchtime looks delicious with this fun Christmas Tree Pizza idea shared by Caro & Co. Use our recipe for healthy Whole Wheat Pizza Crust and cut out tree shapes before baking. Decorate with your favorite holiday-inspired toppings. Here, sliced olives form garlands. How about topping the pizza in leaves of spinach and decorating with “ornaments” made from red and yellow bell peppers?
Christmas Tree Pizza with Olives

 

Snowman Hard-Boiled Eggs
Why did the snowman take a dip in boiling water? Because he was made from hard-boiled eggs! These adorable snacks from Roxy’s Kitchen are cleverly held together with a stick of dry spaghetti. Carrot slices form hats, sprigs of parsley shape the arms, and buttons and eyes are affixed with black peppercorns (you could also use black sesame seeds). Take it a step further and use a vegetable peeler to make ribbons of zucchini for scarves!
Snowman Eggs

 

Santa’s Belly Cheese Snacks
Ho-ho-ho! Santa’s belly is coming to town. Cute Food for Kids wrapped holiday cheer around Babybel individual cheese snacks and used construction paper to craft belts and buckles.
Cheese Santa

 

Snowman Snack Platter
This snowman is playing in a winter wonderland! We love this fun, open-faced sandwich idea from Creative Food. Use a cookie cutter to cut out circles of bread and cheese. Add a hat and scarf made from bell peppers, and a sliver of carrot for the nose. This snowman has eyes, a mouth, and buttons made from plum, but you can use black sesame seeds. Popcorn snow is the finishing touch.
Snowman Snack Platter

 

Reindeer Pancakes
Add extra holiday cheer to your morning with these Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer pancakes from Kitchen Fun with My 3 Sons. For a healthier version use Greek yogurt instead of whipped cream, turkey bacon, and our recipe for Cashew and Oat Hotcakes or Multi-Grain Banana Pancakes.
Rudolph Pancakes

Tortilla Snowflakes
These pretty snowflake-shaped tortillas are dusted with a light sprinkling of Parmesan. They’re simple, savory, and kids of all ages will have fun cutting out snowflake shapes. Get the how-to from Carpé Season.
Parmesan Tortilla Snowflakes

 

No-Bake Granola Bars
Make your own granola bars like these from Life Made Sweeter. Kids will enjoy mixing the ingredients and pressing them into the pan! For a lighter version, try our recipe forCranberry Granola Bars.
Holiday Granola Bars

 

Grinch Grapes
Grapes get a dose of holiday cheer, just like the Grinch did in Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, with cute hats made from strawberries, sliced banana, and a miniature marshmallow.
Grinch Grapes

 

Fruity Christmas Tree
This decorative tree takes a little more effort than the other snacks on this page, but it will make kids (and grownups) ooh and ah, and you’ll have a healthy, edible centerpiece for your table. Click to find out how Ginger & Garlic assembled it!
Edible Christmas Tree

 

Looking for more holiday treats? Check out this Candy Cane Shakeology, theseGingerbread Protein Pancakes, and these Gingerbread Balls!

What are your favorite holiday snacks? Tell us in the comments!

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health

Thanks to http://www.beachbody.com