I hope you’ve all had a wonderful summer. I had the pleasure of attending The International Conference on Nutrition in Medicine in Washington, DC, and in the coming months will share with you some of great information I learned while there. I’ve also been hard at work getting Take Root up and running! Thanks all for your much appreciated feedback on my business name. My website, blog and service offerings will launch this fall. I’m excited about taking to the next level my passion for helping individuals make evidence-based decisions about their food choices, and also helping them transition to a plant-based diet for maximal wellness and longevity.

DIET VERSUS EXERCISE

Have you ever thought that you could cancel out poor dietary choices by exercising? I used to think that I could. But it turns out that inactivity ranks only fifth in the leading risk factors for disease in both Canada (reference here) and the US (reference here). Diet is number one by a long shot, followed by smoking.

But there is also much evidence to show that exercise may have many benefits, including improved mental and cognitive health, sleep quality, immune function and blood pressure, as well as cancer prevention and longevity. So ideally, we’ll eat well and exercise!

How much exercise do we need for optimal health? The current guidelines in Canada and the US suggest 150 minutes per week (that’s 20 minutes per day) of moderate activity (e.g. brisk walking). Doing so could reduce our risk of death by 7%. But the evidence suggests that 40 minutes per day could reduce our risk by 14%, and 60 minutes per day by 24% (reference here). There are also data to suggest that 90 minutes per day is even better! You can see the trend.

I hope this information helps when you plan how to spend your time and resources. I know it helps me.

THINK “CALORIC DENSITY” FOR MAXIMUM WEIGHT LOSS

I was reminded at the conference about caloric density as it pertains to weight loss. Caloric density is the number of calories in a given mass of food. For weight loss, the lower the caloric density, the better. Low caloric foods contain more water and fibre and so are very satiating. It so happens these foods are packed with nutrients.
If you want to lose weight, focus on these foods (which contain only 100-600 calories per pound):
1. Vegetables
2. Fruit (except avocados)
3. Whole grains – includes brown pasta/rice/bread, oats, quinoa
4. Legumes – includes beans and lentils

Avocados come in at 750 and nuts/seeds at 2,800, so eat these minimally until weight loss is achieved. Oils, like olive oil, contain 4000 calories/pound…so really try to minimize added oil!

Animal products cover the range of caloric density, starting with non-fat dairy (180-450), seafood and lean meat (400-870) then regular dairy and meat (about 700 and up). These foods are less satiating because they contain very little fibre or water.

And if you need a little motivation to lose the weight, check out all the possible complications of obesity here.

Cinnamon, along with many other spices, appears to be very health-promoting. So I look for ways to add it to my food daily. The best type of cinnamon is Ceylon (also called “true cinnamon”) because it contains little to no coumarin. Coumarin may be toxic to the liver and so has been banned as a food additive. Most of the cinnamon sold is Chinese (also called cassia), which does contain coumarin. Buy Ceylon cinnamon at most health food stores or on-line.

North America’s largest vegfest is right around the corner! With over 140 vendors and 40 hours of programming, it is a super spot to eat, relax and discover. Click here for more information.

VEGAN BANANA NUT MUFFINS

We’re all getting back into our normal routines, so I’m sharing this delicious recipe for healthy breakfasts or snacks from The Minimalist Baker. My young taste testers Fintan and Leah gave them two thumbs up, as did many grown-ups. They freeze well, so you can stock up. The Minimalist Baker recipes use 10 ingredients or less, take less than 30 minutes to prepare and many are vegan. Next up for us: the waffles!

Ingredients

2 tbsp ground flax*
4 medium ripe bananas
Heaping 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) or coconut oil, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1.5 cups whole-wheat pastry flour (or unbleached all-purpose) **
1/2 cup rolled oats
optional: 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
*Ground flax is super healthy and often used as an egg substitute in vegan baking. Buy it at health food stores or Bulk Barn. I buy flax seeds, then grind them in a coffee grinder or blender.
**I buy whole-wheat pastry flour (healthier than all-purpose) at health food stores.
Instructions
* Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and lightly grease a standard size muffin tin (will make 10-11 muffins)
* Mix ground flax with 5 tbsp water in a large mixing bowl. Let set for 5 minutes.
* Add banana and mash, just leaving just a bit of texture.
* Add brown sugar, baking soda, salt and whisk for one minute.
* Stir in vanilla, melted butter and mix.
* Add flour and oats and stir with a spoon or spatula until just combined. Lastly, fold in walnuts or poke them into the top of the muffins once in the tins (optional).
* Divide batter evenly among 10-11 muffin tins.
* Bake for 17-22 minutes or until tops are golden brown and a toothpick or knife comes out clean. Let cool for a few minutes, then remove from muffin tin. Once completely cooled, store in a covered container at room temperature for several days, or freeze for longer term storage.