Top Protein Powder Picks

Convenience is one of the main motivations driving food choices. I believe that healthy eating can be quick and convenient. In fact, I know this to be true because I don’t like spending hours in the kitchen, but I do love to eat nutritious food.

Protein powder is one of the easiest ways to add on-the-go protein to your diet. The quality of the protein powder will affect how easy it is to digest, and how nutritious the formula is.

When choosing your protein powder, pick based on brand and ingredients. Some tips on choosing a quality product:

  1. Buy from a company who knows health – the protein powders I recommend all come from companies like Sun Warrior, Botanica, and Vega who are leaders in the health space. Nutrition and health is what they research, preach, and manufacture. Health is what they do. When choosing which product to buy, the company will give you an initial indication of quality. Though it’s still up to you to read the label.
  2. Consider your use – one of the main questions I’m asked as a nutritionist is whether it’s better to go with plant-based or a whey based protein powder. For making smoothies as a meal/snack where you’re looking for nutrients, I’d go for plant-based protein. If you’re looking for a post-workout protein boost, that would be a better time for whey. Though, you could use either one.
    Consider what your diet is like on a regular basis. If you eat a lot of dairy already, it would be a good idea to use a plant-based non-dairy protein powder so you get more variety.
  3. Quality ingredients – protein powders often contain flavouring, thickeners, or sweet additives to improve the taste. The best choice for you will depend on how you plan to mix your protein (with water in a shaker cup/ blended in a smoothie). Look for products that don’t contain a lot of additives or sweeteners.

For smoothies, choosing a “natural” flavour will make it more versatile (and usually have fewer ingredients) – you can always add cocoa powder to your blend, but you can’t take it out of the protein.
Most companies sell single serving sizes of their protein powders. Purchase a few of these to start before investing in the tub to see what you like best.

Variety is key in having a healthy and nutritious diet. Just like you vary your food choices, it’s a good idea to rotate your protein powders. Once you find the ones you like, I’d suggest having a few different types on hand. Some have more greens, some are fermented, while others have simple ingredients and are easy to digest.

Each type of protein powder can be used at a different time, or in a different combination to keep variety and boost nutrition on a regular basis.

There are many high-quality products out there. Make sure you do your research to find the right one for you. Here are my top choices:

Vegetarian Protein Powders

Botanica – Perfect Protein – finally, a protein blend without peas or stevia. The brown rice protein it contains is fermented, so it will digest easily. It even contains coconut, and quinoa to round out the nutrient profile. This one is sugar free,
Sugar Free | Gluten- Free | Soy-Free | Dairy-Free |Non-GMO | Vegetarian.

Manitoba Harvest – Hemp Pro—this one is a straight hemp protein. It’s easy to digest and the flavour is good when blended into a smoothie. With 15g of protein and 7g of fiber this is a great choice for making any smoothie into a meal. Great for those with sensitive systems, this protein has only a single ingredient: hemp.
There are a few flavours to choose from. This company also makes the Hemp Hearts (seeds you can add to smoothies, salads, oatmeal, stir fry, etc.)
Non-GMO| Vegan | Kosher

Vega One All in One Shake – this has a lot of greens and other nutrients in it as well as protein including spirulina, maca, and a dried fruit and vegetable blend. Vega One is a great option for morning smoothies or making a meal out of a shake. It’s main protein sources are pea, hemp.
Gluten Free | Non-GMO | Vegan

Sun Warrior Classic Protein– Brown Rice Protein Sun Warrior makes brown rice protein that is both sprouted and fermented (two processes that maximize the nutritional value of the protein). With few ingredients, this is a great choice for allergy sufferers because it’s clean, simple and safe. Sun Warrior products are vegan and contain no animal products.
Vegan | Raw | Soy-Free | Non-GMO | Gluten-Free | Dairy-Free

Genuine Health - Fermented Vegan Proteins + - this protein is fermented (partially broken down) so it’s easy to digest, and beneficial for your gut. It contains a blend of pea protein, brown rice, quinoa all fermented for maximum nutrition and absorption.
Gluten Free | Non-GMO | Vegan | Soy-Free

Whey-Based Protein Powders

Kaizen Naturals –Whey Protein Powder – Kaizen Naturals has a very clean product line, which includes their whey protein powder. They source their whey from New Zeland cows. It provides all the necessary amino acids for muscle and tissue growth, with very little additives.
Gluten Free | Non-GMO | Peanut Free

Garden of Life SPORT – Certified Grass Fed Whey – this whey protein comes from a non-gmo, grass-fed source with no added hormones, sugars or antibiotics. It also includes a few strains of probiotic bacteria to aid in digestion.
Gluten Free | Non-GMO

Turmeric - A Miracle Spice?

Turmeric grows under the ground like ginger. It has a rich, bright orange color and is used in many foods. Originally used in Southeast Asia, it’s a vital component for traditional curries. You can find dried powdered turmeric in the spice aisle of just about any grocery store. Sometimes they carry the fresh variety too (it looks like ginger root, but smaller).

Turmeric contains an amazing anti-inflammatory, antioxidant compound called "curcumin.” The amount of this bioactive compound is around 3-7% by weight of turmeric. Curcumin has been studied extensively for its health benefits. It’s important to note that many of these studies test curcumin at up to 100x more than that of a traditional diet that includes turmeric.

Health benefits of curcumin

There are dozens of clinical studies using curcumin extract (which is way more concentrated than ground turmeric).

Curcumin is an anti-inflammatory compound. It fights inflammation at the molecular level. Some studies even show it can work as well as certain anti-inflammatory medications (but without the side effects).

Curcumin is an antioxidant compound. It can neutralize free radicals before they wreak havoc on our biomolecules. Curcumin also boosts our natural antioxidant enzymes.

These two functions of reducing inflammation and oxidation have amazing health benefits. Chronic inflammation plays a major role in so many conditions. Including heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, dementia, mood disorders, arthritis, chronic pain, etc.

Curcumin has other amazing functions too:

  • Boosts our levels of "Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor" (best described as a natural growth hormone for your brain) which is great for brain health.
  • Improves “endothelial function” (the inner lining of our blood vessels) which is great for heart health.
  • Reduces growth of cancer cells by reducing angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels in tumors), metastasis ( the spread of cancer), and even contributes to the death of cancer cells.

Do you think these make turmeric deserve the “miracle spice” title?

How to get the most out of your turmeric

Curcumin is not easily absorbed by your gut. For one thing, it’s fat soluble. So, as with fat-soluble nutrients (like vitamins A, D, E, and K), you can increase absorption by eating it with a fat-containing meal.

The second trick to get the most out of your turmeric is eating it with pepper. Interestingly, a compound in black pepper (piperine) enhances absorption of curcumin, by a whopping 2,000%!

If you want the health benefits of curcumin, you need to get a larger dose of than just eating some turmeric; this is where supplements come in.

Before you take a curcumin supplement, take caution if you:

  • Are pregnant
  • Are taking anti-platelet medications or blood thinners
  • Have gallstones or a bile duct obstruction
  • Have stomach ulcers or excess stomach acid

Always read the label before taking a new supplement.

Conclusion

Turmeric is a delicious spice, and it’s “active ingredient” curcumin is a great health-booster.

Curcumin has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which are great to bust chronic inflammation. It also has other amazing health benefits, like brain- and heart-boosting properties, and even cancer-fighting properties.

Curcumin supplements can be great for your health, but they're not for everyone. Check the label or reach out to speak with me before taking it.

I want to know: What’s your favorite recipe with turmeric? Try my version of “golden milk,” and let me know in the comments below.

Recipe (turmeric): Golden Milk

Serves 2

1 cup canned coconut milk (full fat)
1 cup hot water
1 ½ tsp turmeric, ground
¼ tsp cinnamon, ground
¼ tsp ginger, ground
1 sprinkle black pepper, ground
½ tsp honey

Instructions

Add all ingredients to a small saucepan. Whisk to combine.

Warm over medium heat, whisking frequently. Heat until hot, but not boiling.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can substitute 2 cups of almond milk instead of the 1 cup coconut milk and 1 cup water. If you make the recipe with the whole can of coconut milk, store the remaining amount in a jar in the fridge.

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/encyclopedia/food/turmeric/

https://authoritynutrition.com/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-turmeric/

https://examine.com/supplements/turmeric/

https://leesaklich.com/foods-vs-supps/foods-vs-supplements-the-turmeric-edition/

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/turmeric-curcumin-plants-vs-pills/

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/who-shouldnt-consume-curcumin-or-turmeric/

Protein - How Much is Enough?

Protein is not just for great skin, hair, and nails; it's critical for health. Without it, you wouldn't be able to repair damaged tissues, digest food, fight infections, build muscle and bone, create hormones, or even think and have a good mood.

Eating enough protein during the day allows you to maintain stable blood sugar so you can be focused and mentally sharp throughout the day.

Higher protein diets can help fight high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Not to mention protein's great benefits for metabolism boosting, satiety (feeling full after a meal), and weight management.

Protein is important, that’s a given.

There are a few factors to consider when calculating how much protein we need. In this post, I’ll go through those calculations with you. You’ll also find a list of the amount of protein in some common foods.

How much protein is enough

Every body is different, so there isn’t a rule that applies equally to everyone. There are a few factors to consider when figuring out how much protein you need.

Start with the minimum recommendation of 0.8 g/kg (0.36 g/lb) per day.

So, for a 68 kg (150 lb) healthy non-athlete adult, this is about 55 g protein/day.

Mind you, this is a minimum to prevent protein deficiency. It's not optimal for good repair, digestion, immune function, muscle/bone building, hormones, thinking and great moods. It's not enough for athletes, seniors or those recovering from an injury, either. If you fall into one of these categories, you may need to increase the minimum protein intake to a higher amount within the recommended range. Aim closer to 1.3 g/kg (0.6 g/lb) per day.

More than likely your protein needs will fall between 0.8 g/kg and 1.3 g/kg per day. Which you can judge based on your activity level.

Athletes need more protein for their energy and muscle mass. Seniors need more to help ward off muscle and bone loss that's common in old age. And injured people need more for recovery and healing.

How much protein is too much?

As with fat and carbohydrates, eating too much protein can cause weight gain. Extra protein can be converted into sugar or fat in the body.

The interesting thing about protein is that it isn’t as easily or quickly converted as carbohydrates or fat; this is because of its thermic effect. The thermic effect is the amount of energy required to digest, absorb, transport and store a nutrient. To digest protein, your body needs to spend energy (i.e., burn calories). More calories than when metabolizing fats or carbohydrates.

A good rule of thumb is to eat a maximum of 25g of protein at one time (the equivalent of 3-4 oz of cooked meat). This is the amount of protein that your body can digest and assimilate at one time. It’s a good idea to space your protein intake throughout the day.

If you’re concerned that high protein intake harms healthy kidneys, don’t be. If your kidneys are healthy, they are more than capable of filtering out excess amino acids from the blood. The problem only occurs in people who already have kidney issues.

Note: Plant proteins are especially safe for kidney health.

How much protein is in food?

  • A 3.5 oz chicken breast has 31 g
  • A 3.5 oz can of salmon has 20 g
  • ½ cup cooked beans contain 6-9 g
  • A large egg contains 6 g
  • ¼ cup nuts contains 4-7 g
  • 1 medium baked potato contains 3 g

Conclusion

Protein is an essential nutrient we should all get enough of. “Enough” is about 0.8 - 1.3 g/kg (0.36 - 0.6 g/lb) per day. If you're a healthy non-athlete adult, you can aim for the lower level. If you're an athlete, senior, or injured person, aim for the higher level.

Too much protein can cause weight gain, so it's best to have just enough.

I’d love to know: Are you one of those people who needs more protein? Let me know in the comments.

Recipe (high-protein): Baked Chicken Breasts

Serves 4

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp turmeric
½ tsp dried Italian seasoning

Instructions

Preheat oven to 450°F. Place a layer of parchment paper on a baking dish.

Place the chicken breasts in the prepared dish. Brush on both sides with grapeseed oil.

In a small bowl, mix spices until combined. Sprinkle the spice mixture evenly over the chicken on both sides.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through to at least 165°F at the thickest part.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Serve with a variety of coloured vegetables, or a salad!

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-protein

http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthy-eating/do-you-eat-enough-protein

https://authoritynutrition.com/how-much-protein-per-day/

Salt: Delicious, but is it Healthy?

Yes, there are lots of different kinds of salt: pink, iodized, kosher, sea, etc. They come from salt mines in the ground, or from evaporating the water out of salt water. What they all have in common is that infamous mineral that I’m going to talk about below: sodium.

In food, salt is used for both flavour, and as a preservative. Salt helps to preserve food by drawing out the water that bacteria and mold need to grow. Hence, preserving the food from spoiling as quickly.

Would you be surprised to know that 75% of our salt intake comes from sources other than the salt shaker? It comes from processed foods. Snacks like chips, pretzels and salted nuts are included here. But so are canned foods, pickled foods, boxed foods, deli meats, restaurant food, and fast food.

Salt vs. Sodium

Salt is actually "sodium chloride." It's about 40% sodium and 60% chloride; this means that one teaspoon of salt (5,000 mg) contains about 2,000 mg of sodium.

Sodium itself is not that bad! In fact, it’s an essential mineral and an important electrolyte in the body. It helps with fluid balance, and proper nerve and muscle function.

Too much sodium though, is not great for your health. Regularly getting too much sodium can increase your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, stomach cancer, and kidney stones.

That one teaspoon with about 2,000 mg of sodium is pretty much your entire day’s worth of sodium. People who eat a lot of pre-made, packaged foods tend to eat way too much sodium. In fact, 90% of American adults consume more than 2,300 mg per day. The average intake is closer to 3,400 mg of sodium per day!

If you're at high risk for those conditions, then you probably shouldn't have more than just 1,500 mg of sodium each day.

You might be wondering how table salt stacks up against, say pink Himalayan sea salt for example. It should be noted that regular white table salt has been bleached (with chemicals) and stripped of all minerals except for sodium and chloride. While, Himalayan salt has other minerals intact (like magnesium, and potassium) which help your body maintain proper electrolyte balance. As such, pink Himalayan salt contains less sodium per teaspoon than table salt, and also contains more health-promoting minerals (and fewer chemicals).

Sodium and high blood pressure

How does salt increase blood pressure?  And what does that have to do with it making you thirsty?

Well, there actually is something called "salt-sensitive high blood pressure."  Here's how it works:

The salt you eat gets absorbed quickly and goes into the blood.

Your body recognizes that the blood is too salty, so more water is added to the blood to dilute it (i.e. with thirst signals to make you drink more fluid). More water in the blood means more fluid your heart needs to pump and more fluid pushing against the walls of your vessels. It also sends more blood to the kidneys so the sodium can be filtered out into the urine.

This is how too much sodium increases your blood pressure. Increased blood pressure also puts a strain on your kidneys and other sensitive vessels, including critical vessels in your brain and heart.

You can counteract this effect by reducing the amount of salt you eat (from both processed foods and the salt shaker). In fact, limiting salt intake has been shown to slightly reduce blood pressure.

Pro Tip: You can reduce high blood pressure by eating more whole foods, and more mineral-rich plant foods.

Conclusion

If you are healthy and eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods, then you probably don’t need to worry about your salt intake. Feel free to add a bit of salt during cooking or at the table for flavour.

If your doctor has told you to reduce your salt or sodium intake, then you can do this by reducing your intake of processed foods, adding less salt to the food you make, and eating more plant-based foods.

Recipe (Low-Sodium): Italian Spice Mix

1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 ½ Tbsp. dried basil
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
½ Tbsp. onion powder
½ Tbsp. garlic powder

Mix all ingredients and place in a sealed container. Sprinkle where you would normally use salt. This is especially good with Italian-style dishes.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Feel free to play around with the ingredients. If you dislike a spice, leave it out. If you love one, add more.

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-sodium

https://authoritynutrition.com/salt-good-or-bad/

Water - How Much Do I Really Need to Drink?

Water is essential for life. You can only survive a few days without it. Being hydrated is so essential for health, I could argue that water is the most essential nutrient, period. After all, water is needed for every cell and function in your body.

Water is a huge part of your blood; it cushions your joints and aids digestion. It helps stabilize your blood pressure and heart beat. It helps to regulate your body temperature and helps maintain electrolyte (mineral) balance. And those are just a few of its roles.

Dehydration can impair mood and concentration, and contribute to headaches and dizziness. It can reduce your physical endurance, and increase the risk for kidney stones and create constipation. Extreme dehydration can cause heat stroke, especially in hot weather.

So, water is critical for life and health.

When you’re focused on your work, or zipping between tasks with little down time, you might forget to drink water. It’s true that even though you might not feel thirsty, your body still needs water for proper hydration. In fact, water will help keep your mind sharp so you can focus on your tasks.

But, just as way too little water is life-threatening, so is way too much. As with most things in health and wellness, there is a healthy balance to be reached.

However, there are conflicting opinions as to how much water to drink. Is there a right amount for everyone? What counts toward water intake?

Let’s dive right in.

How much water do I need?

One guideline that no doubt you’ve heard is the "8x8 rule." This is the recommendation to drink eight, 8 oz glasses of water every day; that's about 2 liters of water.

Like any nutrition “rule,” a one size fits all approach is not going to work for all cases. The 8x8 works better as a guideline, than a hard and fast rule. If you’re drinking way less than 8 glasses of water per day, it might be a good idea to get as close to the 8 glasses as you can (especially if you’re drinking coffee and alcohol daily as well).

Now, many health professionals recommend drinking according to thirst.

The danger with gauging your hydration based on thirst, is that in order to tell whether you’re thirsty you need to be paying close attention to your body. You also need to have water on hand.

It’s true that humans have complex hormonal and neurological processes that are constantly monitoring how hydrated we are. And for healthy adults, this system is very reliable, and shows up as thirst. But what happens for many of us when we’re immersed in our day-to-day activities, is that we stop listening for our body’s cues. Or sometimes we know we’re thirsty/hungry, but aren’t prepared with water or food on hand so we put our needs on the back burner.

There is another way to tell how hydrated you are…

Pay attention to how dark and concentrated your urine is. The darker your urine, the more effort your body is making to hold on to the water it has. Urine is still getting rid of the waste, but in a smaller volume of water, so it looks darker.

A well-hydrated body produces urine that is very faint yellow, almost completely clear and colourless. Keep in mind that if you’re taking B vitamins, this could alter the colour of your urine.

There are a few other things to consider when evaluating your hydration status. If you’re sweating a lot, or are in a hot/humid climate, you’ll need to drink more.

Breastfeeding moms, elderly people, and people at risk of kidney stones need to drink more water too. So do people who experience vomiting and/or diarrhea, as both can quickly dehydrate our bodies.

So use the one size fits all 8x8 rule as a guideline, and pay more attention to your body’s subtle cues for water.

What counts toward my water intake?

All fluids and foods containing water contribute to your daily needs.

Water is the best choice, but if you're not drinking pure water, consider the effects that the other ingredients have on your body. Drinks containing sugar, alcohol, and caffeine will have effects on the body besides hydration. Sugar can mess with your blood sugar balance. Alcohol can make you feel "buzzed." And caffeine can keep you awake. Let's talk a bit more about caffeine for a second.

Caffeine is the infamous "dehydrator," right? Well, new research is saying otherwise. While caffeine may make you have to go to the bathroom more, that effect isn't strong enough to negate the hydrating effects of its water. So, you don’t need to counteract your daily cup(s) of coffee and/or tea…but you do need to know that water is a better choice for a hydrating beverage that has better overall health effects.

Think of it this way, if you’re hungry are you going to nourish your body by drinking a chocolate bar, or vegetables and lean protein? The coffee vs water debate is similar.

Also, many foods contain significant amounts of water. Especially fruits and vegetables like cabbage, cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, celery, spinach, lettuce, apples, pears, oranges, grapes, carrots, and pineapple. These foods are over 80% water, so they are good sources of hydration.

So, you don’t need to count your plain water intake as your only source of hydration. All fluids and foods with water count.

Conclusion

There is no magic number of the amount of water you need. Everyone is different. Children, pregnant women, elderly people need more.  Episodes of vomiting or diarrhea will also increase your short-term need for more water.  The most important thing is to pay attention to your thirst. Other signs you need more water are dark urine, sweating, constipation, and kidney stones.

Water is your best source of fluids. But other liquids help too. Just consider the effects the other ingredients have on your health as well. And many fruits and vegetables are over 80% water so don't forget about them.

Let me know in the comments: What’s your favourite way to hydrate?

Recipe (Hydration): Tasty hydrating teas

You may not love the taste (or lack thereof) of plain water. One thing you can do is add some sliced or frozen fruit to your water. Since we learned that you could hydrate just as well with other water-containing beverages, here are some of my favorite herbal teas you can drink hot or cold.

  • Hibiscus
  • Lemon
  • Peppermint
  • Rooibos
  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Ginger
  • Lemon Balm
  • Rose Hips
  • Lemon Verbena

Instructions

Hot tea - Place tea bags in a pot (1 per cup) and add boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes and add a touch of honey and slice of lemon, if desired. Serve.

Iced tea - Place tea bags in a pot (2 per cup) and add boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes and add a touch of honey, if desired. Chill. Add ice to a glass and fill with cold tea.

Tip: Freeze berries in your ice cubes to make your iced tea more beautiful and nutritious.

Serve & enjoy!

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/how-much-water-should-you-drink-per-day/

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/water-water-everywhere-2016110310577

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-much-water-should-you-drink

http://neurotrition.ca/blog/why-you-should-raise-your-glass-water