Like many women before me, I used to be pretty complacent about many of my health issues. Joint pain? Bah, I’ll just walk it off! Headache, I’ll just pop a pill! But when my health issues affected my skin and my complexion, and how I looked, the vainest part of me became worried. I was forced out of complacency. After all, being 30-something (almost 40 even!) and having acne in addition to my grey hair seemed to be a cruel way for the universe to let me keep my youthful facade. I’ve written before about how I’ve had life-long issues with eczema, and I’ve come to realize that eating the wrong thing can result in an eczema flare-up or even cystic acne because of my food intolerances. One of the most frustrating revelations in becoming a holistic nutritionist has been learning that what you eat can affect your body in so many ways beyond your digestion. After all Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”
How to get clear skin?
While what you can eat can affect you negatively, thankfully, the opposite is also true. There are foods that encourage healthy skin by reducing inflammation, helping to repair damage, relieve dryness or irritation, and more. So if you’ve got skin issues, don’t just rely on expensive beauty creams containing “skin-replenishing nutrients” – those will only help the surface of your problem. If you want to get to the root of the matter, you’ll have to start with what you’re feeding your body as what you eat affects you from the inside out.
Make sure you’re getting enough of these nutrients for healthy skin
Water for hydration
You need water for all of your life’s processes, and if you want beautiful, glowing skin, you’ll want to be properly hydrated. Being dehydrated dries out your skin and increases the appearance of wrinkles. So make sure to reach for water as your beverage of choice – not sweetened juices, teas or coffee. Plain old water does your body best for hydration. If you need a little more flavor, squeeze a little lemon or other citrus into it, infuse it with berries or get some other ideas here. Aside from beverages though, eating plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, soups and stews and other foods that have water will help hydrate you too.
Protein to build
Proteins are the body’s building blocks, and every cell, organ and tissue (including your skin) gets built from protein. After all, it’s the most abundant component of your body, after water. The healthiest sources of protein also contain vitamins, minerals and fats that are necessary for life, never mind just healthy skin. Ideally, your protein sources should come from humanely-raised, pastured animals that have plenty of complete amino acid profiles, B12 and vitamin D (nutrients that aren’t found as readily from plant sources of protein). If you choose to get protein from beans or other legumes, make sure to prepare them carefully (e.g. fermentation, soaking and sprouting) to make them more digestible and reduce the anti-nutrients like phytic acid. Gelatin (from grass-fed animals) is a good source of protein too, and it can help build new skin and tighten loose skin as well. (Canadians: If you’re looking for grass-fed gelatin, I recommend getting it here. The shipping charge is reasonable, and if you use the code HMP485, you’ll get $5 off your order; $10 off if you order $40 or more). Another great way to get gelatin naturally through food is by making your own broth from soup bones.
Quality fats to fig bone-broth-basics-make-bone-broth-in-a-slow-cooker/ht inflammation
Fats, especially Omega-3 fatty acids, – are essential components of every cell membrane in your body (that is, the ‘lipid’ part of the phospholipids membranes), and they’re also essential hormone pre-cursors and needed for your nervous system. Fats are also needed to help transport and help you absorb fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E and K. There are two types of essential fatty acids (the types of fats that you must eat because your body can’t make them). Omega-3 fatty acids are needed to reduce inflammation in the body, and Omega-6 fatty acids help produce steroid like chemicals that help control inflammation. The problem is that in the standard American diet full of processed foods, corn-fed beef and other meats, the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fats is out of whack – most of us are getting too many Omega-6 fatty acids, and not enough Omega-3s, hence why supplementation of Omega-3s is often recommended. Just make sure to stay away from processed “vegetable” oils that are actually not from vegetables, but rather soybeans, grains and seeds like corn oil, canola oil and cottonseed oil. These trans-fats are made when polyunsaturated fatty acids are heated.
Where can you get good fats? Pasture-raised meats, wild-caught cold water fish (like sardines, tuna, mackerel and salmon) are excellent sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Other healthy fats can be found in avocados, nuts and seeds.
Vitamin A to repair damaged skin
This fat-soluble vitamin is stored in the liver and comes in two forms: active, proform vitamin A (or retinol) that is only found in animal sources or beta-carotene which is a water-soluble co-factor found in plant sources. Your body converts 3 IU of beta-carotene to make 1 IU of vitamin A, but to do so, you’ll need a healthy functioning liver. One of the symptoms of vitamin A deficiency is dry, itchy skin, and this vitamin is needed to help repair damaged skin, help retain skin moisture and counter infections.
You can find the retinol form in fish liver oils, and beta-carotene in green and yellow fruit and vegetables, carrots, sweet potatoes, garlic, ginger and others.
B-complex vitamins to combat dryness
The water-soluble B-vitamins are usually naturally found together in food, and if you’re supplementing, they work best taken as a B-complex, rather than individually isolated B-vitamins. When it comes to healthy skin, B-vitamins help combat dryness and itchiness. B-vitamin deficiency can lead to skin issues including dermatitis, and more seriously, neurological disorders.
B vitamins are naturally found together in foods such as: organ meat, fish, meat, nuts, sunflower seeds, brewer’s yeast, eggs, leafy greens and more. Keep in mind that B12 is a B-vitamin that is only found in animal foods.
Vitamin C to help allergic skin reactions
Most people know that vitamin C will help stave off a cold and boost your immune system, so it shouldn’t be too big a surprise that vitamin C will also help fight skin infections too. Vitamin C also has anti-histamine effects which can help with allergic skin reactions. Aside from oranges, you can acquire vitamin C in apples, leafy greens, garlic, onions, and sweet peppers.
Vitamin E to protect skin
Lots of expensive creams and beauty products will boast that they have vitamin E in them. After all, this fat-soluble vitamin E is an anti-oxidant that can help protect skin cells and repair damage caused by free radicals and then sun. Some signs of vitamin E deficiency are bad skin, brittle hair and premature aging.
Get vitamin E from foods like eggs, liver, organ meats, as well as leafy greens, broccoli.
Quercetins to reduce skin reactions
Quercitins are flavonoids found in plants that can help stabilize cell membranes and block the allergic response that can result in eczema or hives. You can find quercetins in citrus fruits and green tea.
Zinc to help skin healing
Zinc is a mineral required for tissue and cell formation, and required in the body’s synthesis of retinol (the active form of vitamin A), so a deficiency in zinc can also lead to a vitamin A deficiency. Zinc can help skin healing and is also involved in the metabolism of fatty acids. People with eczema are often zinc deficient. Symptoms of zinc deficiency include skin disorders like acne.
You can get zinc from pumpkin seeds, oysters, liver, eggs, apricots, peaches and cocoa.
How do you get healthier skin? Eat more nutrient-dense foods.
What it comes down to is this – eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods from quality sources, will not only help you achieve beautiful, healthy skin, but also a healthy body all-around. Eating better quality food is certainly an excellent place to start. If you need more in-depth help with your skin beyond better nutrition, I highly recommend The Skintervention Guide – I bought this book before I even had a blog, and it helped me immensely. Liz Wolfe of Real Food Liz outlines how to improve your skin by first addressing nutrition, followed by improving your digestion and finally with natural body and skin care methods. Check it out here.
Food intolerance symptoms and symptoms of food allergies manifest themselves in more ways than most people think. The general public is aware that severe food allergies can cause anaphylaxis, or that environmental allergies can cause people to sneeze or break out into hives. But did you know that allergy and intolerance can be responsible for a very wide range of symptoms that can affect any part of the body, and they don’t necessarily have to cause symptoms where first contact occurs?
Allergy does not cause every disease, but it can be involved in almost any disease and it can play an integral role in the development of disease. It is so prevalent that if you have not been told the cause of your health problems or symptoms, you should consider allergy first.
(source: Bateson-Koch, Carolee. “Allergy: The multiple symptom syndrome.” In Allergies: Disease in Disguise. Burnaby, B.C.: Alive Books, 1994.)
I’m currently working on the Allergies course in my studies to become a holistic nutritionist, and I was surprised to see just how many common symptoms can be caused by allergies. Check out the infographic I made to see the most common medically recognized environmental allergy and food intolerance symptoms.
If you suffer from a number of these symptoms, you may want to get see an allergist or a naturopathic doctor to determine which allergens affect you. If you’d like to read more about allergies, I highly recommend the bookÂ Allergies: Disease in Disguise by Carolee Bateson-Koch DC ND. While it is the textbook for my course, it has an easy-to-read writing style written for the layman. The success stories throughout the book are inspiring in how they show that allergies can be healed through diet changes. Many food sensitivities are the result of a leaky gut, and taking steps to improve your digestion can often help less serious food intolerances. If you’re looking to improve your digestion, check out this comprehensive Heal Your Gut eCourse that consists of 10 self-guided modules of 45 lessons. You’ll even get access to a private Facebook group in which you’ll be able to ask questions and get additional guidance from a qualified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. And, if nothing else, go sign up for the Scoop on Poop book 😉
While the super-econo-sized bag or carton of food might have a more economical price per unit, you’re not saving any money if much of it goes bad or unused.
Meal planning is one way to make sure that you use up your allotted purchases and eating all you buy. For example, if you’re planning on making a meal that uses half a can of tomato paste, you could plan to make another meal in the same week that uses up the rest of the can. Or increase the size of the meal you’re making to economically use your food stores, and freeze extra portions for lunches or quick reheatable dinners.
Freeze your bounty
Meal planning can seem like quite the puzzle to co-ordinate ingredients. If it’s not your forte, you can always freeze large quantities of food into usable portions. Still got that unused half-can of tomato paste? Freeze it in an ice-cube tray (each cube is about a tablespoon) and use it as needed in future recipes without worrying about it going bad.
What if you pick up a great deal on produce, but can’t use it all in your week’s meal plan? Many vegetables can be frozen after being blanched, parboiled or pureed. Fruits like bananas, can be left whole and frozen for later use in banana bread and smoothies, while other fruits can be simply peeled and cut for freezing.
With food, it isn’t so much ‘reusing’ as it is squeezing out the last of the nutrients before it goes into the compost. Keep your vegetable trimmings and meat bones in a dedicated “for the broth” container in the freezer. When you have enough collected, add them to your bone broth, and you’ll be able to draw nutrients and minerals that would have otherwise gone to the garbage.
Check out our bone broth basics to make your own simple (and delicious) broth for soup stock.
Keep a garden and re-grow from scraps
If you’re into gardening, there are plenty of ways to ‘recycle’ your food scraps into new food. Have your onions and garlic started to sprout? Keep them for your dirt and grow a new plant! There are plenty of plants that will re-grow from your scraps, like celery, lettuce, potatoes and many more. It’s like bonus food!
Save the seeds from the vegetables you buy and plant them in the next growing season. Tomatoes, peppers, beans and peas are great choices of plants to save seeds, since they are easy to harvest and store. Your best bet may be saving the seeds from organically-grown produce since many grocery store variety vegetables are often hybrids, so they may not grow plants that are exactly the same as the vegetable you ate. But, if nothing else, it’s a fun experiment and a great learning experience for kids (and adults) to get involved with their food!
If you’re eating real food, the food scraps themselves shouldn’t actually go into the garbage. Many cities have a ‘green bin’ program that takes not only vegetable scraps but meat scraps as well. If you’re not fortunate enough to have this type of program, it’s well worth having your own garden composter so that you can turn your kitchen scraps into nutrient-rich soil. Even if you’re not growing a vegetable garden, good compost is sure to make your lawn and flower beds happy.
Remember the good old days in the healthy eating game? That halcyon era when all you had to do was look for suffixes like “-free” and “-fed?” It helped if what the food was free of was something vilified like fat, salt, or sugar. Even worse were cages. The opposite of freedom. Even the most proudly unhealthy person could understand what was bad about cages! We wanted our animals to be fed grass, too. We weren’t always sure why, but we were assured it was important.
In addition to grass-fed beef, there was also grain-fed beef. What was the big difference? If it was touted on the packaging or even better, the hand-written card in the butcher’s organic section that let you know this was a family operation that probably couldn’t even afford printed plastic placards, it must be good, right? Well, maybe not. To add to the confusion, many cows end up being both grass and grain-fed. It’s enough to make your head spin at the market. But fear not, dear reader. Today we cast aside old superstitions in favor of hard science. With regards to beef, your Age of Enlightenment begins now!
You Are What You Eat The health adage turned playground insult turned back to health wisdom is especially true in the case of cows. Unfortunately, by that standard, the average cheap beef-producing cow is little more than a collection of the worst ingredients and practices the food industry has to offer. In addition to a slurry of the usual CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) suspects, corn (including husks and cobs), spent grains from breweries and distillers, and soy and soy hulls, even fully wrapped candy deemed unacceptable for human consumption winds up in these cows’ feed!
Even these poorly fed beasts will consume real, honest-to-goodness grass at some point in their lives, so it’s important to make sure that’s not what you’re getting. You might not want to be “that guy” who wants to know every little detail about his or her meat, but most good butchers are happy to talk the ear off a well-informed or curious customer. The magic word here is “grass-finished,” meaning your healthy calf didn’t move onto cheap by-products after a brief interlude grazing grassy open fields.
The Golden Ratio of Essential Fatty Acids in Grass-Fed Beef Let’s take a quick detour from cattle feed into the relevant world of fat. Omega fats are something else we like to see touted on packaging. As good as both omega-6 and omega-3 fats are, we tend to have way too much of the former and not enough of the latter when, in fact, humans evolved to eat a 1:1 ratio. The ratio in the typical American diet? At least 15:1! The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health found that bringing this ratio down resulted in a host of serious benefits. Colorectal cancer patients had lower cell proliferation, women had a lower risk for breast cancer, and inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and asthma were improved with the difference as small as 2.5:1 and a 4:1 often making all the difference. Once again, the average American diet is closer to a 15:1 ratio.
What’s So Good About Grass? Grain-fed beef has plenty of omega-6, but barely any omega-3. Grass-fed, on the other hand, has a nearly even ratio of omega fats. You could make up for the excess omega-6 in traditionally grain-fed beef by supplementing with vitamins or other foods rich in omega-3 like fatty fish, or you can let nature do the math for you and just eat grass-fed beef with the perfect ratio.
The micronutrient advantages of grass-fed beef aren’t limited to fats. It also has all kinds of things we need like beta-carotene, energy-enhancing B-vitamins, vitamin E and vitamin K, not to mention fan-favorite “-iums” like magnesium, calcium, and selenium. If you’re not already sold on grass-fed beef, would some Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) sweeten the deal? Grass-fed animals are high in CLA, which is such a great muscle builder that Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig seem to think it’s a key to the New Zealand All-Blacks’ unlikely dominance of professional rugby.
Grass-fed animals are called ruminants. Is that because their slow, careful chewing makes them appear to be caught up in deep thoughts, or do they say people are ruminating because they just look like they’re out in space, slowly analyzing with all the depth of a cow? While the nutritional advantages of grass-fed (and finished) beef are clear, you shouldn’t burn too many brain cells chasing that perfect cut of meticulously maintained meat. When it comes to making healthy lifestyle changes, it’s worth heeding the words of Voltaire: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
In the battle of good fats vs bad fats, people often have a very black and white idea of which fats belong to each side. Typically, the perception is that good fats include anything of the unsaturated variety. Fish oil and flax seed oil in particular have been some of the most popular fat source supplements in the past ten years after studies conducted on Omega-3 fatty acids showed that they had a broad range of health benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids are one of those all-important polyunsaturated fats, in the same family as fats found in walnuts, soybean oil, and canola oil. Monounsaturated fats are found in sources including extra virgin olive oil, avocados, and various nuts like almonds. One caution though: unsaturated fats and fragile molecules, so choose quality sources of these fats to avoid rancid or oxidized fats. Storing them in the fridge will help preserve them, and contrary to popular belief – you’ll want to keep your olive oil for dressings and sauces and not for cooking.
More recently, however, people have taken up the mantle of paleo eating, which is a lifestyle that embraces eating more natural and unprocessed foods. The rise of paleo eating has also seen a rise in the amount of bacon being sold.
Bacon, butter & eggs: Saturated fats aren’t the super villains
People familiar with the paleo lifestyle will likely know that bacon is considered the quintessential paleo delicacy. But outsiders usually scratch their heads in wonderment at seeing the sheer amount of bacon that a typical paleo follower eats. After all, bacon and eggs were both condemned by the nutritional community for a long time due to their high fat content, and especially those saturated fats. So how is bacon a good fat source?
The answer is that saturated fats aren’t the super villains of the story. Saturated fats play a role in many vital functions of the body including cell membrane maintenance, skeletal strength and resilience, immune system resistance, and metabolism of fatty acids among other functions. Contrary to popular belief, saturated fats also assist in heart health by providing the heart with a reservoir of readily available energy in times of stress or fatigue.
Likewise, butter is a paleo staple. Butter is known for being high in saturated fats, and for a long time it was also condemned as a negative influence on high levels of arterial damage. Butter, however, contains key vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin D, and vitamin E. Several of these account for the body’s ability to repair itself, and vitamin E in particular plays a huge part in keeping skin young and vibrant. But these vitamins were never in question when it comes to nutritional benefits; saturated fats were mistakenly considered the biggest downside to butter consumption.
Cholesterol isn’t the bad guy (but damaged cholesterol is a different story)
So where did saturated fats get their awful reputation? Cholesterol was long thought to be the necessary evil that accumulated in the arteries of those who indulged in delicious foods rich in saturated fats. If people are consuming increased amounts of saturated fats, then why aren’t they all dropping like flies to higher rates of heart disease? As it turns out, cholesterol doesn’t deserve the bum rap that it usually receives either. Cholesterol is not responsible for arterial buildup and subsequent heart disease, at least not directly. Arterial buildup is caused by damaged cholesterol. Damaged cholesterol is created when normal cholesterol is heated to a level that causes it to change shape and therefore function.
Cholesterol in its undamaged state, much like saturated fat, serves quite a few useful purposes in the human body ranging from serotonin production to skeletal and nervous system maintenance. Cholesterol is critical to continuing health, but damaged cholesterol poses an obvious problem. The best way to avoid damaged cholesterol is to steer clear of processed foods such as deli meats, sausages, and baked goods, which, in addition to containing heaps of processed ingredients, also typically contain trans fats.
The real bad guys, unmasked: trans fats and hydrogenated fats
These trans fats, also known as hydrogenated fats, are the real bad guys in the fat wars. Hydrogenated fats are formed when companies take lower quality oils and super heat them during mixing. Remember that part about cholesterol being helpful so long as it isn’t heated? Hydrogenated fats are especially harmful when eaten in conjunction with refined sugar products, like those wicked snack cakes that the adorable Little Debbie keeps trying to push on people. Products like these encourage heart disease, and people often have no clue how to bring their cholesterol numbers back down.
The best way to do so is to avoid those snack cakes and refined sugars and instead turn to a diet emphasizing whole food sources that are nutrient dense. In particular, foods high in vitamins B6 and B12 as well as iodine are often helpful in fending off high levels of cholesterol that may cause arterial blockage. In essence, the idea is not to avoid these natural foods and fat sources which are highly beneficial but to limit or even completely eliminate those treats that cause so many arterial problems. Whole foods mean a healthy lifestyle, and a healthy lifestyle means living wholly.
There you are, perusing the chilly refrigerated section of your favorite supermarket. Although you buy milk on almost every shopping trip, your mind goes through a familiar dance when faced with a wall of choices. Skim or whole? Is there a difference between 1% and 2% milk, and if so, are such small increments that important? You care about your health and maybe you’re even trying to lose weight, so you pull a carton of skim off the shelf and put it in your basket. But did that deliberation lead you to the right choice? Is skim milk good for you at all?
Despite the lower calorie count and purported benefits listed on the carton, the answer is no. In fact, skim milk started off as a by-product of cream production used to fatten pigs! Surprised? Dairy manufacturers once threw away fat-free milk after the cream was skimmed off. Thanks to a flawed, controversial study by Ancel Keys linking fat consumption to heart disease, they could start selling skim milk to health-conscious consumers. Is skim milk good for you, or just a company’s bottom line? Some CEOs and marketers got a raise, but you got stuck with milk that hardly lives up to its famous “does a body good” tagline.
Real milk has rightfully been associated with strong, healthy bodies. In addition to being the most famous source of bone-building calcium, milk serves up vitamins D, A, E, and K. At least that’s what whole milk provides. You won’t find any vitamin K in fat-free milk because it’s concentrated in butterfat. Not only does skim milk skimp on vitamin K, the vitamins it retains are all fat-soluble, meaning you won’t be able to absorb them anyways unless you pair your skim milk with a thick spread of butter or a block of cheese! Artificially synthesized vitamin D is often added to skim milk, but this vitamin D2 is not like the vitamin D3 humans absorb from sunlight. In fact, according to a study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the synthetic vitamin D2 is so poorly absorbed in the human body that it “should no longer be regarded as a nutrient appropriate for supplementation or fortification of foods.”
Unfortunately, the problem with skim milk isn’t limited to the good nutrients it lacks. It also contains an ingredient that contributes to inflammation and plaque buildup in your arteries: powdered milk solids. What starts out as regular liquid milk oxidizes when processed into powder, forming toxic nitrates. Why would anyone add such a dangerous ingredient to a supposed health product? Because without it, skim milk actually has a chalky taste and watery texture totally unlike regular milk. It also has a light blue color, which tends to turn off consumers, even if it reminds them of the milk Luke Skywalker’s aunt served him in Star Wars.
If skim milk isn’t good for you, is it at least good for your waistline? Again, this is a swing and a miss for skim. The trend toward fat-free foods has actually coincided with the trend toward childhood obesity, as evidenced by a Harvard School of Public Health study which found that “skim and 1% milk were associated with weight gain, but dairy fat was not.” The same is true in adults, owing to the fact that healthy fats are key in sending the message of fullness from your gut to your brain. Is skim milk good for you in any way? No. In simple terms, you’ll eat less, enjoy more, feel fuller, and be healthier after a glass of whole milk than skim.
Spring has finally arrived and the sun is shining oh-so-bright – BUT before you go and slather on your SPF 1000000+ and cover yourself up completely from it, make sure you read this!
What is Vitamin D?
Most of us think we can all list the vitamins and minerals we know we need to be healthy, and we probably all assume that if we eat a varied, balanced diet we will get them all. But that’s not necessarily true. There’s a very good chance you’re not getting enough vitamin D – especially if you live at a northern latitude. Many processed foods are fortified with vitamin D – but the best source is your own skin. When UVB rays from sunlight hit your skin, a chemical process begins that creates vitamin D.
Vitamin D is essential for life. Scientists are still working to uncover all the ways our bodies use it, but we know that it is essential for these body systems:
Nervous system, including the brain
Cellular repair and cancer fighting
Vitamin D deficiency has serious health consequences. It can cause brittle, soft bones, known as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. A lack of vitamin D is also implicated in depression, high blood pressure, asthma, type-I and type-II diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn’s disease. In short, if you don’t have enough, you won’t be healthy.
Am I getting enough vitamin D?
Individual’s needs vary, but the Endocrine Society recommends infants get 400 to 1,000 International Units (IU) per day, children get 600 to 1,000 IU per day, and adults should get between 1,500 and 2,000 IU per day. The Vitamin D Council on the other hand has higher recommendations: infants should get 1000 IU per day, children should get 1000 IU per 25lbs of body weight per day, and adults should get 5000 IU per day. (1)
You can also get vitamin D through what you eat, as it is available in small quantities in some of these real foods:
Since vitamin D is only present in low levels in these foods, you can’t get enough D through these sources. You may also be at risk for low levels of vitamin D if you:
Have dark skin. Dark skin contains a lot of melanin, which prevents UVB rays from permeating your skin and blocks the production of vitamin D
Spend a lot of time indoors
Do not allow sunlight to reach your skin: if you dress modestly or wear powerful sunscreen
Live in a northern climate with fewer hours of daylight at certain times of the year
Are older and have thinning skin
Are pregnant or obese—requirements are greater in these conditions
Breastfed babies also may not get enough Vitamin D
It’s hard to know for certain if your body is not getting enough vitamin D to function well. Your doctor can perform a blood test to know for sure. (In Canada, this test is not covered by health insurance unless your doctor suspects you have osteoporosis, rickets or other vitamin D deficiency-related issues – the test should cost about $30.)
How to get more Vitamin D to Avoid Vitamin D Deficiency
There are two good ways of preventing a vitamin D deficiency: spending time in the sun, and taking supplements.
“But, wait!” you say, “I thought sunlight is bad for us—it causes skin cancer!” Yes—and no. We have become so vigilant about protecting our skin from the sun we’re also preventing our skin from the exposure to the sun that creates vitamin D deep in the layers of our skin.
Here’s the thing: a little bit of sun won’t hurt you. You don’t need to burn your skin to get enough UVB to produce vitamin D. Figuring out exactly how much sun exposure you need is tricky, but try to get sun on your arms and legs and face for a few minutes every day, as close to noon as possible.
The fairer your skin type, the less sun exposure you need. According to Dr. Michael Holick, author of The Vitamin D Solution (2), Canadians and others who live at mid-latitudes (e.g. Ottawa, ON) need between 10-15 minutes of sun exposure for Type 1 skin (very fair) and up to 40-60 minutes for Type 5-6 skin (medium to dark) between the hours of 11am to 3pm. So going for a lunch-time walk without sunscreen should be a safe and effective way of getting natural vitamin D – just make sure to do it sensibly and seek shade and shelter after you’ve had your recommended exposure.
Supplements are your fallback option for winter or if you’re particularly concerned about the hazards of sun exposure Because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, one of the best forms is as an oil, that you take as drops – look for it in MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil. All you do is just add a drop or two to your food every day.
As with any change to your nutritional regimen, check with your doctor to rule out any contraindications. Prevent vitamin D deficiency and improve your health!
Your local outdoor farmers’ markets are starting up soon with fresh, seasonal and delicious REAL FOOD! Need a reason to go out and see what your local farmers’ market offers? Here are five:
1. The Food is Fresher
Real Food sourced from your local farmer and farmers’ markets are harvested, picked or grown more recently than the food that’s shipped and stored at your supermarket. Farmers’ market produce is picked when ready, as opposed to being picked when they are under-ripe, but able to travel well.
In terms of nutrients, locally grown food is more nutrient-dense, because time and travel can cause nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E and folic acid to oxidize in the air, as they are more sensitive to light and heat.
Then, there’s also the texture: the snap of carrots that are newly plucked from the earth instead of carrots that have been bagged, trucked and shelved is quite different! Getting to know a farmer means you can be fortunate enough to sometimes get eggs collected that very morning, and definitely only days old, instead of weeks-old eggs that were transported and stored before making it to your table.
2. The Food is More Flavorful
Speaking of same-day eggs – the taste between a fresh, pastured egg and a store-bought egg is incomparable. A pastured egg is “rich and egg-y”, while in contrast, a store-bought egg simply tastes like egg light; like it’s missing depth and flavor. For produce, it’s the difference between a watery, pink tomato and a field fresh, juicy red tomato that bursts in your mouth when you bite into it.
3. It’s More Eco-Friendly
It takes a lot less energy for your local farmer to deliver his wares to the farmers’ market than it does for produce, meat and other food to be flown in from around the globe.
4. It Helps Your Local Economy
Buying from a farmer in your area, not only supports local business, but also directly impacts a local farming family, and it ensures the livelihood and continuation of farms in your area. If you want the choice of having fresh, locally-sourced Real Food, the best way to show it is to put your money in the hands of those who are working your local lands.
5. It’s More Neighborly
Farmers’ Markets are great community events, especially here in Canada where we spend much of the year cooped indoors, so it’s natural that outdoor, open-air farmers’ markets become a place to meet your neighbors! And besides, what could be more neighborly than getting to know your local area farmers who help feed your family. These farmers know their stuff – they know the land and their wares, and there’s a good chance they have a favorite recipe which uses their favorite product.
Why do you go to a Farmers’ Market: one of the reasons above, or do you have another reason? Let us know in the comments!
Is your favorite Canadian Farmers’ Market in our directory? If not, please let us know and we’ll be sure to add it! If your business supports better health and wellness through Real Food, we’d love to help promote your business.
One way to eat locally and supportyour local real food producers is to join a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture. Basically, a CSA is a farm-share where a farmer offers up a number of shares, subscriptions or memberships, which you pay for in advance.
In return for paying your dues, at a set interval (usually weekly during the growing season), you receive a bounty of seasonal produce. Most CSAs come directly from a specific farm or group of farms, while others may supplement the weekly supply with other suppliers, during lower yield times of year, such as early spring or late fall. There are CSAs that offer only produce, while others might offer cuts of meat, or other products like yogurt, cheeses or bread.
Sounds great right? It sure can be, since you’ll get fresh, local food at a lower price than what you’d pay in the store, and you’ll learn more about what you eat and the farmer who grows it.
But here are a few questions to ask yourself before you join a CSA:
1. Can you commit and join a CSA for a set period of time?
Many CSAs operate by having you commit to a weekly share for a set number of weeks. This probably won’t work out for you if you plan on going away on vacation for four weeks out of the growing season.
2. Will you be available to pick-up for the set amount of time?
Since you’re buying a share, chances are the farmer won’t be able to hold your order if you miss the pick-up time. Before committing, make sure you have someone who can pick-up for you, or can take your week’s share if you can’t make it on your pick-up day.
3. How flexible are you with your cooking and meal planning?
If you plan your meals on what you’d like to eat instead of what’s available to you, it could get a lot trickier for you to figure out what to do with your week’s CSA box. You can’t usually determine what the produce you’ll be getting ahead of time, nor the quantity you’re likely to get, so it may be hard to plan for a specific recipe by relying solely on your CSA.
4. Are you an adventurous eater?
There’s a good chance you’ll be exposed to some local produce that you may never have tried before. Fiddleheads, wild garlic and gooseberries could all be found locally to you and could be included in your box. If you’re not sure what to do with them, there’s a good chance your farmer will have a good recipe, but make sure you’re up for a little real food adventure, or else you’ll feel gypped.
5. Does it work with your budget and way of eating?
The season and your locale will determine the contents of your CSA share, and while what you get will likely cost you less than buying at a store, it may be that you’ll still need to supplement your CSA share with store-bought produce to make up your recipes. The single bunch of broccoli may not be enough for all three of your mini-tree chomping kids, or your share may be plentiful in potatoes one week– not great if you’re on a low-carb diet, or sensitive to nightshades. If your budget is pretty tight, you might be better off buying the loss-leaders of seasonal, local produce from your local supermarket than participating in a CSA.
6. Are you willing to share the risk of buying into a farm?
Most CSAs work on the model that you buy a share of the farm’s growing season in advance of it actually producing any food. This means that while the farmers will do their best to produce a good yield, there is the chance that there might not be as much as expected should their be poor weather conditions, for example. Buying into a CSA creates a great sense of community with your local growers, but make sure that you’re aware of the possible outcome and have realistic expectations on yield.
If you’ve answered “no” to any of these questions, a CSA may not be for you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find other ways to support local real food. You can always buy produce from your farmer directly, but not as part of a CSA or shop your local farmers’ market. Another alternative is to see if your city offers a Good Food Box or similar type program. Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Victoria are just some of the cities that offer such a program. They are similar to CSAs, but don’t require the multiple-week commitment.