What's the Deal with Xylitol?

written by Jessica Tilley

xylitol, sweetener, sugar, maple syrup, honey, nutrition

There is sugar in almost every processed product that we buy. Even in the organic, “healthy” stuff, there’s still some form of it.  On average, a person in North America consumes 32g of sugar daily and it is causes so many health issues that most people are not aware of. Ingesting this large amount of sugar damages the liver, increases insulin levels (which can lead to insulin resistance, diabetes, and hormonal imbalances) and can cause an imbalance of beneficial bacteria in your gut.  Besides that, sugar also negatively impacts the immune system and your body’s ability to defend itself from illness.

There are, however, much healthier substitutes that could be used instead of white sugar that won’t cause the same negative effects.  Maple syrup and honey are popular choices- however they will still raise your blood sugar and be broken down into glucose in your body like refined sugar, however they still contain other nutrients, such as minerals.   Another lesser known option is xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is derived from plants such as berries, corn and birch. It is lower in calories than sugar but delivers the same level of sweetness. It also is absorbed more gradually so it won’t spike insulin levels.   

We’ve been curious about xylitol and whether it is a safe alternative to using sugar, maple syrup and honey in sweet recipes.

Studies have shown that consuming xylitol benefits your dental health- some dentists recommend chewing gum that contains xylitol to combat tooth decay and the growth of plaque causing bacteria. There are also studies that show this sugar substitute also helps with the absorption of calcium, and reduces the acidity level of saliva in our mouths.  Xylitol is not used by the bad bacteria in your gut (they feed on glucose, which can lead to an overgrowth of bad bacteria).  Xylitol is very easily substituted in any baking, or really any recipe that contains sugar.

However, we do have our concerns with xylitol.  This substance is highly toxic to dogs, even the smallest amount can result in liver failure.  In humans, although it is not as common, it can cause some digestive discomfort. Sugar alcohols draw water into the gut and if it stays there for a while can start to ferment, causing gas and bloating.

 

So, what’s the conclusion?

We would stay away from xylitol if you are managing or recovering from a digestive illness or know that you have a sensitive digestive system.  If you do use xylitol, we would use it in small amounts (same rule as we apply to other sweet things).  We’d also recommend trying out stevia instead, if you need a completely glucose-free sweetener option.  

 

Resources:

Daniluk, J. (n.d.). Life After Sugar: A Guide to Alternative Sweeteners . Retrieved April 13, 2017, from https://juliedaniluk.com/food-facts/life-after-sugar-a-guide-to-alternative-sweeteners.html?highlight=WyJzd2VldGVuZXJzIl0

Gunnars , K. (2016, August 18). Xylitol: Everything You Need to Know (Literally). Retrieved April 14, 2017, from https://authoritynutrition.com/xylitol-101/

Mercola, Dr. (n.d.). What Happens in Your Body When You Eat Too Much Sugar? Retrieved April 13, 2017, from http://articles.mercola.com/sugar-side-effects.aspx

Turmeric Recipe Round Up!

Turmeric is a bright orange spice that is a part of the ginger family.  This spice has been used in traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for thousands of years and has gained mainstream popularity in the last few years.

Turmeric has medicinal properties to help combat digestive disorders, liver problems, skin diseases, wounds, parasites and has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, hepatoprotective, immunostimulant, and antiseptic properties.

One thing to note is that cancer, heart disease, and cognitive disorders like Alzheimer's are linked to chronic inflammation.  Inflammation and cancer are closely related in the sense that inflammation in the body can increase risk of cancer development.

Turmeric in the diet can prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells since curcumin, a component in turmeric, interferes with the DNA  of cancer cells preventing them from growing and instead potentially causing these mutated cells to die.  Turmeric prevents angiogenesis, a process that creates new blood vessels, which can form tumours and cancer cells.

Lastly, turmeric has antioxidant properties that can remove and repair damage to the cells that are caused by free radicals.  Free radicals are created through exposure to pollution and stress and wreak havoc on healthy cells.   

There are many ways to incorporate turmeric in the diet.  Here are some recipes we’ve developed that are delicious and contain turmeric.  We have a turmeric breakfast bowl, coconut turmeric chickpeas, and a turmeric latte.  The links are below!

Turmeric Breakfast Bowl

 

 

Resources

Love, D. S. (2017, 04 16). Turmeric and Cancer: 5 Ways Turmeric Can Help Prevent Cancer. Retrieved from TTAC: https://thetruthaboutcancer.com/turmeric-can-prevent-cancer/?gl=582840323

University of Maryland Medical Centre. (2017, 04 16). Turmeric. Retrieved from www.umm.edu: http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/turmeric

Vegan Spelt Flour Apple Pie

written by Jessica Tilley

vegan spelt flour apple pie recipe, holistic nutrition, Toronto

We’ve created this recipe based on the traditional apple pie, with all the familiar flavours, but put a healthy twist on it!  Don’t worry though… unless you tell everyone it’s healthy, they’ll never guess. It’s delicious and sweet and the crust is super flakey. Our pie is naturally sweetened with maple syrup and the apples, instead of white processed sugar, so you'll support your blood sugar balance and immune system when eating this dessert.

In this recipe, we use spelt flour for the crust. Spelt flour is better tolerated than wheat flour for those with gluten sensitivities. Although we don't tend to count calories as holistic nutritionists, we think it's interesting that spelt flour is lower in calories (254 vs 728) than white flour, as wel as lower in carbs (52 vs 152) and higher in fiber (8 vs 6).

We also switched out traditional butter for coconut oil, to make this recipe vegan and dairy free. Coconut oil is a great source of healthy fat; it is actually considered saturated fat… but not the kind that is bad for your health. The saturated fat that is found in coconut oil consists of HDL’s (high-density lipoproteins), which convert the bad cholesterol (LDL) into the healthier form of cholesterol. There are also studies that show coconut oil might help to prevent inflammatory diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

 

Vegan Apple Pie

Preparation time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

                                            
Crust:
2 cups whole wheat spelt flour
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
2/3 cup coconut oil, cubed
3 tbsp cold water
1-2 tbsp maple syrup
 

Filling:
9 apples, cored and thinly sliced (empires worked well for us)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp whole wheat spelt flour
¼ tsp sea salt
3 tbsp + 1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp coconut oil

Directions:
Crust:

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and cinnamon. Add the cold, cubed coconut oil into the dry ingredients and combine until the mixture is a crumbly texture.

2. Combine together the water and maple syrup. Make a well in the flour and pour the wet into the dry. Mix until dough comes together.

3 Refrigerate dough while you make the filling
 

Filling:
4. Wash the apples. Core and remove the skin from the apples. Using a mandolin, thinly slice the apples.

5. Toss the apples in the cinnamon, flour, salt and 3 tbsp of maple syrup. Set aside while you roll out the dough.

6. Sprinkle flour over your working surface, and the top of the dough.

7. Cut 1/3 of the dough off for the top of the pie. Roll both pieces of dough to be ¼ inch thick. Press the bigger piece into the pie pan and poke holes in the bottom.

8. Fill the crust with the apple-filling, making it as level as possible. Add little chunks of coconut oil and drizzle with 1 tsp of maple syrup. Top with excess dough in any design that is desired.

9. Bake for 25-30 minutes until dough is golden brown.



Resources:
Axe, J., Dr. (2017, March). 20 Coconut Oil Benefits (#5 is Life-Saving). Retrieved April 06, 2017, from https://draxe.com/coconut-oil-benefits/

D. (2014, November 26). Pumpkin Apple Pie | Minimalist Baker Recipes. Retrieved April 07, 2017, from http://minimalistbaker.com/pumpkin-spiced-apple-pie/

Nutritional info of: Spelt vs White flour. (2012). Retrieved April 06, 2017, from http://skipthepie.org/cereal-grains-and-pasta/spelt-cooked/compared-to/wheat-flour-white-all-purpose-enriched-calcium-fortified/

What Do Tryptophan, Vitamin B and Omega 3s all have in Common?

written by Jessica Tilley

mood boosting foods, tryptophan, serotonin, vitamin B6, omega 3's, Toronto, Nutritionist

As beautiful as winter can be, we are ready for it to really be spring and summer! The extra hours of sunlight that we’ve been experiencing and the sporadic warm days have been such a tease to the long summer days that are soon to come. With the dark, cold days behind us and the bright (maybe warm? Who really knows with Canada…. ) ahead of us, we thought what better way to get through these last few weeks of the “winter blues” than by sharing with you some mood boosting foods that can help increase serotonin levels.

 

Serotonin 

First things first, serotonin is a neurotransmitter that triggers nerve impulses. It is found mainly in our gastrointestinal tract but is used in the brain. Serotonin affects multiple functions in our body, such as mood, digestion, sleep, appetite and memory. Having low levels of serotonin has been linked to mental disorders such as depression. There are a few ways that someone could increase their levels of serotonin naturally, including: artificial light sources (known as sun lamps), exercise or diet.

 

Tryptophan

In order to boost serotonin through diet, protein rich food need to be incorporated. Tryptophan, an amino acid that’s found in the protein, is a precursor to serotonin. This means that without this nutrient, the effects of serotonin wouldn’t happen in the body. For the average person, the daily recommended amount is roughly 280mg. There are many food options that are high in tryptophan. Consuming 1 cup of pumpkin seeds, soybeans, meat, seafood and oats will all meet the recommended daily intake of tryptophan.

 

Vitamin B6

Tryptophan is not the only nutrient that will boost serotonin levels. Studies have shown that vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and long-chain omega 3s have a similar effect on our bodies, as tryptophan does. B6 is one of the 8 B vitamins, all of which are responsible for converting food into energy. B vitamins are also responsible for keeping the nervous system functioning accordingly.  Vitamin B6, specifically, is the B vitamin that is responsible for the production of serotonin. The recommended amount to consume for the average adult is 1.3mg. Foods such as tuna, salmon and liver are all great sources of B6 for omnivores. For those who are vegetarians or vegan, chickpeas are your great food source of vitamin B6 and you can find some in sweet potato, potatoes, and sunflower seeds.

 

Omega 3's

Now omega 3’s, the nutrient that is mostly associated with fatty fish (salmon), has been shown to fight against mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety. In studies, omega 3’s were found to be highly concentrated in the brain, which accounts for playing a critical roll in cognitive and behavioural functions. Fatty fish are not the only food sources that are rich in omega 3’s; in fact there are vegan sources of it as well. ¼ cup of walnuts or 1 tbsp of ground flax seeds will provide an individual with almost double the recommended amount ofALA, one of the 3 types of omega 3’s(ALA daily recommended intake is 1.6g for males and 1.1g for females!).

 

One More Tip

 Choose colourful, bright foods!  Although it may seem like something small, food that looks vibrant and is fresh is more likely to make you feel lively and happier than drab looking food.  Just look at the photo at the top of this post and you can see how happy bright food appears.

 

While there are many factors that influence our moods, we know the mood boosting foods can play an important role in making a difference.  Focus on integrating some of the best foods to increase mood: tryptophan rich foods, vitamin B6 as well as omega 3 rich foods to support better mood and mental health.

Let us know if you have any questions!  We love hearing from our readers.

 

Sources:

Food Sources of Omega-3 Fats. (n.d.). Retrieved March 28, 2017, from http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Fat/Food-Sources-of-Omega-3-Fats.aspx

Ehrlich, S. D. (2015, May 08). Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine). Retrieved March, 2017, from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-b6-pyridoxine

Gregor, M., MD. (n.d.). How To Boost Serotonin Naturally. Retrieved March, 2017, from http://nutritionfacts.org/2012/11/15/boost-serotonin-naturally/

Medical Definition of Serotonin. (n.d.). Retrieved March, 2017, from http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=5468

Stahl, L. A., Begg, D. P., Weisinger, R. S., & Sinclair, A. J. (2008, January). The role of omega-3 fatty acids in mood disorders. Retrieved March, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18183532

Whitbread, D. (2016, November 24). Top 10 Foods Highest in Tryptophan. Retrieved March 16, 2017, from https://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/high-tryptophan-foods.php

Young, S. N. (2007, November). How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs. Retrieved March, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2077351/

Why is Bone Broth So Good for You?

written by Jessica Tilley

chicken soup, bon broth, soup

written byJessica Tilley

March 13th is National Chicken Noodle Soup Day and with the weather that we’ve been experiencing lately in Toronto, it couldn’t of come at a better time.  These days bone broth has become increasingly popular.  Although bone broth may sound intimidating, it's actually not all that different from making chicken soup (except that it is cooked for longer).

There’s something about curling up with a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup (or bone broth makes us quite happy too) that we love here at The Living Kitchen. Even though chicken soup is great to have at any time, most of us associate it with being sick. Although chicken soup isn’t going to cure you from the flu, it can help relieve the unbearable symptoms. There have been studies conducted that show that this broth has beneficial properties when trying to fend off the flu.

Similar to hot tea, hot soup helps to sooth a sore throat and the heat helps to clear congestion. Protein from the chicken provides a specific amino acid, cysteine, which also aids in the break down of mucus. The vegetables used in cooking the broth provide many vitamins and minerals.

Now normally chicken noodle soup is made with vegetable broth or chicken stock, but one way to increase the nutrients in a dish like this is to swap the broth or chicken stock for bone broth. Recently there has been a lot of talk about the health benefits of bone broth, and for a good reason. Bone broth helps with inflammation, infections, and healthy digestion. Our favourite benefit of bone broth is that it aids in cancer prevention. Bone broth contains certain amino acids that are essential for a healthy immune system and liver. The bone marrow also produces lipids, which are important for the formation of white blood cells. The same type of lipids that are found in bone borrow are linked to controlling cancer cell growth.  The bone marrow also contains collagen, which will break down into gelatin, which studies have found may prevent cancer growth development as well as support and strengthen the digestive tract. 

Making bone broth is very similar to making chicken soup. The process starts out the same by roasting and simmering the bones in a liquid. The difference is the amount of time it is simmering away. Opposed to the 2-4 hours it normally takes to make chicken stock, making bone broth takes about 24 hours, or until the bones can be crushed between your two fingers. To ensure you are getting all the proper health benefits, it is recommended to use the bones from an organic, hormone-free, free-range raised animal, like all the meat we use here at The Living Kitchen.

Stay tuned and we'll share a bone broth recipe soon!


Resources:
D. (2015, April 07). Chicken Noodle Soup: An Effective Remedy for the Common Cold? Retrieved March 08, 2017, from http://www.dovemed.com/healthy-living/wellness-center/chicken-noodle-soup-effective-remedy-common-cold/

Desaulniers , V., Dr. (2016, November 22). 5 Ways Bone Broth Boosts Your Immune System and Fights Cancer. Retrieved March 10, 2017, from http://beatcancer.org/blog-posts/5-ways-bone-broth-boosts-your-immune-system-and-fights-cancer

Mercola, Dr. (2013, December 16). Bone Broth: One of Your Most Healing Diet Staples. Retrieved March 09, 2017, from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/12/16/bone-broth-benefits.aspx

Zabinski, J. (2015, October 12). SiOWfa15: Science in Our World: Certainty and Controversy. Retrieved March 10, 2017, from https://sites.psu.edu/siowfa15/2015/10/12/chicken-noodle-soup-the-magic-cure/

How to Make Homemade Kimchi + Fermented Foods

kimchi homemade, fermented foods

 

written by Rebecca Moutoussidis

Ah, fermented foods. Typically, most people cringe at the thought of the food we eat being full of bacteria, but fermentation is actually an age-old tradition dating as far back as 6000 BC; it was used originally to help preserve food and even change the texture and flavour of it to make it more palatable. Some of the earliest known fermented foods include cheeses, wine, yeasted breads, and vinegar. The process of fermentation involves introducing good bacteria into food and allowing it to grow inside of it. This may sound gross and super unsanitary, but good bacteria, or probiotics, are vital to our health.  Certain strains of probiotics found in fermented foods can aid in microbial balance inside our gastrointestinal tract. This prevents digestive inflammation and helps to promote a healthy immune system. It’s very important that our gut flora is healthy, as they make up a whopping 80% of our immune system. There are over 100 trillion bacteria cells, about three pounds worth, living in your intestinal tract. They help to protect us against pathogens by taking up all of the living space inside of our digestive system, making competition for survival very difficult for the bad bacteria. 

Here at Living Kitchen, we love all sorts of probiotic foods. Some of our favourites include miso paste, sauerkraut, kombucha, and raw apple cider vinegar, but the star of today is kimchi. Native to Korea, this spicy cabbage condiment is full of probiotic goodness and can be used in many different ways. Use it as a flavouring base for soups and sauces, put it on top of veggie burgers, in sandwiches, pair it with rice, or (my personal favourite) just eat it straight out of the jar! It’s super easy to make and is a great way to use up leftover vegetables in the fridge.  The most basic kimchi ingredients are the following:

- Napa Cabbage

- Non- iodized salt (we love sea salt)

 -Gochujang Red Pepper Powder

-Daikon or radishes

-Carrots

-Green onions

-Fresh Garlic and Ginger

The red pepper powder can usually be found in most Asian grocery stores, however, if you can’t find it, I’ve substituted sambal olek (a chili garlic paste also found in Asian grocery stores) and even regular chili powder and they’ve still turned out great. Whatever you’re using, make sure you have plenty of spice on hand because you will usually need anywhere between 3 tbsp to ½ cup of it, depending on how spicy you want your kimchi to be. 

This recipe is very simple, but there are a few things to keep in mind:

Important things to keep in mind:

  • Because you will be working with bacteria and leaving food to ferment, you want to make sure all utensils and jars are sanitized to prevent bad bacteria from growing in your kimchi. To do this, soak your utensils in boiling water for at least 10 minutes. Use metal and glass utensils, bowls, and jars because they are safer and are less likely to harbour bacteria.
     
  • General reduction of sodium is usually a good thing, but for this recipe, you need to add the specified amount of salt because it acts as a preservative, protecting your kimchi from mold spores and other harmful bacterial growth. Do not try to reduce the amount of salt in this recipe! 
     
  • Once you get a hang of making your own kimchi, start experimenting with new ingredients. I personally love to add green onion and granny smith apples to my kimchi, but get creative! 
     
  • The fermentation time will vary for each person. Leave it for ferment for 2-5 days, depending on how sour and intensely flavoured you want your kimchi to be. Make sure the kimchi is always covered in liquid at all times! Top it up with more water if needed. Taste test it every day, when you’re happy with the flavours, transfer your jars to the fridge. They will keep for up to one month refrigerated. 

Simple Kimchi Recipe

One head of napa cabbage, chopped into 1 inch pieces
½ cup of non-iodized sea salt
3 carrots, grated or finely julienned  
½ daikon radish, grated or finely julienned
5 cloves of garlic, chopped finely or grated
3 inch piece of ginger, chopped finely or grated
3 tbsp gochujang powder, sambal olek, or chili powder, or more to taste
3 tbsp raw honey, maple syrup, or coconut sugar 

Directions:
1. Dissolve the salt into 3 L (12 cups) of water. Add the napa cabbage slices and leave submerged for 2-24 hours, until the cabbage is wilted.  Rinse out the cabbage with cold running water to get rid of the excess salt.

2. In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients, adding up to ¼ cup water to help mix the spices into the vegetables. 

3. Using clean tongs, pack the kimchi mixture into sterilized jars, filling them up about halfway. Make sure to add the residual liquid into the jars, the top of the kimchi should be fully submerged in the liquid. Top up the jars with extra water if needed. 

4. Secure a piece of cheesecloth with a rubber band on the top of each jar and leave them to ferment in a dark, dry place for 2-5 days. Good signs of fermentation include bubbles forming in the liquid (from the gas produced by fermentation) and a sharp, slightly acidic aroma. 

5. Once the kimchi flavour is as intense as you want it to be, put a lid on each jar and keep in the fridge. It will continue to ferment, but much more slowly due to the cold temperature. 

Enjoy! 

 

 

References

Foroutan, R. MS RD. (2012). The History and Health Benefits of Fermented Foods. Retrieved from http://www.foodandnutrition.org/Winter-2012/The-History-and-Health-Benefits-of-Fermented-Food/

Mercola, J. (2003). 100 Trillion Bacteria in Your Gut: Learn How to Keep the Good Kind There. Retrieved from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2003/10/18/bacteria-gut.aspx