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Eat Smarter Review & Encouragement

Eat Smarter Review & Encouragement

The STEM 1.0 Academic Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. We need to start looking at food as medicine - good nutrition maintains health and prevents disease.

2. Make small, 1% changes to improve your diet and overall health. Eventually eating healthy will become habit. 

3. You don't have to be perfect. But if you make a concerted effort to be healthy the majority of the time, you don't have to worry about those days when healthy food isn't available, or when you have to grab a quick meal on the road.

We’ve launched this eat smarter module with a brief look at the role of nutrition in our daily physical health. Why worry about what we eat? Because food is the most powerful drug we put in our bodies.

Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician and father of western medicine, said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” We generally don’t think of food as medicine, but we should. Everything we eat and drink enters into our bloodstream and affects our brain and body function. Every bite, every sip.

Consider these definitions:

  • Drug: a substance intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease.

  • Medicine: the science and art dealing with the maintenance of health and the prevention, alleviation, or cure of disease.

Food works the same way: it can help prevent and cure disease and it maintains our health. That is, when we develop good habits and make good choices. Food can also damage us, make us more susceptible to disease, and undermine our mental and physical health and wellbeing.

Remember that you control what you put in your body. There are lots of people around you who purchase or prepare your food, but you get to decide what you eat. Educate your the people around you, if needed. Ask for the foods that build health. Get creative and be assertive.

Our physiology is built based on natural principles that have evolved over millions of years. We are designed to change and grow, for better or worse, depending on what sort of stimulus we put on the body. The more the stimulus, the more effective the adaptation, as long as it is spread out over time. Short-term bursts of stimulus usually cause problems and make us injured or sick. Spread the same amount of signal over a long period of time, and the body will get stronger and healthier.

It’s kind of like watering a plant every day rather than flooding it out once or twice a month and then leaving it. You just won’t get healthy growth that way.

The same idea applies to the human body. So often I’ve been asked what you should eat the day of a race. And my answer always causes some raised eyebrows: “it doesn’t really matter - what matters is what you’ve been eating for the last six months.” I’ll take the athlete who eats well every day over the athlete with only a great race day plan. My friend Dr. John Berardi calls this the “myth of game day nutrition.”

The weekend food warrior – the once-a-week intake of quality, fresh foods – is not building daily or long-term health.

I’m guessing that there are times you may feel overwhelmed when you read these posts. I know from personal experience that the barrage of recipes, superfoods, spices, recommendations and advice about what to eat and when to eat it can be a lot to take in. So I thought today would be a good day to loop back to the habit-forming habits we talked about early in the program.

Habits form slowly through deliberate effort and 1% changes. No person can revolutionize their eating overnight. It’s all about starting somewhere and then building on that momentum. And once you are eating well, it’s easy to keep the habits going and include other interesting options.

One of the reasons it takes time to get into good habits with food is that we only inhabit our own subjective experiences. We are all living in our bodies and, no matter how much you know that your food choices aren’t ideal, you are used to how you feel. It can be hard to imagine and believe there is a better way. Eating for performance is about working toward feeling more alert, energetic, rested, sharp, productive and clear headed. It’s a state of being that takes time to achieve and focus to maintain.

And nobody needs perfection. One of the worst mindsets we can adopt while trying to build new habits is that we have to be perfect. Nonsense! Our goal is to make small, incremental changes so that we arrive at a place where a good majority of our food intake is high-quality.

Today's POWER-UP: Be Consistent

1. BUILD A GREAT LIFE ONE DAY AT A TIME. BE CONSISTENT. LOOK FOR SMALL IMPROVEMENTS THAT YOU KNOW YOU CAN DO FOREVER.

2. HOLD EMERSON’S FAMOUS WORDS IN MIND: “LIFE IS A JOURNEY, NOT A DESTINATION.”

3. IT’S NOT THAT YOU HAVE NOWHERE TO GO. YOU ARE HEADED TOWARD YOUR DREAM. IT’S THAT YOU ONLY GET THERE BY TAKING CARE OF TODAY. 

4. IF YOU START SMALL, YOU WILL EVENTUALLY MAKE BIG CHANGES. EATING WELL HAPPENS ONE LITTLE MEAL AT A TIME.

The 7 Keys to Eating Smarter - #7: Eat Healthy Protein

The 7 Keys to Eating Smarter - #7: Eat Healthy Protein

The STEM 1.0 Academic Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. Neurotransmitters are signalling proteins in the brain that create thoughts, memories, and critical thinking. What you eat significantly affects these neurotransmitters and therefore how your brain functions. 

2. The amino acid tyrosine is a building block for the neurotransmitters that wake you up, help you concentrate, focus, and problem solve. Foods that are high in tyrosine include protein-rich foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, beans, tofu, and lentils.

3. Eating foods that are very high in simple carbohydrates and very low in protein increases the amino acid tryptophan, which has the opposite effect. Tryptophan increases the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps relax the brain.

4. Go for protein-rich, low-simple carb meals when you need to concentrate, problem solve, or deal with stress.

Key #7: Eat Healthy Protein

Back in my early days of consulting with people in finance, I had a group that I was working with that were going in to a negotiation with another group of people in the industry. The negotiations were important and my team expected that the discussions were going to be confrontational and very difficult.
 
I was a pretty competitive young guy at that point in my life and so I was determined that my team would do great in this meeting. I wanted to set the stage for a brilliant performance by the people that I was working with and then I did my best to create a problematic scenario for the people from the other company.
 
I asked that the meeting be scheduled between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. in the afternoon because that’s the time of day when most people have their afternoon crash and their energy levels are the lowest. I asked my group to show up at 12:00 and told them I’d have lunch ready.
 
For lunch I gave them water to make sure they were hydrated, green tea to give them a small dose of caffeine, chicken salad to make sure they had lots of protein in their system and some avocado salad on the side so that they would have some quality fats in their bodies and they would have long term energy for the entire afternoon.
 
The key to this lunch was that I made sure that they had mostly proteins, some fats, and a little carbohydrate. I wanted this combination because I knew that the amino acid tyrosine has been shown to help increase the levels of the “alertness” neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. (Amino acids are the components that make up proteins).
 
Neurotransmitters are small bundles of protein that work in the brain to carry signals from one nerve to another. This creates thoughts, memories, and basically controls the way the brain is functioning. I wanted to increase the amount of the amino acid tyrosine in my team and keep the levels of that transmitter as high as I could during the important meeting.
 
Tyrosine is an amino acid that is an essential precursor (a building block) to neurotransmitters epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine, which have stimulatory effects on the body and brain. Basically they wake you up and help you concentrate. Higher levels of tyrosine help you feel good, they improve your mood and can also improve concentration and mental performance. Sources of tyrosine include protein-rich foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, beans, tofu and lentils. They should be consumed with a minimum of carbohydrates. Hence the chicken salad for lunch!
 
With my team primed for excellence I welcomed the group from the other company to our conference room where I had prepared a buffet of croissants, muffins, bagels, coffee, tea, and soft drinks. It was a smorgasbord of simple carbohydrates and caffeine. They were most appreciative and loaded up since I think most of them just came straight to the meeting having skipped lunch or quickly eaten something at their desks.
 
By eating foods that were very high in simple carbohydrates and very low in protein I ensured that I changed their brain chemistry right before the negotiations were to begin. By eating those foods, the result was an increase in the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan has been shown to increase the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps relax the brain. Great stuff if you want to take a nap. Not so much if you need to concentrate for 3 hours.
 
As the meeting began the members of the other group were jacked up on sugar and caffeine. They were aggressive and energetic. For about 45 minutes. And then they began to tire. They began to slump down in their chairs. They became irritable and distracted. By 2 hours in they were really struggling. The last hour was a train wreck for them. My team was calm, cool and consistent for the entire time. We rocked the negotiations. My team felt great, had excellent energy for the whole time, and were able to perform at their best – giving them a great advantage in their business.
 
The scary and sad part of this whole story is that I essentially changed the internal chemistry of the bodies and brains of the people that came in to negotiate with the group that I was working with. I changed it so that they felt tired and couldn’t concentrate. And I did that by feeding them the typical North American diet.
 
Imagine now that you know about food and brain neurotransmitters how crazy it is that we feed our workforce the way we do. Think about what is offered to students in schools. Even worse, consider what people are fed when they are sick and in the hospital. For you personally reading this just think about your own energy levels and ability to concentrate during the day. Can you see a relationship between your food intake and your energy, performance and ultimately your health?
 
You are not likely to choose every meal based on amino-acid composition. That makes life just a little too complicated. But if you need to be alert – to perform at a work event or for an exam – go for a protein-rich, low-simple carb meal. If you need to wind down and get to sleep at night, enjoy a higher carbohydrate meal such as bowl of yogurt with a handful of sunflower seeds sprinkled on top. Use your food to help you perform better. The outcome will be that you’ll be healthier too. Here are a few ideas for you:

o    Add eggs to your toast
o    Be generous with your nut/seed butters on crackers, wraps or bread
o    Bring along a can of tuna fish to add to your meal
o    Add hemp hearts to just about anything!
o    Choose quinoa instead of rice
o    Add nuts/seeds or legumes (lentils, chick peas or beans) to salads
o    Have hummus with veggies instead of ranch dressing
o    Choose poultry, fish or meat for a blast of complete protein

High quality, nutrient-dense foods are the optimal fuel for our brains and bodies and help to deal with stress. In addition to eating healthy carbs and healthy fats, healthy proteins are critical because they have such a powerful influence on our brain neurotransmitters, which can help us concentrate, focus and problem solve.

Today's POWER-UP: Add healthy protein sources to your nutrition plan

1. HEALTHY PROTEINS ARRIVE IN THEIR MOST BASIC FORMS – NOT PROCESSED OR BATTERED.

2. WE NEED ABOUT ½ OUR WEIGHT IN GRAMS OF PROTEIN EACH DAY TO SUPPORT OUR IMMUNITY, DIGESTION AND MUSCULATURE. WHILE IT’S CONVENIENT TO REACH FOR A STARCHY SNACK (LIKE COOKIES, CRACKERS, CHIPS, CANDY OR A SANDWICH), THESE CARBS WON’T KEEP YOUR ENERGY CONSISTENT THROUGHOUT THE DAY. TRY TO GET GOOD QUALITY PROTEIN IN WITH EVERY MEAL.

3. HERE ARE SOME GREAT EXAMPLES OF HEALTHY-PROTEIN FOODS:

NUTS AND SEEDS: PUMPKIN SEEDS, SQUASH SEEDS, WALNUTS, ALMONDS, PINE NUTS, PISTACHIOS, SUNFLOWER SEEDS, CASHEWS, HEMP SEEDS, FLAX SEEDS.

VEGETABLES: CORN, TOMATOES, SOY BEANS, BLACKEYE PEAS, NAVY BEANS, GREEN PEAS, LIMA BEANS, BRUSSEL SPROUTS, SPINACH, BROCCOLI, POTATOES, ASPARAGUS, CHICK PEAS, TEMPEH AND TOFU, EDAMAME, LEAFY GREENS.

FRUITS: APRICOTS, PEACHES.

CEREALS AND GRAINS: OAT BRAN, OATS, EGG NOODLES, BUCKWHEAT, COUSCOUS, BULGUR, MILLET, LONG-GRAIN BROWN OR WILD RICE, QUINOA, SEITAN.

The 7 Keys to Eating Smarter - #6: Eat Healthy Carbohydrates

The 7 Keys to Eating Smarter - #6: Eat Healthy Carbohydrates

KEY POINTS:

1. Just like fats, there are good and bad carbohydrates. In general, healthy carbohydrates are complex carbohydrates that are high in fibre and slow digesting (low glycemic), while unhealthy carbohydrates are simple and high glycemic. 

2. When we eat a lot of simple carbohydrates (refined and processed foods like breakfast cereals, white bread, sugars, and syrups), this can lead to a depression of the immune system, kidney damage, atherosclerosis, oxidative stress, and cancer. 

3. Also, overconsumption of these simple sugars causes our bellies to empty out sooner, leaving us perpetually hungry. 

4. Healthy carbohydrates include quinoa, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Key #6: Eat Healthy Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates (commonly referred to as “carbs”) have gotten a very bad rap lately as well. Let’s try to clear up the confusion. You might have noticed that with each food or diet trend one type of food is demonized. First it was fats. We went on a low fat kick. That didn’t work and eventually we learned that there are good fats and bad fats. That’s what I just showed you in the previous section. More recently there has been a trend toward low-carb diets and once again by vilifying one nutrient and loading up on the other types there have been some successes and failures. What we’ve discovered is that just like fats, there are good and bad carbohydrates. In general complex carbohydrates that are high in fibre and are slow digesting (low-glycemic index carbohydrates) can be quite healthful, while foods that are high in simple carbohydrates that are high glycemic can be problematic.

Healthy carbohydrates include quinoa, whole grains, vegetables (such as sweet potato), fruits (especially berries), beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Simple carbohydrates are often found in refined and processed foods like breakfast cereals, white bread, sugars and syrups.

The rapid rise in sugar and fructose consumption in the 1980’s mirrored a steep increase in obesity in the UK, Canada and the US. Trying to keep the obesity epidemic under control is incredibly challenging given that sugars are addictive and involve the same dopamine receptors in the brain that cause us to experience pleasure. These are the same centres that are activated by cocaine, nicotine and alcohol! Think about that the next time you have a sugar craving!

More recent data suggest that the types of foods that we eat – especially foods that have a high glycemic index (e.g. white bread, white rice, cereals, juice and pop) – can cause changes in our internal gut micro-flora (bacteria) that can increase inflammation in our bodies. High-simple sugar diets can also impact our immune systems. Some of the problems that happen in the body when we eat too much sugar include a depression of the immune system (the same system that fights off cancer), kidney damage, atherosclerosis, oxidative stress and cancer.

When we get hungry or stressed, our bodies crave food that will provide us with the quickest supply of fuel: simple sugar and starches. It is no accident that we rarely hear people say they “could really go for a chicken breast right now.” It’s the starchy food (bagels, crackers, cookies, chocolate, muffins, etc.) that make us drool when hungry. Over-consumption of starches and simple sugars turn to fat in our bodies, in order to be used as fuel at a later date. Our bellies empty sooner with starchy food, letting the craving cycle perpetuate. Setting up our morning with starchy sweets leads to a cascade of bad behaviour for the rest of the day. Worse yet, these eating habits set the stage for exhaustion at the worst times. You may recall this point when trying to hide that yawn in the afternoon meeting or class.

There are 3 things that slow down the digestion of sugar: fat, fibre and protein. This means, if we want to have balanced blood sugar, we need to slow down our digestion by making sure each meal has all of these elements.

Today's POWER-UP: Add healthy carbohydrate sources to your nutrition plan

Choose oatmeal with almond butter rather than cereal for breakfast.

Choose plain full fat yogurt with berries instead of the sweetened low fat variety.

Choose spaghetti squash with tuna pesto sauce instead of white pasta with tomato sauce.

Some other great sources of carbohydrates that are packed full of other vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients include (via onegreenplanet.com):

 - Bananas are rich in potassium, vitamin B6, manganese, magnesium, vitamin C, and fiber.

- Broccoli contains roughly three grams of fiber and three grams of sugar per serving for only 50 calories a cup and three grams of protein, along with large amounts of vitamin B6 and calcium.

- Apples are one of the best sources of carbs you can eat since they contain large amounts of pectin (a fiber that keeps you fuller longer), vitamin C, and potassium.

- Pears have potassium, vitamin C, magnesium, and fiber. 

- Leafy greens (spinach, chard, kale, romaine, arugula, turnip greens, collards, and mustard greens) have some carbohydrates, are low in calories and contain magnesium and B vitamins.

- Carrots, sweet potatoes, squash and figs are other great options for healthy carbs.

- Berries are my go-to fruit and are packed full of phytonutrients. These are great pre- and post-workout.

The 7 Keys to Eating Smarter - #5: Eat Healthy Fats

The 7 Keys to Eating Smarter - #5: Eat Healthy Fats

The STEM 1.0 Academic Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. A low-fat diet does not = healthy eating. However, the type of fat you eat has a major effect on your overall health.

2. Saturated animal fats and trans fats increase your risk of disease. Unhealthy saturated fats typically come from animal sources, butter, cheese, and ice cream. To decrease your intake of unhealthy fat, reduce or eliminate saturated animal fats, trans fats, hydrogenated vegetable oils, and processed foods.

3. Add healthy fats to your diet, such as nuts, seeds, avocados, and coconuts.

Key #5: Eat Healthy Fats

There is probably no other area that generates as much confusion about healthy eating than fats do. I’ll help you clear the misinformation and give you a solid science-based plan for how to add healthy fats to your diet and why.

Overall it is time to end the low-fat = healthy eating myth. That concept has not served us well. Food manufacturers simply removed fats and replaced them with sugars and refined grains and the negative impact on our health has been frightening. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the percentage of fats in your diet, whether high or low, does not determine your risk of disease.

What matters is the type of fat that you have in your diet. I want you to increase the amount of healthy fats and decrease or, even better, eliminate unhealthy fats that you eat. Unhealthy fats include saturated animal fats and trans-fats. These increase your risk of disease. Unhealthy saturated fats typically come from animal sources and include red meat (which you can eat on occasion for protein and iron – but make sure it’s grass-fed and organic), butter, cheese and ice cream. You can spot these because they are typically solid at room temperature. Simply, avoid saturated animal fats, trans-fats, hydrogenated vegetable oils and processed foods.

There are healthy fats you can add to your diet and these healthy sources include nuts, seeds, avocados, and coconuts.

Here are great ways to improve the balance between healthy and unhealthy fats:

· Use extra-virgin olive, walnut, coconut, and sustainably sourced palm oil. And when you cook with oil, never heat it past the smoking point, as the beneficial properties of the oil are ruined.

· Have a handful of raw nuts and seeds every day – focus on almonds, pecans, walnuts, flax and chia.

· Eat small fatty fish (such as sardines and salmon) often and larger fish (such as tuna and swordfish) infrequently, as they contain higher levels of toxic heavy metals.

· Buy flax oil in dark bottles and keep it in the fridge (air, light and heat cause it to break down). Use it in salads or other cold dishes or add it to cooked foods. You could also buy ground flax and add it to shakes, cereal, cooked grains and stews.

· Eat grass-fed animals (grass is rich in Omega-3's) rather than grain-fed animals.

· Use cheese as a spice not a food. A small amount of old, flavourful cheese can be a nice addition to a salad or stir fry. But cheese is not a healthy food so limit your intake or avoid it completely.

· Serve healthy fats at the table. Use olive oil as a drizzle instead of butter, or guacamole instead of sour cream.

The takeaway here is not that you should be afraid of fats and of adding healthy fats to your diet but that you should avoid unhealthy fats that can damage your health and metabolism.

Today's POWER-UP: What oils should I use for cooking?

When you are cooking, pay attention to the oils you are using. Choose cold-pressed, extra-virgin oils more often as they are less heat processed and will have better nutrient content. Most vegetable oils are very high in omega-6 fatty acids which, although important, can swing you too far into a pro-inflammatory state. Choose olive, coconut or avocado oil more, and sunflower, corn and soybean oil less often. It is also important to consider what you are doing with the oil. Fats that are very high in Poly unsaturated fatty acids are easily degraded with heat and are better off in salads, not for frying. So use olive oils for salads, and coconut / avocado oils for frying and cooking.

Dive Deeper: All about healthy fats with Dr. Richard Bazinet on the Be Better Podcast

I interviewed one of the world’s leading researchers on healthy fats Dr. Richard Bazinet from The University of Toronto. There are some brilliant insights that you can gain from Dr. Bazinet’s perspective on fats.

You can listen to the complete interview at http://drgregwells.com/community/dr-richard-bazinet-part-1  and http://drgregwells.com/community/dr-richard-bazinet-part-2.

The 7 Keys to Eating Smarter - #4 Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods

The 7 Keys to Eating Smarter - #4 Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods

KEY POINTS:

1. Poor nutrition causes chronic inflammation, which leads to abdominal bloating, arthritic joints, heartburn, and heart disease.

2. Chronic inflammation also appears to cause problems in the cells that line your endothelia (the lining of your blood vessels, lymphatic vessels, and other tissues in your body). This leads to stiffening of your blood vessels as well as oxidative stress.

3. Five groups of food that have powerful anti-inflammatory effects are spices, fruits and vegetables, small cold-water fish, probiotic foods, and raw nuts and seeds.

Key #4: Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Here are our answers so far to the big question, “why worry about nutrition?”

1. Because we need focus, energy and resilience to achieve our dreams.

2. Because overweight and obesity lead to increased risks of debilitating disease.

3. Because cancer has been linked to food choices.

Here’s one more for the list:

4. Because poor nutrition causes chronic inflammation.

What is inflammation and why do we care? You’ve actually experienced inflammation when your skin gets hot and red after a cut or infection. That’s a natural and healthy stress response to a temporary condition. Chronic inflammation is something else. It happens invisibly, every day, inside our bodies.

Whether it’s abdominal bloating, arthritic joints, heartburn or heart disease, inflammation causes wear and tear and interferes with you being the best version of yourself. Researchers are now discovering that chronic inflammation is a result of the diet that we eat in the west, along with our inactive lifestyle. It is extremely damaging to our health and our ability to take part in the activities that will lead us to achieving our dreams.

Chronic inflammation also appears to cause problems in the cells that line your endothelia. The endothelium is the lining of your blood vessels, lymphatic vessels, and other tissues in your body. These problems result in your blood vessels becoming stiff when they need to remain flexible to function. Problems with endothelial cells also lead to the production of “free radicals” or molecules that circulate around the body and cause damage to other cells. This is called oxidative stress and is like rust building up on metal or an apple turning brown.

The following are five groups of foods that have shown promising anti-inflammatory effects in research settings:

SPICES:  These glorious keepers-of-flavour contain compounds that inhibit inflammatory pathways with each one offering unique health benefits such as improved blood sugar regulation and anti-microbial action.  Top picks include: oregano, clove, ginger, cinnamon, hot chile, and turmeric.

VEGETABLES AND FRUIT:  These foods offer up a rainbow of plant molecules and nutrients (antioxidants) that interrupt tissue damage, combat inflammation and accelerate tissue healing.  These food gems increase health on all levels and combat accelerated ageing (inside and outside the body) caused by untamed inflammation. Top picks include: arugula, seaweed, garlic, fennel, parsley, watercress, pomegranates, apples, and all kinds of berries (don’t forget mulberries, gooseberries, cherries, and Saskatoon berries!)

SMALL COLD-WATER FISH:  High levels of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, found in these little swimmers combat inflammation by altering our cellular communication through gene modification.  Compared to bigger fish, smaller ones are lower in persistent organic pollutants (heavy metals, PCB’s, pesticides) and their consumption is more ecologically friendly.  These omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to healthy aging throughout life, and have important roles in all aspects of health and physiology including fetal development, cardiovascular function, weight management, and cognitive function.  Top picks include:  sardines, herring, rainbow trout, and anchovies

PROBIOTIC FOODS:  Research shows us that consumption of good (“pro”) bacteria (“biotics”) improves our gut bacterial balance which in turn reduces local (intestinal) and systemic (whole-body) inflammation.   Probiotics are recognized for their part in treating and preventing conditions related to inflammation such as allergies, food sensitivities and intolerances, eczema, atopy, intestinal infections, diabetes, nutrient deficiencies, ulcers, and cancer.  Fermented foods are a natural source of these wonder-bugs, and interestingly, most cultures have their own version of these foods.  The key is to look for foods that have actually been naturally fermented (not just rapidly processed to taste like the real thing).  Based on different genetic characteristics and personal health histories, you may respond better to fermented foods related to your ethnic background.  Examples include: plain kefir (Eastern European), miso (Japanese), kim chi (Korean), sauerkraut (German)

RAW NUTS AND SEEDS:  These savoury snacks are rich in unsaturated fatty acids, antioxidant vitamins (especially vitamin E), dietary fiber, and plant proteins.  Frequent nut and seed consumption has been shown to combat inflammation by improving total antioxidant activity, improving insulin sensitivity, and modifying cellular signaling. Their consumption has been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.  As a bonus, they are highly satiating which generally means less snacking on sugary, fatty junk foods.  Top picks include: walnuts, chia seeds, hemp hearts, Brazil nuts, almonds, and pumpkin seeds.

When you have a diet full of healthy whole foods and lots of vegetables and other anti-inflammatory foods, you will take in a high density of nutrients that could help reduce your inflammation to help you feel more clear headed and your memory sharp.

Today's POWER-UP: Try The Anti-Inflammatory Super Shake:

One banana

2 hand fulls of spinach or kale

1 tablespoon of ground flax seed

½ avocado

1 teaspoon grated ginger

about ½ teaspoon of turmeric root

about ¾ cup of almond milk (a little more or less depending on your preferred thickness)

Add a scoop of your desired protein powder. Living Fuel and Vega make great plant based proteins.

*optional: adding one kiwi or 1/3 cup of raspberries gives a little extra sweetness if desired.

The 7 Keys to Eating Smarter - #3 More Nutrients Fewer Calories

The 7 Keys to Eating Smarter - #3 More Nutrients Fewer Calories

KEY POINTS:

1. Keep this formula in mind: Health = Nutrients per Calorie consumed (H=N/C). Choose nutrient-dense foods as apposed to calorie-dense foods.

2. Superfoods are very high in vitamin, mineral, nutrient, and anti-oxidant levels, while also low in calories. 

3. Examples of Superfoods include leafy greens, small fatty fish, legumes, berries, root vegetables, sprouts, chia seeds, spirulina, pomegranate seeds, and turmeric. 

Key #3: More Nutrients Fewer Calories

I want to give you an easy-to-follow criteria for choosing foods that will give you the most health and performance benefit while helping you avoid the various preservatives, pesticides, genetically-modified ingredients and nutrient-poor crops out there. To get the biggest bang for your calorie buck, you need to optimize your nutrient-to-calorie ratio.

Consider this formula: H=N/C, which means that health = nutrients per calorie consumed. Dr. Joel Fuhrman offers this wisdom in his book Eat to Live, and it is a great way to think about nutrition. Your goal should be to eat nutrient-dense foods while avoiding calorie-dense foods. For example, skip the muffins and bagels and choose protein and vegetables. An apple has about 90 calories and loads of great nutrients while a blueberry muffin has 350+ calories and few nutrients. Water and herbal teas have 0 calories and promote health while sugar laden sodas or flavoured milks are loaded with calories and have minimal nutrient value. The Boston Health Commission recently found that the policy of limiting sugar-laden drinks and increased availability of healthier drinks reduced the intake of unhealthy beverages on city properties by 30%. Of note, beverage prices did not increase during the evaluation period, which is good news because one of the common arguments against healthy foods is that they cost too much. We need to follow this example in our businesses, schools and homes.

To speed you on your way to eating more in line with the H=N/C principle I want you to add Superfoods to your diet wherever possible. Superfoods are a special class of food that offers only the very best nutrient density. I define Superfoods as foods with very high vitamin, mineral, nutrient and anti-oxidant levels that are also low in calories (think vegetables) or if not low in calories then powerfully health enhancing (such as fruit, nuts, avocado, and coconut). We should all include these in our daily routine. 

The challenge is to recognize this pattern and to remember that our health depends on eating nutrient-dense foods, not energy-dense foods.                                                                  

Today's POWER-UP: Here are some nutrient-dense Superfoods for you to consider:

· Leafy greens – Swiss chard, kale, mustard/collard greens, spinach, dandelion, seaweed… These have by far the highest antioxidant density per calorie. Greens are also packed with minerals like calcium, iodine and iron, which are great for bone strength, thyroid health and energy.

· Small fatty fish – Sardines, perch, tilapia, salmon, herring, anchovies… The Omega 3 fatty acids in fish help with circulation, concentration and pain relief. Fish is also a great source of protein and calcium. To avoid heavy metals, avoid large fish like tuna, swordfish and shark.

· Legumes – Lentils, chickpeas, black/kidney/navy/cannellini beans… Legumes are the least expensive protein source and are packed with fibre and B vitamins.

· Berries – Blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, strawberries, cherries, goji/acai berries… Don’t let their sweetness fool you – berries are a superfood full of tissue-healing antioxidants and fibre.

· Root Vegetables – Ginger, turmeric, garlic, onions, sweet potatoes, radishes, beets…. These are disease-fighting, energy-boosting, pain-relieving miracle foods! Besides making our meals burst with flavour, they provide us with an excellent nutrition boost.

· Sprouts: Whether talking about lentil, clover or alfalfa sprouts, eating the plant at this early stage of life is a nutritional bonus. Sprouts have more enzymes, vitamins, minerals and amino acids than almost any other food on Earth! The fact that they are also cheap, have very little calories and are easy to incorporate into meals makes them super!

· Chia seeds: Yes, these seeds are the very same as the ones we used to spread on pottery and watch grow as kids. A nutritional analysis was done on these tiny seeds and it turns out they are the highest plant source of omega 3 fatty acids in existence which makes them excellent for brain and heart health.

· Spirulina: This nutritional powerhouse is considered part of the algae family. It is packed with minerals, including one of the only sources of thyroid booster, iodine. 60% of this green powder is protein by weight (containing every single essential amino acid that humans need). Spirulina also contains four times as much vitamin B12 as liver. Add this to your diet ASAP! We use spirulina in our morning smoothies.

· Pomegranate Seeds: Never before have we seen a fruit that has as much cardio-protective benefit as pomegranate. Research has found that it can lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation in our blood vessels, actually reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

· Turmeric: This mild tasting orange spice is often part of Indian curries, but it can be added to nearly every meal subtly. The benefits of the active ingredient, curcumin, seem endless. Curcumin actually slows down age-related cognitive decline and prevents Alzheimer’s Disease. It acts as a potent pain reliever, soothes reflux disease and stops clot formation in our blood vessels. This is certainly a super spice!

Remember it’s all about eating as healthy as you can. Just use common sense and don’t worry about being exact.

The 7 Keys to Eating Smarter - #2: Eat Mostly Plants

The 7 Keys to Eating Smarter - #2: Eat Mostly Plants

KEY POINTS:

1. Five servings of fruit and vegetables each day decreases your risk of dying from a chronic disease, such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. 

2. Plants have vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that have important anti-oxidant properties (oxidative stress affects the structure and function of important biomolecules, such as a fatty acids, DNA, or proteins). 

3. Vitamin C is a key anti-oxidant. Foods that are high in vitamin C include bell peppers, guava fruit, leafy green vegetables, kiwi fruit, broccoli, berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, peas, and papayas. 

4. Flavonoids and carotenoids are also powerful anti-oxidants. Foods high in carotenoids include sweet potato, carrots, dark green leafy vegetables, squash, cantaloupe and melons, sweet red and yellow peppers, apricots, peas, and broccoli.

5. Consumption of nuts (full of vitamins, minerals, fibre, and healthy fats) is inversely related to mortality, cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease.

Key #2: Eat Mostly Plants

A powerful form of research analysis is something called a meta-analysis. When scientists do research and they publish their results it can be hard to interpret the results unless you’re an expert in the field and you’ve read most of the research studies that have been done in the area and can put the new research in the context of all the previously published data. What a meta-analysis does is to combine the best studies into one big data set to see what patterns emerge from all the high-quality data in a field. Meta analyses are fantastic tools for people trying to make sense of all the research in one area.

Dr. Frank Hu’s team published a meta-analysis that caught my attention. Dr. Hu works at the Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Hu tried to determine if there is a relationship between the amount of fruits and vegetables that someone eats and mortality (dying) from all causes, cardiovascular disease, or cancer.

Dr. Hu’s analysis tracked more than 833,000 people. His analysis showed that for each serving of fruits and vegetables that you eat, your risk of dying from a chronic disease decreased. Interestingly after 5 servings of fruits and vegetables the risk did not decrease any more. So if you get 5 servings every day you’re good to go! The data showed that eating fruits and vegetables helped to prevent cardiovascular disease, and another research team took this a step further and found that vegetables with red, yellow and orange colours – especially carrots – are particularly powerful at reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

If you do not have a nut allergy, then nuts can also help to prevent chronic disease. They’re full of vitamins, mineral, fibre and healthy fats. In a study on 70,000 women and 42,500 men conducted by Dr. Ying Bao and colleagues, consumption of nuts was found to be inversely related to mortality, independent of other predictors of death. Inverse associations (the more nuts you eat the less disease you get) were seen for cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease. Nuts are very high in calories so if you are looking to lose weight then be careful of your overall consumption. When I’m trying to decrease my fat before races I limit my intake to 8-10 nuts per day.

The primary benefit of eating a diet based mostly on plants is to increase the amount of vitamins, minerals and nutrients in your diet. These have anti-oxidant properties that help to keep you healthy. In technical terms anti-oxidant are substances that prevent the oxidation of an important biomolecules, such as a fatty acids, DNA, or proteins, by a reactive oxygen species. Excessive oxidation of molecules in the body can affect their structure and function. Think of this like when metal is exposed to oxygen in the air it can rust. You see this quickly if you’ve cut open an apple and left it exposed to air and seen the pulp turn brown. The scientific term for this process is oxidative stress. Anti-oxidants slow and minimize this process in our bodies.

One of the best best-known anti-oxidants is Vitamin C, but other vitamins such as the vitamin E family act as anti-oxidants. Foods that are high in vitamin C include bell peppers, guava fruit, leafy green vegetables, kiwi fruit, broccoli, berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, peas, and papayas. Foods high in vitamin E include tofu, spinach, nuts, seeds, avocado, shellfish, cold-water fish, plant oils (like olive oil), broccoli, and squash and pumpkin.

Foods that are high in flavonoids and carotenoids are also powerful anti-oxidants. Foods high in carotenoids include sweet potato, carrots, dark green leafy vegetables, squash, cantaloupe and melons, sweet red and yellow peppers, apricots, peas and broccoli.

The main message here is that plant based foods are our best defence against reactive oxygen species in our bodies. Fruits, vegetables, teas, coffee, spices and herbs are all great sources of anti-oxidants, and all of these have been related to lower risk of most chronic diseases and a lower risk of mortality. Research has shown a clear inverse relationship between increasing your fruit and vegetable intake and lower risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, asthma, COPD, dementia, osteoporosis, certain eye diseases, and weight gain. If you want to live a long, healthy life, eat mostly plants.

Today's POWER-UP: Learn some great vegetarian meals

Interested in eating more plant-based meals? Check out Rich Roll’s cookbook The Plant Powered Way for some terrific recipes. https://www.richroll.com/the-plantpower-way/

Another go-to cookbook in our family is Oh She Glows by Angela Lindon. http://ohsheglows.com/the-book/

The 7 Keys to Eating Smarter - #1: Hydrate

The 7 Keys to Eating Smarter - #1: Hydrate

The STEM 1.0 Academic Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. Mild dehydration, just a 1% loss in body fluids can impair your mood, concentration and thinking.

2. Water consumption is the easiest way to improve your health. It helps boosts energy production in the body, prevents headaches, improves elimination of toxins, and supports the skin, bowels, eyes and brain.

3. Drink ½ of your weight (lbs) in ounces of fluid each day. If you weigh 150lbs, you need to consume about 75 oz of fluid/day (1L=32oz, so that would be about 2.5 L/day – or 5 standard water bottles).

Eating smarter can help you in all aspects of your life. The solution lies in each of us building a lifestyle that helps us to be healthy, happy and to be our best. The foundation needs to be built on great foods that help us be better. We just need to eat the right food at the right time and we can have amazing health and perform at any level you need to any time you need to. If we add good sleep and exercise to the mix, we can amplify our health and potential. Here's the first key to eating smarter.

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Key #1: Hydrate

Quick! What’s the most important thing for health? Breathing? Yes, stop breathing and you’ll die in a few minutes. How about the second most important thing for staying alive? Any guesses? Exactly! Water. Water is absolutely vital to a body’s function and survival. Stop being hydrated for a few days and you stop living. Remember the remarkable story of the Bangladeshi woman who survived 17 days in the wreckage of a collapsed garment building? She managed that near impossible feat because she had found some bottled water.

There is not a single cell in your body that does not rely on water. Water helps transport the carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that your cells need to make energy. When your body works, functions or moves it does so because water helped transport the necessary fuel or energy building components. By the way, reflect on the word “carbohydrate” for a moment. Do you see the word “hydrate”? That’s not an accident. Carbohydrates are basically hydrates of carbon. Carbon. Hydrogen. Oxygen. Even carbohydrates rely on water.

Think of your veins and arteries as your city’s roads and highways. These roads are used to bring goods into the city but also to transport unwanted materials out. If this transportation is slowed, the result is a city that is starving for goods and overflowing with garbage.

Continuing with this analogy, think of your body’s water molecules as the vehicles on the roadways, transporting the nutrients your cells need to make energy. Water makes up 80% of your blood’s volume, so when water is depleted, this has a huge impact on the efficiency of your blood cells.

If that was hard to follow, drink a glass of water. Now. Before you read on. Your brain needs water. 60 percent of your body weight is made up of water but incredibly it makes up almost 90 percent of your brain. Water lubricates and cushions the brain. It also helps you to think, concentrate, problem solve and remember. With water those important cognitive functions… well, they function. Without water and they stop functioning properly, or worse. A recent study out of the UK indicates that dehydrated adolescents had structural changes in their brains that were equivalent to an Alzheimer’s disease patient over a two-and-a-half-month period or 14 months of ageing in a healthy adult. In other words, dehydration can cause a person’s brains to shrink (Human Brain Mapping, 2010).

Not a teenager anymore? Water still matters. Mild dehydration, just a one percent loss in body fluids, can impair your mood, concentration and thinking. With a fluid loss of only 2% (3lbs in a 150lb adult) concentration and thinking will become impaired. This 2% loss is incredibly common with a typical day at the office with back-to-back meetings.

Water consumption is the easiest way to improve your health. It helps boosts energy production in the body, prevents headaches, improves elimination of toxins, and supports the skin, bowels, eyes and brain… Aim to drink at least ½ of your weight (lbs) in ounces of fluid each day (more in times of stress or heat). Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink water, or you’ll be playing catch up all day! If you weigh 150lbs, you need to consume about 75 oz of fluid/day (1L=32oz, so that would be about 2.5 L/day – or 5 standard water bottles).

HYDRATION TIP: IF YOU FIND THE TASTE OF WATER BORING, TRY ADDING A PACKAGE OF TRUE CITRUS TO YOUR WATER BOTTLE. IT CONTAINS ALL NATURAL CITRUS INGREDIENTS WITH NO ADDED SWEETENER OR ARTIFICIAL SWEETENER. IT'S JUST LIKE ADDING A SLICE OF LEMON OR LIME TO YOUR WATER AND EASY TO TAKE WITH YOU ON THE ROAD!

Today's POWER-UP: Get Hydrated!

So make drinking water part of your daily routine.

Get a water bottle and keep it with you and fill it up a few times every day. Water is just as important at work as it is in the gym!

Stay hydrated, stay healthy and Be Better! 

Eat Smarter to Think Clearly

Eat Smarter to Think Clearly

KEY POINTS:

1. Good nutrition is critical for your brain to function optimally.

2. Slow-digesting complex carbohydrates fuel your brain for thinking, solving problems, being creative, and instilling memories.

3. High-quality fats build the structures in your nerves and speeds communication between neurons.

4. Healthy proteins provide the precursors for the neurotransmitters used to communicate between nerve cells.

5. Vitamins and minerals enable the nerves to function and prolong the survival of individual nerve fibres.

Food has a tremendous impact on your brain and how it functions. The individual cells in your brain are called neurons and we have about 80-100 billion of them. Each neuron has about 2000 connections with other neurons, which creates trillions of links (called synapses) between brain cells. These connections are what enables us to think, learn, create, solve problems and build memories. 

Those links are gaps between neurons called synapses, and that’s where the action in your brain takes place – thinking, learning, creativity, problem solving and memory building. When the neurons of a particular part of the brain are activated, a given synapse can fire up to 200 times per second! That’s a whole lot of energy getting consumed.

With all that activity, quality food is critical to achieve optimal brain function. To perform at your absolute best mentally – and to be uber healthy so that you can go after your passion and purpose – you need to eat as well as you can.

  • You need slow-digesting complex carbohydrates to provide a steady source of glucose, which is the fuel your brain uses for thinking, solving problems, being creative and instilling memories.
  • You need high-quality fats, because fats are used to build the structures in your nerves like cell membranes and the myelin sheath that protects the nerve and speeds communication between neurons.
  • You need healthy proteins to provide the amino acids that are the precursors for the neurotransmitters used to communicate between nerve cells.
  • You need vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables for the intracellular processes that enable the nerves to function and even prolong the survival of individual nerve fibres.

Guess what you should be eating to fuel your thinking, creativity, problem solving and memory? That’s right – whole, fresh, unprocessed foods. Cold-water fatty wild fish. Fruits and veggies. Raw nuts and seeds. Olive oil. Coffee, green tea and black tea are all good options.

Get cooking!

Today's POWER-UP: Brain Boosting Foods

Here are some examples of healthy fat foods that can improve brain function and health:

1. Fish. Cold-water fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids are great for brain and nervous system health. Examples of healthy cold-water fish include organic wild (unfarmed) salmon, sardines, mackerel and trout. One habit that I’ve been working on is to eat wild salmon on nights after a long, hard day at work. It’s a great food for mental recovery, and I feel much better the next day.

2. Nuts. One of the best daily snacks you can have is a handful of nuts. Studies have shown that the healthy fats, vitamins and minerals in nuts improve thinking and memory and may protect against cognitive decline as we age. So mix together your favourite types and take a portion into work every day, or sprinkle them into cereal, salads, smoothies or just about anything you eat.

3. Avocados. The monounsaturated fat in avocados can help improve your cardiovascular system and blood flow to all your organs – including your brain. Since your brain has no stored energy and depends on blood flow to deliver the glucose and oxygen that it needs to think, foods that improve your circulatory system can help supercharge your brain.

4. Coconut. Once avoided because of its high fat content, coconuts have recently been deemed a super food. The fatty acids in coconut are mostly saturated, which means it is one of the only oils that won’t go bad when cooked at high temperatures. The medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) inside are special because they can be broken down more easily than other types of fat and can be used as fuel for our bodies and our brains.

5. Olive oil. One of the cornerstones of the Mediterranean Diet, olive oil is rich in heart healthy monounsaturated fats. The list of brain improvements seen from regular consumption of this oil include lowered risk of depression, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and cancer. The tricky thing about this oil is making sure it stays fresh. To be sure you’re getting the best product, buy extra virgin oil in a dark glass bottle and eat it in its raw form.

6. Eat Breakfast. Even if you grab a handful of walnuts or a hardboiled egg on your way out the door, that will prime your system for better metabolism throughout the day. We gain an estimated 7 pounds per year if we skip breakfast consistently. Ideally, the first thing in your stomach should arrive within an hour of waking!

Improve your energy and mental performance with these smart foods. Your supercharged brain will thank you.

Dive Deeper: The Brain Power Smoothie

One way to pack better brain foods into your day is through a morning breakfast smoothie. Here is an example of one that is brilliant for your brain:

One banana

2 handfuls of spinach or kale

1 tablespoon of ground flax seed

½ avocado

1 teaspoon grated ginger

about ½ teaspoon of turmeric root

about ¾ cup of almond milk (a little more or less depending on your preferred thickness)

Add a scoop of your desired protein powder. Living Fuel and Vega make great plant based proteins.

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend on high for 60 seconds.

Welcome to Eat Smarter!

Welcome to Eat Smarter!

The STEM 1.0 Academic Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. Overweight and obesity are on the rise, increasing the risk of associated diseases such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and mental health challenges.

2. Learning how to eat smarter not only decreases your risk of getting these diseases, but also dramatically improves your health and performance - in all areas of your life.

3. Find out what matters most to you (in regards to health and performance) and use this as motivation to Eat Smarter.  

“The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.” – Thomas Edison

Recently, I went on an expedition to the northwest corner of India – the Thar Desert – with my good friend Ray Zahab and his organization impossible2Possible. This expedition took us into various towns and villages along our journey through the desert. One morning I went with our medical team to explore the local communities and I saw something that blew my mind. There were two food stalls that were side by side that could not have captured the cause of the world’s health problems more clearly. In one stall was a gentleman who had all the traditional, local foods laid out which included a lot of fresh vegetables and fruit. All fresh, healthy options that prevent disease. But right next to him was a stall filled with bags of chips, chocolate bars and sugary snacks. This stall was new, and the owner was doing a brisk business selling the foods that cause the grand epidemics.

Even though we were far from North America in a rural area, I saw that the diseases of the west were showing up there as well. Unlike in North America and Europe where people who are overweight and obese comprise up to 68% of the population, there are fewer people in the rural parts of the developing world who have chronic illnesses. But the numbers are climbing. And with this comes other problems such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and mental health challenges.

Despite the global scale of the challenge and the complexity of the problem, there are solutions available to us today that are powerful if applied consistently over time. Eating healthy, great tasting food is possible - even necessary – and doing so will dramatically improve your life and the lives of those around you. Let’s set the stage for making that happen for you and for the rest of the world.

When I do presentations on nutrition, I've discovered something very interesting. When I start talking about nutrition and health people politely listen. I can tell that they're not super interested and that there's a lot of the “I’ve heard this so many times before” attitude going around the room. So at another talk I changed things up. I talked about how nutrition can help you to perform better. The talk was at a school so I made reference to foods that can improve exam performance. Suddenly everyone was taking notes and asking questions. I tried it again at a business where I was talking about how to eat to concentrate better in the afternoon. Once again people paid attention and emailed me asking for my nutrition protocols. The best part about this whole discovery was that I was talking about the same foods that I had previously discussed in the healthy eating talk. Focusing on performance made all the difference.

The message is that we have to link eating smarter to what we care about. So what do you care about most? What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning and take on the world? Then eat smarter to help you do that better. Food helps us perform better at sports, academics, business, drama and music. Eating smarter is how we can experience exponential growth in our lives.

Today's POWER-UP: What Food Guide Should You Follow?

Our Food Guides that are issued by the governments are outdated and they are influenced by the food industry to such an extent that the recommendations do not enhance your health, although they do keep people employed. We know that dairy is not always healthy for humans yet it forms a major part of the Food Guide. We know that added simple sugars are addictive and can increase your risk of cancer yet they remain a key part of the nutrition guidelines we are told to follow.

A more specific example of the problems is that the Food Guides put all protein sources together as equally healthful sources. Red meat, poultry and beans are all considered the same when it comes to sources of protein despite processed meat consumption being associated with increased risk of cancer and beans having been shown to improve health, body composition and resistance to disease.

The first step to getting healthy and performing at your best is to go beyond the Canada Food Guide and the USDA MyPyramid and build a nutrition plan that enhances your health using the Keys that I'll be showing you in the upcoming posts. If you’re looking for a food guide that is actually based on research check out the Harvard Medical School’s Healthy Eating Plate, or even better Brazil’s Healthy Eating Recommendations.