Posts in food
Vitamins: A to Z
AdobeStock_67184349-835x278.jpg

Vitamins are essential nutrients that you can get from certain foods. A proper balance and adequate levels of these are important for a range of complex processes in your body. Vitamins play key roles in bodily functions such as metabolism, immunity and digestion. It’s important for us to assess our diets and become knowledgeable on which types of food source the vitamins we need in order to stay healthy and avoid deficiencies.

Nutrients actually work better together, you may consume enough of one vitamin, but may not actually absorb it. For your body to get the full benefit of one vitamin, you may need sufficient amounts of others. For example, to fully deliver calcium into the bones and tissues, you would need sufficient amounts of vitamin D and vitamin K. Vitamins work together as a team - just as many of us do in our day-to-day working lives! You need a little of all of them so they can do their job properly, it’s all about balance.

Vitamins are either water-soluble or fat-soluble. Fat soluble vitamins are stored in the fatty tissue of the liver and the body. They are easier to store than water soluble vitamins and can stay in the body as reserves for a longer period. They are absorbed with the help of fats and lipids. On the other hand, water soluble vitamins do not stay in the body for very long as the body cannot store them, so these types of vitamins need to be more regularly consumed.

Fat soluble vitamins:

  • Vitamin A - supports eye health, (good for those of us that spend half our lives in front of a computer screen!). Good sources include carrots, liver, salmon, spinach, broccoli and sweet potatoes.

  • Vitamin E - a strong antioxidant that helps boost immunity and prevents cell damage. Good sources include vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and leafy greens.

  • Vitamin D - this vitamin is found naturally in limited foods but added to many others, the best source is natural sunlight (perfect excuse for a sunny vacation in Barbados!!), but you can also get it from salmon, egg yolks, mushrooms and shrimp

  • Vitamin K - creates healthy bones and keeps the heart strong. It is found in a variety of foods such as cooked kale, spinach, some cheeses, chicken, pork, avocado and other green vegetables.

Water soluble vitamins:

  • Vitamin C - this is an antioxidant that helps prevent cell damage, maintains skin health, and strengthens the immune system. It’s found in (but certainly not limited to) oranges, strawberries, broccoli, kale and parsley.

  • Vitamin B group - this family of vitamins is responsible for boosting your energy levels, feelings of well being as well as lowering stress and anxiety (not sure about you but these sound good to me!!). A good source of these vitamins can be found in a variety of foods including whole grains, meat, eggs and dairy products, citrus fruits and avocados.

The best way to meet your vitamin needs is through a balanced diet. However, what some of you might not realize is that no matter how healthy you eat, it can be difficult for your body to get all the nutrients it needs from food 100% of the time. In some cases therefore, dietary supplements can be used to fill in the gaps (this is dependent on your current diet/health - please consult a medical professional!).

A supplement is defined as something that completes or enhances something else when added, it is therefore NOT something to be used as a substitute. Nobody’s diet is perfect all of the time - we all have “cheat days” and enjoy pizza on the weekend and that’s perfectly acceptable (and also very normal). So a little help along the way to make sure our bodies are getting all the essential nutrients it needs won’t do any harm. Remember, your body is a temple!

Generally speaking, eat plenty of fruits, veggies, non-fatty meats, nuts and seeds, exercise regularly (or at least take the stairs from time to time!) and you are well on your way to a healthy, vitamin-enriched body. Taking supplements may be used as a boost, and an easy time-saving practice to incorporate into your morning routine. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind, and this ultimately is the answer in creating the best, happiest version of yourself possible!

Down Dog for Digestion
 
pexels-photo-374101.jpg

The next time your stomach is bothering you, you may want to reach for your yoga mat.

Research shows that yoga can help boost your digestive system, not only for people with occasional issues, but also for people with more chronic ailments, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

It’s not just that when you twist your torso your yoga teacher says you’re “detoxing” your system. Yoga affects your digestion in more ways than one.

If your digestion is slow, performing yoga poses can increase your blood circulation, while also giving an internal massage to the muscles around your digestive system. This can help get your system back up and moving again.

A yoga practice can mean you get more out of the foods you eat, as results from a study out of India suggested that it can aid the body in nutrient absorption.

Put It Into Practice:

A twice-weekly Iyengar yoga practice helped patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) by alleviating their symptoms.

To get the biggest digestive benefit each time you do yoga, make sure to engage your core with every pose, which also massages, contracts, and stretches the organs responsible for your digestive system. When you stretch in certain ways you create more space for your organs to function.

Also be sure to focus on your breath. Abdominal breathing can aid your digestive system.

How to Power Your Practice:

If you’re going to a class, try to eat one to two hours before hitting the mat. If you’re working with this timeframe, opt for choices that have complex carbohydrates, protein, and fats--yoga teacher and nutritionist Jennifer Vagios, RD suggests cooking ¼ cup of eats and topping it with walnuts and plain Greek yogurt.

If you are rushing from the office and only get a chance to eat 15 minutes in advance, have something with easily digestible natural sugars and a bit of fat and protein, she says, citing a smoothie made with a date, ½ frozen banana, 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk, and cinnamon as a good choice for this situation.

So, there you have it--the next time you hear your stomach rumble, take it to the mat.

By Hannah Woit

 
Select Sprouts for a Nutritional Boost
 
soybean-933026_1920.jpg

There are so many terms popping up on food labels it can be hard to know how to make sense of it all - organic, biodynamic, heirloom, natural… What is worth the extra money?

One term that might be worth looking out for? “Sprouted.”

Sprouting refers to when the seed has just begun to grow, before it becomes a plant.

Why Sprout:

When the sprout begins to germinate, the seed breaks down starch, which increases nutrient levels.

This process also breaks down chemicals that can lessen bioavailability, which translates into how well your body absorbs the other nutrients present in the food. In grains, this means that your body will benefit from more vitamins such as folate, iron, vitamin C, zinc, magnesium, and protein. You’ll be getting more nutrients in less food.

Since germination also lessens the amount of starch in the food, it can make sprouted grains easier to digest, which can be especially helpful for those who sometimes have issues digesting grains.

Sprout Safely:

There are a couple of caveats to keep in mind with regards to sprouted foods. First, be mindful of bacteria. Sprouts can be contaminated by harmful bacteria such as E. coli. Buy your fresh sprouts from somewhere you trust. Also, be sure to enjoy your sprouted foods sooner rather than later--within two or three days. If you’re bringing them to work, be sure to put them in the office fridge when you get in--sprouts and sprouted products should generally be kept in the refrigerator.

If you want to be super careful, use sprouts in cooked foods. Kristina Secinaro, a registered dietician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, suggests incorporating them into your baked goods, by grounding sprouts into a paste that you can add to your recipe. You can also cook the raw sprouts as part of a dish. The cooking process can kill that potentially harmful bacteria.

Sprout On:

Sprouting is something you can do in your own kitchen to save money and be in control of the process to make sure it is done safely. Try this recipe from The Kitchn for sprouted grains. If you’re interested in branching out from grains, you can use this guide to see how long it takes to sprout different legumes and grains.

If you don’t want to DIY, Secarino suggests checking nutrition labels to find the healthiest sprouted products, since some have only a little bit of sprouted ingredients, but many preservatives.

So, the next time you're getting groceries, keep an eye out for those sprouts!

 
Biotics on the Brain
 
plate-3033198_1280.jpg

By Hannah Woit

Have food on your mind? Ever make a decision based on a “gut feeling”?

Sure, you may be thinking about how long until you can dig into your office lunch or feel butterflies in your stomach before making a big decision, but your food is also on your mind in another sense.

More and more information is coming to light regarding how what you eat and what is in your gut can impact your brain.

How? The answer gets back to our recent topic of the microbiome and the importance of having both prebiotics and probiotics in your diet.

According to researchers, probiotics release a type of acid, called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) associated with reduced anxiety and gut microorganisms may affect the impulses that reach your cerebral cortex--and all of this may influence your behavior.

These microorganisms in your gut have been termed “psychobiotics”.

Different types of bacteria can:

  • Help moderate the levels of harmful bacteria in your gut

  • On a hormonal level, stop the cortisol and adrenaline response that can be hazardous to your health

  • Help turn off chronic stress responses via the immune system

Plus, your gut actually contains neurons, in the form of your enteric nervous system which controls your digestion. Some in the field have started referring to this system as your “second brain”.

So, what does this mean for you? Think about reaching for:

Dark chocolate can boost the levels of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in your gut because the polyphenols in chocolate, as a prebiotic, can help them thrive.

Yogurt often has Lactobacillus acidophilus, which helps your spinal cord’s cannabinoid receptors, which are associated with your ability to regulate pain.

Probiotic shots, such as Pure Green’s Blue Biotic Shot, a new addition to Primary’s cafe menu. It is a potent combination of probiotics, blue algae, ginger, lemon, manuka honey, and filtered water.

 
Two Elements You Need for a Healthy, Happy Gut: Probiotics and Prebiotics
 
berries-1846085_1280.jpg

By Hannah Woit

The past few years have seen a shift from an emphasis on harsh antibacterial soaps, sterile environments, and antibiotics to an appreciation of bacteria in protecting our health.

This is due to research on the microbiome--the colony of bacteria in bodies. Researchers have found that the mix of bacteria is important in promoting health, especially in our gut. Our gut microbiota help our bodies process indigestible substances and the medicines and pollution from our world that we ingest.

The development of our microbiome begins even before birth and continues throughout our lifetime. And, despite the relatively higher access to technology and advanced healthcare in general in cities, those who live in more rural areas tend to have a better mix in their microbiome. Other factors determining our gut health include our diet, genetics, culture, age, lifestyle, and history of medication usage.

In addition to a healthy microbiome helping our digestion in general, research reported in Nature demonstrated that gut microbes in obese versus lean individuals differ. Researchers reported finding that when the obese people lost weight, their microbial profile started to look more closely to that of the leaner people, which may be due to the fact that high-fiber diets tend to contain less fat and calories, while also helping people feel more full and lose weight.

So, what to do?

One way to promote our gut health is to focus on incorporating probiotics and prebiotics into our diet. Probiotics and prebiotics both alter our microbiome composition and help keep our digestion revving efficiently.

Here are the basics:

Probiotics:

Probiotics are health-promoting bacteria. They help maintain a healthy digestion, which means they can reduce the frequency of constipation, cramping, and other digestive annoyances. They also help your body combat inflammation associated with inflammatory disease and tackle infections like the common cold and flu and other illnesses.

In terms of nutrition, if you’re already making an effort to eat healthy, you can help maximize the health benefits of the nutritious food you’re eating by working on your gut health. Probiotics help your body use the nutrients in your food more effectively.

Where to get them: 

As we’ve previously mentioned on the blog, we have probiotics stocked for you at Primary, including Revive kombucha or Maple Hill yogurt. Other sources of probiotics include tempeh and cultured non-dairy yogurt.

 

Prebiotics:

Prebiotics are probiotics’ best friend. Probiotics have gained more attention in recent years, but prebiotics help probiotics survive and thrive.

Prebiotics are most commonly fibers found in the ingredients in our food that our body can’t digest. However, the probiotics we want in our gut thrive off of prebiotics.

Where to get them:

Get your prebiotic fix by incorporating onions, asparagus, artichokes, or soybeans into your diet, or stash bananas or whole-wheat snacks at the office.

 
Snack Smarter
 
06.05.16_Blink__Primary_0125_preview.jpeg

By Hannah Woit

, on average, Americans spend close to 100,000 hours on work-related activities. Yeah, you’ll be needing snacks.

If you are looking to optimize your productivity, reach for a brain-boosting snack to satiate your hunger while giving your brain the fuel it needs. For extra credit, stock snacks at the office that include these 3 nutrients:

1. Probiotics:

As Scientific American put it, “Mental health may depend on creatures in the gut.” Early research indicates that probiotics may lessen symptoms of depression by increasing serotonin and/or decreasing the amount of proteins that indicate inflammation.

Sources: If you’re at Primary, you can score your probiotics by trying a kombucha (Primary serves Revive), a grapeshot juice from Pure Green, or Maple Hill yogurt. Kefir is also great, but if dairy isn’t your thing, other fermented foods, such as certain kimchi and sauerkraut, can also be good options!

2. Turmeric:

The curcumin in turmeric is an antioxidant powerhouse that may protect your brain from cell damage. In ayurvedic tradition, it is used for multiple ailments, including fatigue.

Sources: Like probiotics, turmeric is available as a dietary supplement, but you can also buy this super spice on the shelf of your local supermarket and use it as a savory seasoning atop snacks like popcorn or grab a turmeric latte.

3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

Omega-3s have been shown to lessen cognitive decline in the elderly. Research has also indicated that they may help with depression. Other studies have suggested that they can also combat inflammation.

Sources: Fish can be a great source for omega-3s, but for snacks, good bets are adding chia or flax seeds to a yogurt or, at Primary, a snack with olive oil, like a Crack of Dawn bar from Early Bird, a Brooklyn-based company.