Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

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Frozen bananas

One of my favourite summer snacks is a frozen banana. Just take a ripe banana, peel it, and wrap it in aluminum foil. Pop it in the freezer. Once frozen, remove when desired, peel back the foil and eat. If you want to get a little fancier (and a little less healthy) slice a banana and top each slice with melted chocolate. Try mixing peanut butter in with the chocolate or sprinkling coconut on top. Place in freezer on a plate right before supper. After your main course, remove from the freezer and enjoy for dessert.


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Follow Friday: Lottie + Doof

Time to share another one of my favourite recipe blogs. Lottie + Doof is a gorgeous blog created by Tim Mazurek in Chicago. The blog was named after his beloved grandmother, Lottie, the “doof” is simply “food” spelled backwards. His blog is a lovely combination of gorgeous photos, engaging writing, and delicious recipes. You can also follow him on twitter: @lottieanddoof Enjoy!

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Supplements: Should you take glucosamine?

I thought that I would follow-up my first supplement post on glutamine with a post about glucosamine sulfate as it sounds so similar but is very different in both purpose and effectiveness. Glucosamine sulfate (make sure it’s got the sulfate there as that’s the form that’s been shown to be effective) is an amino derivative of glucose. It’s found in the human body in the fluid around joints. Research has shown that, in some people, it can be effective in pain management for osteoarthritis (the most common form of arthritis). It may also be beneficial for people suffering from TMJ (a joint in the jaw) arthritis. Although the exact mechanism is unknown, it’s believed that glucosamine sulfate may either increase the cartilage and/or fluid around the joints or it may slow down the loss of these or a combination of both. The effective dose of glucosamine sulfate is 1500 mg once a day or 500 mg three times a day. There are no other proven benefits of taking glucosamine sulfate although it has been studied in both glaucoma and weight loss trials.

Make sure you’re actually getting what you pay for. Tests of glucosamine sulfate supplements have found up to 100% difference in the actual amount of the active ingredient present relative to what was listed on the label. They have also found forms of glucosamine used other than glucosamine sulfate. Unfortunately, the supplement industry is not well-regulated in Canada. Before buying a supplement you should do a little research. Make sure the manufacturer is reputable. Make sure the product has an NHP number and look it up online. Check with your pharmacist before you start taking any supplement, including glucosamine sulfate, as there are some contraindications with other medications and medical conditions. For more information on Natural Health Product regulation visit Health Canada. For more information on glucosamine sulfate visit MedLinePlus.


Cranberry Cocktail Con

Based on an article in the Globe and Mail, it seems that cranberry cocktail producers are concerned that their beverage will be banned from being sold in schools. Current school nutrition policies in Ontario and Nova Scotia, and likely in other provinces as well, state that cranberry cocktail should not be currently available for purchase in schools (or should only available occasionally). In Ontario, only 100% fruit juice can be sold as juice in schools. In Nova Scotia, juice that is not 100% fruit juice should not be sold more than once or twice a month. New school nutrition policy in the USA has got the cranberry growers worried that their product will no longer be permitted to be sold in schools. Ridiculous. How many kids do you know that spend their lunch money on cranberry juice anyway? Unless things have changed dramatically since I was a child, I seriously doubt that cranberry juice has become wildly popular among grade school students.

One of the arguments for permitting cranberry cocktail to continue to be sold in schools is that it has the ability to fight urinary tract infections and reduce cancer risk. This is absurd. It’s been shown that cranberry concentrate (i.e. pure cranberry juice not cranberry cocktail) can help to prevent urinary tract infections. As far as I’m aware there is no solid scientific proof that cranberry juice (pure or otherwise) has any impact on cancer risk. I can’t see any good reason for giving cranberry cocktail an exemption from school nutrition policy. If I had my druthers, all juice would be banned from sale in schools, regardless of percentage of pure fruit juice present. Juice is a poor substitute for whole fruit but due to our inferior food guides and miseducation, many people are under the impression that juice is a serving of fruit and that more is better.

If 100% fruit juice is to be permitted for sale, by all means, allow 100% cranberry juice to be sold in schools. But if we’re going to allow cranberry cocktail we may as well start allowing Kool Aid, Beep, and pop.

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For the love of carbs

I recently made the error of engaging in a “discussion” about carbs with a personal trainer. I tried to bite my tongue, really I did! This trainer was advising someone about nutrition and told them that carbs are only needed for recovery post-workout and energy pre-workout; fat and protein are the only essential macronutrients. The logic was that fats and proteins can be turned into glucose but we can’t synthesize amino acids and fatty acids from glucose. And, apparently, the proof lies in the traditional Inuit diet which consisted solely of animal products.

Perhaps there is a lesson here that more people can benefit from. On the off chance that there is, I thought that I would share my thoughts with you too. First, the Inuit diet is not a great example as they also consumed berries, wild plants, and seaweed, basically any plants that were available to them. Also, glucose is not the only nutrient at play when we’re talking about carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are also not just in our diet as processed grains and sugar. Fruits and vegetables provide us with carbohydrates as well as fibre, vitamins, and minerals. We need to be careful tossing around the word “carbs” because it can lead people to believe that any food with “carbs” is “evil” and perhaps not just the processed white breads and baked goods that are intended to be demonized (which are still okay as occasional treats). Carbohydrates provide our bodies (including our cells and muscles) with energy. They are also the fuel for our brains. Fibre aids in digestion, weight maintenance, regularity, and can help protect against chronic diseases. Carbs are essential to our health and it’s recommended that 45-60% of our total energy intake come from carbs. The key lies in choosing the right kind of carbs. That means selecting complex carbohydrate foods that are high in fibre and other nutrients and avoiding/limiting highly processed simple carbs. Choose things like fruits and vegetables and whole grains.