Coffee – Who can drink it and who should avoid it?

Coffee is one of those things – you either love it or hate it. You know if you like the taste or not (or if it’s just a reason to drink sugar and cream). You know how it makes you feel (i.e. your gut, your mind, etc.).

Not to mention the crazy headlines that say coffee is great, and the next day that you should avoid it!

There is actual science behind why different people react differently to it. It’s a matter of your genetics and how much coffee you’re used to drinking.

NOTE: Coffee does not equal caffeine. Coffee contains between 50-400 mg of caffeine/cup, averaging around 100 mg/cup.

Coffee is one of the most popular ways to consume this stimulant. But… a cup of coffee contains a lot of things over and above the caffeine. Not just water, but antioxidants, and hundreds of other compounds. These are the reasons drinking a cup of coffee is not the same as taking a caffeine pill. And decaffeinated coffee has a lot less caffeine; but, it still contains some.

Check out my interview with coffee expert Tania Renelli here

First, let’s look at caffeine metabolism, its effects on the mind and body, and whether coffee drinkers have higher or lower risks of disease. Then I’ll give you some things to consider when deciding if coffee is for you or not.

Caffeine metabolism

Not all people metabolize caffeine at the same speed. How fast you metabolize caffeine will impact how you’re affected by the caffeine. In fact, caffeine metabolism can be up to 40x faster in some people than others.

About half of us are “slow” metabolizers of caffeine. We can get jitters, heart palpitations, and feel “wired” for up to 9 hours after having a coffee. The other half is “fast” metabolizers of caffeine. They get energy and increased alertness and are back to normal a few hours later.

This is part of the reason those headlines contradict each other so much – because every body is different!

The effects of coffee (and caffeine) on the mind and body

NOTE: Most studies look at caffeinated coffee, not decaf.

The effects of coffee (and caffeine) on the mind and body also differ between people; this is partly from the rate of metabolism, as mentioned. But it also has to do with your body’s amazing ability to adapt (read: become more tolerant) to long-term caffeine use. If you’re just starting to drink coffee, you’ll feel the effects a lot more than people who have coffee every day.

Here’s a list of these effects (that usually decrease with long-term use):

  • Stimulates the brain
  • Boosts metabolism
  • Boosts energy and exercise performance
  • Increases your stress hormone, cortisol
  • Dehydrates your body due to its diuretic effect

Some of these effects are desirable and some aren’t. You need to see how coffee affects you and decide whether or not it’s worth it.

Coffee and health risks

There are a ton of studies on the health effects of coffee, and whether coffee drinkers are more or less likely to get certain conditions.

Here’s a quick summary of what coffee can lead to:

  • Caffeine addiction and withdrawal symptoms (e.g. a headache, fatigue, irritability)
  • Increased sleep disruption
  • Lower risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
  • Lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Lower risk of certain liver diseases
  • Mixed reviews on whether it lowers risks of cancer and heart disease

Many of the health benefits exist even for decaf coffee (except the caffeine addiction and sleep issues).

NOTE: What’s super-important to note here is that coffee intake is just one of many factors that can affect your risks for these diseases. Please never think regular coffee intake is the one thing that can help you overcome these risks. You are health-conscious and know that eating a nutrient-rich whole foods diet, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep and exercise are all critical things to consider for your disease risk. It’s not just about the coffee.

Should you drink coffee or not?

There are a few things to consider when deciding whether you should drink coffee. No one food or drink will make or break your long-term health.

Caffeinated coffee is not recommended for:

  • People with arrhythmias (e.g. irregular heartbeat)
  • People who often feel anxious
  • People who have trouble sleeping
  • People who are pregnant
  • Children and teens

If none of these apply, then monitor how your body reacts when you have coffee. Does it:

  • Give you the jitters?
  • Increase anxious feelings?
  • Affect your sleep?
  • Give you heart palpitations?
  • Affect your digestion (e.g. heartburn, etc.)?
  • Give you a reason to drink a lot of sugar and cream?

Depending on how your body reacts, decide whether these reactions are worth it to you. If you’re not sure, I recommend eliminating it for a while and see the difference.

Recipe (Latte): Pumpkin Spice Latte

Serves 1

6 tbsp coconut milk
1 ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon)
¼ tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp pumpkin puree

½ tsp maple syrup (optional)
1 cup coffee (decaf if preferred)

Instructions

Add all ingredients to blender and blend until creamy.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can use strong chai tea instead of coffee, if you prefer.

References:

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

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/a-wake-up-call-on-coffee

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-your-coffee-habit-help-you-live-longer-201601068938

http://suppversity.blogspot.ca/2014/05/caffeine-resistance-genetic.html

https://authoritynutrition.com/how-much-coffee-should-you-drink/

Three Ways to Avoid Overeating at Meals

Sometimes holiday feasts are just amazing.

It’s not just the abundance of delicious food but also the people, the decorations, and the ambiance.

I don’t know about you, but being surrounded by loved ones, laughing and sharing stories together makes me feel warm and happy inside.

It is way too easy (and common) to indulge on those days.

But it doesn’t always stop there.

Sometimes we overeat on regular days.  Or at regular meals.  Or, All. The. Time.

Here are three tips to avoid overeating at meals…just in time for Thanksgiving dinner (and leftovers!).

(Psst, turn these into habits and say goodbye to relying on willpower!)

Tip #1: Start with some water

When your stomach is growling and you smell amazingly delicious food it’s too easy to fill a plate (or grab some samples with your bare hands) and dive into the food.

But did you know that it’s possible to sometimes confuse the feeling of thirst with that of hunger?  Your stomach may actually be craving a big glass of water rather than a feast.

Some studies have shown that drinking a glass of water 30 minutes before a meal can help reduce the amount of food eaten.  And this super-simple tip may even help with weight loss (…just sayin’).

Not only will the water take away the starving feeling (if you actually are hungry) before you get to the buffet, but drinking enough water has been shown to slightly increase your metabolism.

Win-win!

Tip #2: Try eating mindfully

You’ve heard of mindfulness but have you applied that to your eating habits?

This can totally help you avoid overeating as well as having the added bonus of helping your digestion.

Just as being mindful when you practice yoga helps to focus your attention on your breathing and the present moment, being mindful when you eat helps to focus your attention on your meal.

Do this by taking a few deep breaths when you sit down with your meal. Eliminate any distractions around you such as your phone, TV, or computer. As you begin to eat, take smaller bites, eat slowly, chew thoroughly, and savour every mouthful.  Notice and appreciate the smell, taste and texture. Breathe.

Check out my quick video with mindful eating tips HERE.

This can help prevent overeating because eating slowly often means eating less.

When you eat quickly it’s easy to overeat because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full.

So take your time, pay attention to your food and enjoy every bite.

Bonus points: Eat at a table (not in front of the screen), off of a small plate, and put your fork down between bites.

Tip #3: Start with the salad

You may be yearning for that rich, creamy main dish.

But don’t start there.

(Don’t worry, you can have some…just after you’ve eaten your greens).

Veggies are a great way to start any meal because they’re full of not only vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and health-promoting phytochemicals but they also have some secret satiety weapons: fiber and water.

Fiber and water are known to help fill you up and make you feel full longer.  They’re satiating, which means you’ll feel satisfied for a longer time after eating.

And these secret weapons are great to have on your side when you’re about to indulge in a large meal.

Summary:

Have your glass of water 30 minutes before a meal, eat mindfully, and start with your salad to help avoid overeating at meals.

Recipe: Tasty (and beautiful) Pre-Meal Water Ideas

If you’re not much of a plain water drinker or need your water to be more appealing to your senses here are five delicious (and beautiful looking) fruit combos to add to your large glass of water:

  • Slices of lemon & ginger
  • Slices of strawberries & orange
  • Slices of apple & a cinnamon stick
  • Chopped pineapple & mango
  • Blueberries & raspberries

Tip: You can buy a bag (or several bags) of frozen chopped fruit and throw those into your cup, thermos, or uber-cool mason jar in the morning.  They’re already washed and cut and will help keep your water colder longer.

References:

http://summertomato.com/the-science-behind-mindful-eating-what-happens-to-your-body-during-a-mindful-meal

What is Metabolism?

This word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days.

You know that if yours is too slow you might gain weight.  But what exactly does this all mean?

Well technically “metabolism” is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body. Yep, your body is a walking chem lab, there’s a lot going on in there. Your metabolism refers to how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do.

Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive.  And without this amazing biochemistry you would not be possible.

Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:

  • Allow activities you can control (e.g. physical activity etc.).
  • Allow activities you can’t control (e.g. heart beat, wound healing, processing of nutrients & toxins, etc.).
  • Allow storage of excess energy for later.

So when you put all of these processes together into your metabolism you can imagine that these processes can work too quickly, too slowly, or just right.

Which brings us to the “metabolic rate”.

Metabolic rate

This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories (yup, those calories!).

The calories you eat can go to one of three places:

  • Work (i.e. exercise and other activity).
  • Heat (i.e. from all those biochemical reactions).
  • Storage (i.e. extra leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat).

As you can imagine, the more calories you burn as work or creating heat, the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.

There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate.  One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) which is how much energy your body uses when you’re not being physically active.

The other is the “total daily energy expenditure” (TDEE) which measures both the resting metabolic rate as well as the energy used for “work” (e.g. exercise) throughout a 24-hour period.

What affects your metabolic rate?

In a nutshell: a lot!

The first thing you may think of is your thyroid.  This gland at the front of your throat releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism.  Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you’ll burn.

But that’s not the only thing that affects your metabolic rate.

Your physical size counts too!

Larger people have higher metabolic rates; but it’s crucial to take your body composition into account.

As you can imagine, muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than fat does.  So the more lean muscle mass you have the more energy your body will burn and the higher your metabolic rate will be.  Even when you’re not working out.

Hint: This is exactly why weight training is often recommended as a part of a weight loss program.

Cardio burns calories at the time, but building muscle continues to burn calories once you leave the gym. When you think of it this way, muscle building activities (resistance training, lifting weights, etc.) become the obvious choice for toning and weight management. These types of activities build your muscle mass so your muscles burn calories for you.

The thing is, when people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down which you don’t want to happen.  One way to offset this slowing metabolism is by building more muscle mass.

Aerobic exercise also temporarily increases your metabolic rate.  Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they’re doing metabolic “work”.

What About Nutrition?

The type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate!

Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolize your food.  This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).

You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently.

For example:

  • Fats increase your TEF by 0-3%
  • Carbs increase it by 5-10%, and
  • Protein increases it by 15-30%

By trading some of your fat or carbs for lean protein you can slightly increase your metabolic rate.

Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow.  By working them out and feeding them what they need they will help you to maintain a healthy body weight for years to come.

And don’t forget the mind-body connection.  There is plenty of research that shows the influence that things like stress and sleep have on the metabolic rate.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase (or decrease) your metabolic rate.

I want to hear from you. What metabolism boosting exercise is your favourite? How do you make regular ecercise a part of your daily routine? Do you notice a difference in your metabolism when you’re not exercising? Share in the comments below.

Recipe (Lean Protein): Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken Breasts

Serves 4

2 lemons, sliced
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 tablespoon thyme
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
dash salt & pepper
1 tablespoon coconut oil

Preheat oven to 425F.  Layer ½ of the lemon slices on the bottom of a baking dish.  Sprinkle with ½ of the herbs and ½ of the sliced garlic.

Place the chicken breasts on top and sprinkle salt & pepper.  Place remaining lemon, herbs and garlic on top of the chicken.  Drizzle with melted coconut oil.  Cover with a lid or foil.

Bake for 45 minutes until chicken is cooked through.  If you want the chicken to be a bit more “roasty” then remove the lid/foil and broil for another few minutes (watching carefully not to burn it).

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can add a leftover sliced chicken breast to your salad for lunch the next day.

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-energy-balance

https://authoritynutrition.com/10-ways-to-boost-metabolism/

Top 10 Quick & Healthy Summer Dinners

Whether you’re having a busy week at home, or spending the weekend at the cottage, quick and easy dinners are ideal for summer. Summer is a time for freshness, few ingredients, and making meals with vegetables that are ripe and in season.

Here are my top 10 favourite recipes for quick summer dinners. These are easy to put together, so you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen. That means you can spend more time at the lake, with your family, or drinking wine with friends.

Tip – a lot of summer recipes will use fruit next to proteins like beef, fish, or chicken. While this may be delicious, it puts strain on your digestive system because different foods break down at different speeds.

Instead, have fruit up to 30 minutes before eating your main meal. If you’d prefer to save fruit for a sweet dessert, wait a minimum of 30 minutes (preferably 1-2 hours) after eating so your main meal can digest before eating fruit or dessert.

You’ll find this helps with bloating, gas, and acid reflux because it produces better digestion.

1. Chickpea Salad


A vegan take on the classic egg salad sandwich. Let’s face it, sandwiches are easy, especially when you’re on the go. Make the chickpea filling ahead of time so you (or your family) can whip up a sandwich in no time. You won’t even break a sweat.

2. Shrimp & Snow Pea Salad


Craving a lighter dinner on a hot summer night? This is your recipe! With snow peas, crispy radish and protein from shrimp, look no father for a complete meal. Add some avocado slices, or cashews to top it off with healthy fats and you’re good to go.

3. Guacamole Pasta with Sautéed Beef Strips


Your hearty 30 minute meal is here! This recipe uses avocado and Greek yogurt as a dressing for this noodle stir-fry. I’d sub the fettuccini in this recipe for zucchini noodles to increase your veggie count for the day.

4. Poached Egg Avocado Salad


Eggs on salad = genius! For a lower carb option, omit the quinoa and add more grains. I’d swap the pistachios for whole almonds or pecans. This one is quick and easy for breakfast or dinner.

5. Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps


For summer finger foods, lettuce wraps are everyone’s best friend. You get all of the good stuff without filling up on refined grains. A taste of Thai is easily achieved in this quick and easy to prepare recipe. Make the filling ahead of time and top your lettuce boats as you need them. *Swap olive oil for coconut oil.

6. Halibut with Tomato Basil Salsa


Fresh tomatoes and basil make a great topping for just about anything. Fish is an easy go-to protein choice for a quick weeknight dinner. Use fresh or frozen halibut (or fish of your choice) for this recipe and watch it come to live in minutes with the salsa topping.

7. 5 Min Spicy Asian Salad


A change from the traditional lettuce, cucumber, tomato salad of my Italian upbringing. This salad’s got zest! And it’s ready in 5 minutes. I suggest cooking chicken breast ahead of time to chop over the salad.

8. Raw Spring Zucchini Salad


Have you heard of a courgette? I hadn’t either. It’s the French term for a raw baby zucchini, and it’s delicious in this salad. Chop the ingredients by hand or shave them into ribbons for the most elegant salad you’ve ever served yourself. Either way, between the fresh dill and mint, this one’s a keeper.

9. For the Wild Rice Salad


Who said salad had to be green? Sometimes (especially on rainy days) it’s nice to have a heartier one-bowl meal. This recipe provides. Wild rice is a great source of fiber and vitamins. Oh, and I learned another French term “mange tout” in this recipe refers to peas.

10. Chilled Parsley & Green Pea Soup


I’ll admit, I wasn’t a fan of cold soups…until this one. Delicious, fresh green peas plus the detoxing benefits of parsley combine to make a satisfying bowl of soup, warm or cold. Dig in, you’ll find it’s delicious!

Summer is a time for togetherness and enjoying fresh ingredients! These ten winning recipes will let you do just that, with their simple steps and creative combinations of fresh ingredients, you’ll have time for what you love and be well fed.

Looking for more resources on clean eating? This infographic breaks down the main points for you.

Bon appetite!