Category Archives: Health

Day 23 TIP: Feel Good Health Challenge

Hi everyone, here’s another quick TIP for you: good food need not be tasteless!

I believe Nick had mentioned early on that he didn’t want to live his life in a tasteless world. I totally understand that and agree with it. Perhaps though, it may be a matter of perception?

We probably all know by now that processed foods are literally engineered to makes us desperately want more, and this gives them a sort of unfair advantage over “normal” food. However, from my own experience and from what I’ve read, your taste buds have an incredible ability to evolve along with your health.

I remember a time when I used to love eating McDonald’s as well. In fact, I used to have two of the largest burgers with fries and a drink nearly every single night at 4am! I guess that’s what tasted good to me at the time. It was a real treat, since I wanted something delicious. Now, many years later, I can honestly say that that same meal seems so repulsive to me that even the thought of having anything from McD’s doesn’t cross my mind, even if I’ve got it right in front of me. I kid you not, it’s almost like it’s invisible to me, or at least to my brain’s center of desire.

There is good reason for this: my values have changed dramatically. Good health and longevity are some of my highest-ranking goals today, and this has a direct impact on how “hard” it is to resist certain foods. Some delicious-looking desserts definitely look tempting to try, and I just need to remind myself how it’ll make me feel, and what is truly most important to me. But a lot of other stuff, not even a consideration anymore.

Growing up in a Greek family, we had the staple “μακαρονάδα” at least once a week (with plenty of white bread, no less). I continued to eat lots of pasta into adulthood and even as recently as 2010, while married to Jackie. Had you told me then that I would not care at all for pasta today, perhaps I would not have believed you. But the fact of the matter is (and you can ask Jackie, too, she’s the same) we bought some gluten-free pasta months ago and it continues to sit there in our cupboard. We both have literally zero desire for pasta now. We sometimes discuss about how weird that is! Like I said, our nutritional values have changed, which makes many “decisions” effortless and even subconscious.

What’s interesting is that I don’t crave or miss any of the “delicious” junk because I have come to discover what real food tastes like. Before, my taste buds were literally out of my control, and I gave in to anything and everything that looked appetizing. Now that I can discern what will really taste good (in a nutritious way, I guess), that’s what I genuinely want to go for – most of the time. I am human, of course, and temptations are all around us in life. But yummy-looking junk food is definitely no longer in control of me. This may sound far-fetched for some, or even dishonest, but I swear to you that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Your body learns to crave what will truly be good for it. By far my favorite food at Helen & Jimmy’s buffet yesterday was the salmon and broccoli, and that’s exactly what I had – and I loved it! Thank you both for putting out some wonderfully healthy choices yesterday!

All in all, along this journey, Jackie and I have taken the time to learn a thing or two about cooking, inevitably. And although it’s slightly frustrating for me to feel like a perpetual beginner in the kitchen (thank God I have Jackie, too!), the combinations of herbs, spices and use of fats for cooking (coconut oil, salted butter, duck fat, bacon grease… eventually will try some pork lard and beef tallow) have made our food so incredibly enjoyable and tasty that I’m completely satisfied and delighted at dinner. I feel very grateful for the incredibly appetizing way we learned to eat, and I know it is in each and every one’s reach.

I therefore encourage everyone to fearlessly foray into the kitchen and try new things. Start by following a good whole-foods cookbook – I’ve got many that I can recommend. Buy veggies in season and get creative, your taste buds will thank you for it. Believe me, the end result is supremely worth the initial effort. Good, healthy, mouthwatering and scrumptious food eventually becomes just part of the regular life routine.

The more you eat, the less flavor; the less you eat, the more flavor.
–Chinese Proverb

Eating is always a decision, nobody forces your hand to pick up food and put it into your mouth.
–Albert Ellis, Michael Abrams, Lidia Dengelegi (The Art & Science of Rational Eating)

Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.
–Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Day 22 TIP: Feel Good Health Challenge

Hi guys,

Today’s TIP is very a propos to our day in the sun at Helen & Jimmy’s pool: getting enough vitamin D!

Discussing vitamin D is like opening a can of worms, as is supplementation in general, so I will attempt to tread carefully.

I’ve been on the fence for years about nutritional supplementation; I tend to mainly subscribe to the belief that humans are divinely and perfectly conceived, thus equipped with everything we need, without any requirement for supplements in our diet. However, what’s got me constantly second-guessing myself on this topic is the fact that the modern world is very toxic, so far beyond what we may have been designed for, that perhaps supplementing becomes necessary.

Like I mentioned in a previous TIP, the soil that our modern food is grown on is severely depleted of essential nutrients. Aside from the many beneficial nutrients we may not be getting at all from our food, we must also consider the further depletion in quality caused by modern food processing, storage and preparation (cooking). All together, these points make a valid argument why it may be smart to add high quality nutritional supplements to our diets.

What we may need certainly depends from person to person, because diet and lifestyle both play large roles. Therefore, this is not a topic I will explore in depth at this time, but regarding vitamin D3 alone (the form that is synthesized by the skin), I can say this:

Without a doubt, vitamin D is essential. It affects over 3000 genes and plays a really important role in calcium metabolism and the immune system. Being deficient in vitamin D is associated with many diseases, so we definitely need to ensure that we have adequate levels of vitamin D. That being said, where do we get it?

  • food alone is definitely not enough: some vitamin D can be obtained from food, although it won’t really bring up your levels much
  • sun-exposed skin can produce roughly 10,000 IU of D3 in less than 20 minutes (for a person with light skin) – besides the fact that it’s free and feels great to be in the sun!
  • • perhaps this makes oral supplementation unnecessary… but what about the winter months?!

Given how fast we can produce D3 by getting some sun, it’s very likely safe for an adult to take several thousand IU per day in the winter. Some advocacy organizations like the Vitamin D Council and GrassrootsHealth highly encourage it for disease prevention and optimal health. However, some would say that taking large amounts of vitamin D can be toxic when combined with sun exposure. It is very important to note though, that vitamin A and K2 protect against vitamin D toxicity – and you can get plenty those from cod liver oil + high-vitamin butter oil, which may just be the most important supplement you can take!

If you’re curious or concerned about what your levels of vitamin D are right now, there is some bad news: sadly, just recently, the Quebec government imposed such severe restrictions on vitamin D blood level testing that they have made it virtually impossible for people to find out if they have a deficiency, which is exceptionally common these days. Personally, I don’t take solace from a recent McGill University study, which says that the Vitamin D status in Montréal preschoolers is satisfactory despite low vitamin D intake, in spite of the fact that “almost 95% of preschoolers had vitamin D intakes less than the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR)”.

So what is a health-conscious human to do? Start by keeping your eyes and ears open on the ongoing research. The final word from me right now is to hedge your bets intelligently. I suggest we all get a bit of sun daily during the hot months, and supplement wisely in the winter. In case you’re curious about a specific product recommendation, we use a solid brand called Ddrops (1000 IU drops, which is the most concentrated form allowed in Caanda).

I wish you good health and vitality!

If you expect sunshine to provide you with vitamin D, then make sure your shadow is shorter than your height. The long shadow we see in November is proof the sun is not doing it for us any more, and it’s time to take care of ourselves.
–Reinhold Vieth, PhD

Vitamin D deficiency is a global pandemic that has serious health consequences for children and adults. Improvement in the world’s vitamin D status could significantly reduce risk of many chronic illnesses including cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, type 2 diabetes and many deadly cancers as well as infectious diseases including upper respiratory tract infections, influenza and tuberculosis.
–Michael F Holick, PhD, MD

Because vitamin D is so cheap and so clearly reduces all-cause mortality, I can say this with great certainty: vitamin D represents the single most cost-effective medical intervention in the United States.
–Gregory A Plotnikoff, MD

Day 21 TIP: Feel Good Health Challenge

Hey there, I’m back with another one of my crazy TIPs!

Today’s piece of advice is about chomping on dark chocolate!

Yup, the verdict is in, and high cacao chocolate it’s a very healthy food indeed! Studies show that eating the stuff on a somewhat regular basis (2-3 times per week) is not only good for your heart (lowers blood pressure) and your brain (increases blood flow and cognitive function), but it actually helps to control your blood sugar as well, by helping your body to use its insulin efficiently!! Dark chocolate happens to have a low glycemic index as well, so it will not cause a spike in blood sugar when you eat it.

Chocolate has a very long and fascinating history, and believe me it is no fad: Chocolate is derived from the seed of the cacao (or cocoa) tree, and is said to have originated in the Amazon at least 4,000 years ago! Its Latin name, Theobroma, literally means, “food of the gods”.

So what are some of the goodies found in dark chocolate? Try some of these…

  • • healthy fats (mostly monounsaturated and saturated fat, with very little polyunsaturated fat)
  • • antioxidants in cacao puts the so-called super-fruits to shame (acai, pomegranate, cranberry, blueberry, etc.)
  • • theobromine, which hardens tooth enamel and actually lowers your risk of getting cavities, unlike other sweets
  • • plenty of vitamins and minerals (potassium, copper, magnesium, iron)

If you ever want to stay abreast of the fascinating discoveries about cacao and its benefits in human nutrition, or to learn just about anything else on the topic, visit the World Cocoa Foundation website.

Always aim for chocolate of 75% or higher cacao content, or any bar that doesn’t have sugar as its first ingredient. Besides that, know that the more bitter it tastes, the higher in flavonols (polyphenols) so the better for your health.

Chocolate like this may take some getting used to, but I swear it’s amazing once you get to enjoy the rich subtleties in taste! All you need is 1-3 squares per serving and that’s plenty to put a smile on your face and flood your brain with endorphins, which generate feelings of pleasure and promote a sense of well being. Now who can say no to that?!

Finally, by buying fair-trade organic chocolate bars (such as Camino or Green & Black’s), you are getting the highest possible quality, while also supporting workers and producers to get fair wages for their labor and products.

So go on, be a sport! Do good for yourself and the world – and enjoy every bite! 😉

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.
–Charles M. Schulz

Don’t wreck a sublime chocolate experience by feeling guilty.
Chocolate isn’t like premarital sex. It will not make you pregnant.
And it always feels good.
–Lora Brody

Chemically speaking, chocolate really is the world’s perfect food.
–Michael Levine

Day 20 TIP: Feel Good Health Challenge

Hey guys,

I’ve got a quick & dirty TIP for you all today. In fact, it’s a challenge (within a challenge!): eat only when you’re hungry!

I know, what a crazy, novel idea, huh? It’s no secret that modern humans eat largely out of habit and because we’ve worked it into our daily schedules at set times. Indisputably, the 3 square meals a day is totally arbitrary and has commercial underpinnings. This system has made us lose touch with the innate ability to listen to our body. This routine eating has caused many of us to become quite oblivious to actual physiological signs of hunger, or lack thereof.

To be fair though, eating only when truly hungry may be a bit tricky for some, and there’s a reason for this too; someone who is insulin resistant (damaged metabolism), addicted to junk foods or is lacking sleep can really be led astray by cravings that are disguised as hunger. There are a lot of psychological addictions to food as well… which is far beyond the scope of this blog post.

What I’m suggesting though is simple enough: before putting anything into your mouth, just ask yourself if you really feel hungry at this moment.

I have found that when I do this, I definitely eat less than other days, overall – but my meals are significantly larger. Of course, I can’t always do this, or at least not nearly as often as I’d like, because I try to eat as a family as often as possible. But when it works out, I typically end up having just 1 or 2 meals all day, plus 0-2 small snacks, depending on whether I’m working that day or not. I snack (healthfully) only a home, even when I’m not really hungry – bad habit.

Seriously, give this a shot and see how you feel. And in case you ever wanted to eat less meals and be freed from the tyranny of constantly needing to refuel every couple of hours, try these simple things: eat a bigger breakfast, more protein, and don’t be afraid of healthy fats! But I digress… this is starting to resemble intermittent fasting. I’ll keep that for another post, in the near future.

Don’t stop finding ways to improve yourselves! Good luck – and please eat mindfully!

We got so much food in America we’re allergic to food. Allergic to food! Hungry people ain’t allergic to shit. You think anyone in Rwanda’s got a fucking lactose intolerance?!
–Chris Rock

Day 19 TIP: Feel Good Health Challenge

Hi again everybody,

I consider today’s TIP to be very important: a calorie is not a calorie!

What does this nonsensical statement mean? Well, since many people are fans of counting calories in order to lose weight, it’s important to explain this.

The concept of calories in/calories out for weight loss is so oversimplified and antiquated that world-renowned strength coach Charles Poliquin goes so far as to say “counting calories is for certified morons!”. He’s worked with tons of elite and professional athletes and knows how to help people reach their goals, so the fact that he dismisses calorie coating like that deserves some attention.

Simply put, not all calories are created equal. While it may be true that someone can lose weight – albeit temporarily – on a 1500 daily calorie diet of strictly Twinkies, that fact remains that this is a really silly thing to do, and the results could not last.

Briefly, there are two main reasons why the caloric model doesn’t work well for fat loss:

1) Foods you eat evoke a hormonal response in your body. Meaning that even if you take in the exact same number of calories, the energy from eating protein vs. eating carbs are not used the same way and they affect your body composition differently as well.

2) Not all foods require the same amount of digestive effort to be broken down. Breaking down meat or raw vegetables (whole foods) requires a lot more calories from your body than processed foods like pasta or cookies. It is estimated that people who eat whole foods burn a stunning 50% more calories per day, and their resting metabolic rate is higher.

High carb meals provoke a chain of reactions that literally put you in fat-storage mode and also cause rapid cellular aging. So to treat all calories the same way is indeed silly. In fact, studies show that people who do periods of caloric restriction and yo-yo dieting tend to get fatter over time because they gain back the weight + 8% more than they had before.

As I’ve said in a past TIP, to function optimally, your body requires lots of healthy fats, some protein and only a little carbohydrate. Always aim for the most nutrient dense whole foods and stay especially far away from white flour, sugar and other processed foods, as they have lead to what are known as the diseases of affluence.

If you still don’t believe me, I encourage you to read about the tragic story of the Pima indians and the lessons we have learned from studying them.

A final quick thing to remember is this (as stated by George Cahill in 1957 – scientist, diabetes expert and Harvard Medical School professor): carbohydrate is driving insulin which is driving fat storage.

Eat smart – not less!

Processed foods not only extend the shelf life, but they extend the waistline as well.
–Karen Sessions

Those who think they have no time for healthy eating, will sooner or later have to find time for illness.
–Edward Stanley

Today, more than 95% of all chronic disease is caused by food choice, toxic food ingredients, nutritional deficiencies and lack of physical exercise.
–Mike Adams

The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.
–Ann Wigmore