Eat your minerals and be a nice human! That is all. 🙂
Minerals are inorganic compounds that retain their chemical identity – they are never converted to anything else within the human body. Although this is the case, minerals have the ability to bind to other compounds. Given their binding capacity, minerals are components of vitamins, hormones, enzymes, and various different complexes in tissues and bone throughout the body. Dozens of minerals exist – but only 16 are considered essential to support physiological roles within the body and support optimal health and wellness. The 16 essential minerals include: calcium, chloride, chromium, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, sulfur, and zinc. These minerals are essential to support bodily functions such as acid-base balance and regulating osmotic pressure.
Minerals are classified according to the amount present in the human body. The three classifications include: 1. Macrominerals: with >5 grams present in the body (7 in total), 2. Trace Minerals (micro): <5 grams present, and 3. Ultratrace minerals: minute amounts present < 1 milligrams. Trace minerals are equally as important to our health as macrominerals, we just require them in smaller amounts. Toxicity is an issue with minerals – when a given mineral concentration is found to be too high within the body, this can result in adverse effects on one’s health. All minerals are considered to be toxic at high levels.
Below is a chart of the 16 essential minerals, and (1) what physiological function they play within the body and their importance for adequate consumption, (2) what food sources they can be found in, and (3) the deficiency symptoms, syndrome or condition associated with inadequate intake of the given mineral. Abiding by a balanced diet containing whole foods will help to ensure that you are ingested an adequate amount of minerals – in this case it would not be challenging to meet the necessary requirements.
Note that the minerals with a * are macrominerals.
Physiological Role within the Body
Deficiency Symptoms, Syndrome or Condition associated with inadequate intake of the mineral
One of the most important minerals in the human body!
Important for the formation, growth and maintenance of strong bones and teeth.
Necessary for optimal immune system function, nerve activity, and for the function and maintenance of muscle contractions.
Involved in blood pressure regulation, hormone and enzyme secretions, and necessary for blood clotting
milk and milk products (DAIRY!!),
fortified soy beverages,
green leafy vegetables – in particular: cooked bok choy & broccoli,
Hypocalcemia – this condition results when calcium levels in the blood are too low. Long term, this has potential to lead to osteoporosis.
A very important electrolyte found in one’s blood that helps to control various bodily processes such as: the balance of fluid inside and outside one’s cells, and enables the maintenance of appropriate blood volume, blood pressure and pH of various bodily fluids
Hypochloremia (or Hypochloraemia) – electrolyte interference in which there is an irregularly low level of chloride in one’s blood, symptoms include – dehydration, fluid loss, diarrhea or vomiting
Plays a key role in breakdown of fats and carbohydrates
Works with insulin to control and regulate blood sugar (glucose) levels.
milk and dairy products.
Lack of chromium in the diet hinders the body’s ability to utilize glucose to meets its energy requirements, resulting in increased insulin requirements
Heavily reliant on iron – involved in the formation of red blood cells, the synthesis of various proteins and enzymes, the metabolism of glucose, and the absorption of iron.
leafy green vegetables,
nuts and seeds,
Symptoms include: low white blood cell count, anemia, paleness, issues with connective tissue, neurological problems, and muscle weakness.
There is a very rare genetic disorder known as Menkes disease which is a disease that interferes with copper absorption.
Involved in the formation of teeth and bones – helps to prevent tooth decay
The content present in foods is low, but is found in drinking water, some teas and fish.
Tooth decay and increased dental caries, brittle or weak bones.
Involved in the synthesis of thyroid hormones which are created by the thyroid gland – this helps to regulate growth, metabolism, and development.
Seafood – cod, tuna, seaweed, shrimp,
Dairy products – cheese, yogurt, milk
Grains – breads and cereals
Deficiency symptoms are very similar to those of hypothyroidism or low thyroid hormones and include: weight gain, weakness, fatigue, swelling of the neck, learning difficulties, pregnancy-related issues, and heavy or irregular periods
An essential component of hemoglobin -a protein found in red blood cells that transports oxygen throughout the body
Needed for cell growth and differentiation
Necessary for energy metabolism
An important component of myoglobin – a protein which provides oxygen to muscles
Red meats (liver, beef, pork),
oysters and clams,
leafy green vegetables (broccoli, spinach, swiss chard),
legumes (lentils, peas, dried beans),
dried fruits (prunes, figs),
fortified cereals and whole grain products
The development of anemia – symptoms include: general fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, pale skin, pica (cravings for substances that are not food)
Main role in the body is as a cofactor for various enzymatic reactions
Plays a vital role in protein synthesis and energy metabolism, regulating blood sugar levels, and helping to optimize immune system health
Additionally, magnesium is necessary for many physiological functions such as muscle contraction and relaxation, heart rhythm, and vascular tone.
Green leafy vegetables,
nuts and seeds (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin),
legumes (lentils, peas, dried beans),
whole grain products
milk & yogurt,
fortified soy beverages
Symptoms include: loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, weakness, muscle cramps and spasms, and vomiting.
Main role is to metabolize various nutrients
Necessary for a range of chemical processes such as aiding in the metabolism of cholesterol and carbohydrates
Additionally, involved with the utilization and digestion of amino acids and protein.
Green leafy vegetables,
nuts & seeds,
whole grains – often added to breakfast cereals and fortified foods
Generally speaking, foods containing dietary fibre provide magnesium thus it is widespread in foods
Hindered glucose tolerance, and altered metabolism of carbohydrates and lipids which has potential to result in impaired growth and reproductive function
Helps to activate various enzymes that are needed to prevent the build-up of toxins in the body and works to assists in the breakdown of various sulfites
Legumes are the richest source,
beef liver, and
Deficiency is extremely rare and only occurs in individuals with a rare genetic disorder known as molybdenum cofactor deficiency resulting in encephalopathy, leading to seizures and brain damage
Necessary for the formation of bones and teeth
Plays a key role in carbohydrate and fat metabolism
Needed for the generation of protein, in order to aide in repair of cells and tissues
Additionally, an important component of the maintenance of acid-base balance within cells
Milk and milk products,
seeds and nuts,
Hypophosphatemia – which can result in bone diseases such as rickets in children and Osteomalacia in adults
Main function within the body is for proper fluid balance, working to maintain osmotic pressure and acid-base balance
Also helps to regulate nerve signals and muscle contractions
Hypokalemia – results when potassium levels in the blood serum are too low – this frequently results in vomiting, diarrhea, and adrenal gland disorders.
Often Hypokalemia leads to the use of diuretics, muscle weakness, twitching and cramping, and abnormal heart rhythms
Main purpose is to act as an antioxidant. Reminder: antioxidants are chemical compounds that help to protect cells from free radicals, preventing them from cell damage
Additionally, important for DNA production, reproduction and thyroid gland function
various whole grains,
various dairy products
Deficiency symptoms include: muscle weakness, fatigue, hair loss, mental fog and confusion, and negatively impacts both growth and reproduction
An electrolyte involved in the maintenance of homeostasis and blood pressure, and the regulation of electrolyte and fluid balance
Helps to control acid-base balance by regulating the amount of water that’s in and around your cells (osmotic pressure)
Additionally, needed for muscle contraction and nerve transmission
cured meats such as bacon, ham or corned beef
salted or seasoned seeds and nuts,
Hyponatremia – this occurs when the concentration of sodium in the blood is abnormally low -this is pretty common – especially within older adults.
Frequent symptoms include loss of energy, muscle weakness, headaches, nausea, and lethargy -in severe cases, seizures or a coma can result.
Necessary for the production of key proteins within the body such as glutathione and insulin
Needed for the synthesis of connective tissue
Meat & poultry,
fish and seafood,
Results in reduced protein synthesis given there is little sulfur available for amino acids
Additionally, inadequate intake can lead to joint pain
Plays a vital role in many physiological functions such as: DNA and protein synthesis, carbohydrate metabolism, cell growth, cell division, production of sperm, sexual maturation, fetal development, immune function, and wound healing
Needed for sense of smell and taste
Structural component of insulin
nuts and seeds – in particular: almonds, cashews,
Symptoms include: hair loss, weight loss, skin and eye sores, issues with wound healing and loss of appetite.
EAT YOUR MINERALS!!
Have a great weekend, I hope you get a chance to move your body and enjoy some fresh air!
Ps. Click the link if you want a copy of a printable mineral table for quick reference. mineral table
One of my favourite hobbies will forever be grocery shopping and wandering, while reading nutrition facts labels (I can’t wait till this day is allowed again!) It is important to know, not only what is in the food you are eating, but how to interpret and understand a food label. Reading nutrition labels and grocery shopping isn’t something that should be stressful – but something that can be enjoyable and fun! Foods labels help you to make informed decisions about the foods you are buying and eating.
This post is a guide highlighting how to properly interpret and read a nutrition facts label and a couple of important items to look for when doing so – after all, there are as many as 61 different names for sugar!!!
This post is a little lengthy so here are some highlights:
Serving Size: All of the information on a nutrition facts table is based on the serving size. It’s important to compare the serving size to both the amount you are actually eating and the number of servings for the whole package.
Calories: A calorie is a unit of energy, based on estimates. The calorie content listed on a nutrition facts table will inform you of the total amount of calories in a serving size, not necessarily just a single serving size (not that calories are super important, but it is good to know!)
Macronutrients: Carbohydrates are sub-grouped into: sugars, starches, dietary fibre, and sugar alcohols – consider “net carbs”. Not all fats are created equal. Sub-categories include – saturated fats, unsaturated fats – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, and trans fats. Aim to choose unsaturated fats more often. There are 20 different types of amino acids, which can be combined in numerous forms to make varying proteins. There are 9 essential amino acids, these amino acids are considered essential as they cannot be made by the body, thus must be consumed through food sources.
Micronutrients: As a general guideline, choose foods that are high in calcium, iron, fibre, and Vitamin C & A and foods that are lower in saturated & trans fats, cholesterol and sodium more often.
Percent Daily Value (% DV): The percent daily value (% DV) is used to determine whether a food item is low or high in a certain nutrient. A %DV of 5% or less is considered a little bit, while 15% or more is considered a lot, remember that this percentage is based on the serving size.
Ingredient List: Ingredients on food packaging are listed in descending order by the ingredient that is most predominant in the food product – meaning the heaviest ingredient is listed first and the lightest ingredient listed last.
Nutrient Content and Health Claims: Nutrient content and health claims are optional on food packaging/labels. A nutrient content claims informs buyers of the amount of a specific nutrient contained within a specific food product. Whereas health claims are the statements found on food products that address the certain effects or benefits when consuming specific foods within a healthy diet, and the effect that this has on an individuals health.
For starters, the information on a food packaging and nutrition label includes: (1) a nutrition facts table, (2) an ingredient list, and sometimes, (3) nutrition and health claims are found on food packaging, but this is not essential. In Canada, a nutrition facts label must contain: the serving size, the amount of calories, % daily value and 12 core ingredients (fat, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, carbohydrate, fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron) – including cholesterol on a nutrition facts label is optional.
Not all foods are required to have a nutrition facts label, these foods include: fresh fruits and vegetables, raw meat, seafood and poultry, alcohol, foods prepared or made at the store (such as baked goods and salads), and foods that contain few nutrients (spices, coffee, tea).
Below are 7 important items to look out for when reading a nutrition food label, and how to interpret them properly.
Percent Daily Value (% DV)
Nutrient Content and Health Claims
1:Serving Size – All of the information on a nutrition facts table is based on the serving size. It’s important to compare the serving size to both the amount you are actually eating and the number of servings for the whole package – this puts things into perspective. Note that the serving size does not necessarily mean that this the quantity of food you should be eating.
2: Calories – A calorie is a unit of energy, based on estimates. The calorie content listed on a nutrition facts table will inform you of the total amount of calories in a serving size and not necessarily a single serving size (not that calories are super important, but it is good to know!) How many calories are in one serving size and how much are you eating relative to the given serving size? With this in mind, you are able to calculate how many calories are in the quantity of food you are eating.
3. Macronutrients – It is helpful to look at the macronutrient content of a food product: (1) fat content, (2) carbohydrate content, and (3) protein content to know exactly how much of each is contained in the product. On a nutrition facts table, within each of these macronutrient categories there are sub categories – ie. the different types of fats – trans fats, saturated fats, ect. Below are a few points to consider when looking at the macronutrient content of various food sources:
Carbohydrates are the most challenging but often the most interesting area to interpret and understand on a nutrition facts table. Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of fuel and are converted into glucose (sugar) during digestion. Carbohydrates provide 4 calories of energy per gram. Carbs are sub-grouped into sugars, starches, fibre, and sugar alcohols, and are referred to as “simple” or “complex” carbohydrates based on their chemical structure. When reading a nutrition facts table, the total amount of carbohydrates refers to the sum of sugar, starches, and dietary fibre. Below is a quick explanation of the various sub- categories of carbohydrates.
Sugars are the smallest form of carbohydrate. Sugars include monosaccharides (single sugars) or disaccharides (two sugar molecules combined). Sugars are found both naturally such as in fruits and vegetables but are also added to foods for the purposes of taste, texture, and preservation.
Starches are a type of carbohydrate that consist of many glucose (sugar) molecules linked together to form long chains. Starches are found naturally in peas and beans, various vegetables, and grains but can also be added to foods to thicken or stabilize them during preparation or processing.
Dietary Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that is composed of numerous glucose molecules that are linked together – unlike sugar and starches, given the structure of fibre and how the glucose molecules are bound together, dietary fibre cannot be readily digested. There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble. Some nutritional facts tables provide a distinction between the two types of fibre, but this is not mandatory. Fibre is found in a variety of foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds, and whole grains. Dietary fibre works to promote a healthy gastrointestinal tract (especially important for those with inflammatory bowl disease!!!), helps to control blood sugar levels, works to lower cholesterol levels and leaves you feeling satisfied for longer.
Sugar Alcohols are a type of carbohydrate that have the chemical characteristics of both sugars and alcohols. Sugar alcohols are found in very small amounts naturally in certain fruits and vegetables, but are most often commercially made from sugars and starch. Sugar alcohols are marketed to consumers as a sugar-free or reduced- calorie sweetener and are found in various foods. Since sugar alcohols have fewer calories than table sugar (sucrose), they are often used as a replacement. Sugar alcohols do not count towards the total sugar count on food labels. Common sugar alcohols include: sorbitol, xylitol, erythritol, inulin, and mannitol (xylitol is highly toxic to dogs). Sugar alcohols are known to cause stomach upset and gastrointestinal discomfit in those with sensitive stomachs – especially with those who have IBS, IBD, or digestive issues. Be mindful of this when consuming foods that contain a high sugar alcohol content. Similar to dietary fibre, sugar alcohols are partially resistant to digestion, thus they do not have as large as an effect on blood glucose levels in comparison to “real sugar”.
Often “net carbs” is a tern used when reading the carbohydrate section of a nutrition facts label. Since dietary fibre is indigestible and it has very little impact on ones blood glucose levels, it is subtracted from the total carb count – the remaining is a products net carbs. To determine the amount of net carbs a food item contains, subract the fibre content from the total carb content.
Fat is necessary for hormone regulation, to assist in absorbing vitamins A, D, E, and K and various minerals, is essential for building cell membranes, lining and protecting cells, and needed for the production of essential fatty acids. Fat contains 9 calories per gram. Fats are classified as either saturated or unsaturated.
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and are mainly found in animal food sources, such as milk, meat, and cheese, but are also found in various oils such as coconut and palm oil.A diet rich is saturated fat has potential to increase ones cholesterol levels, thus if an individual consumes too much over a long period of time, their risk of acquiring cardiovascular disease is heightened.
Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and consist of mainly oils from plants. Eating unsaturated fats more often helps to improve ones cholesterol levels.
Monounsaturated fats help to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) “bad” cholesterol levels and maintain healthy levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol. HDL works to help clear cholesterol from the blood stream, reducing ones risk of acquiring heart disease by working to support insulin sensitivity and energy levels. Whereas LDL cholesterol can build in the walls of arteries forming plaques, negatively impacting your health long term and increasing your risk of acquiring heart disease. In order for an individual to reap the benefits of monounsaturated fats, they must also lower their saturated fat and trans fat intake. Some food sources of monounsaturated fat include: olives, olive oils, avocaods, nuts and nut butters.
Polyunsaturated fats include omega 3 and omega 6 fats.Consuming polyunsaturated fats are beneficial as it helps to lower LDL cholesterol levels,and are of benefit in reducing inflammation and supporting optimal hormone levels, again, reducing ones risk of acquiring heart disease. Some food sources of polyunsaturated fats include: oily fish, soybean, nuts, and seeds.
Trans fats are considered the worst type of fat to consume. Trans fat decrease one’s levels of HDL, while raising LDL cholesterol levels, thus consuming a large amount of trans fats has been linked to an increased risk of acquiring cardiovascular disease. Most trans fats are formed by a process called hydrogenation, this helps to solidify the fat at room temperature and increases its shelf life. Trans fats are very cheap to produce, hence why they are found in a variety of different foods – particularily processed and fast foods, baked goods and shortening.
Aim to choose unsaturated fats more often!
Protein is made up of small organic molecules called amino acids, that attach together forming a long chain. Protein is essential for the growth, maintainence and repair of bones, skin, blood, muscles and cartilage. There are 20 different types of amino acids, which can be combined in numerous forms to make varying proteins. There are 9 essential amino acids, these amino acids are considered essential as they cannot be made by the body, thus must be consumed through food sources. A complete protein is a food source of protein, that contains all 9 essential amino acids, for example, quinoa. Similar to carbohydrates, protein contains 4 calories per gram. Some examples of sources of proteins found on food labels include: actin, collagen, fibronectin, and elastin.
4. Micronutrients – Quickly looking over the micronutrient content of foods is also of benefit. Looking at the various micronutrient content is beneficial if you are seeking out products that are high or low in a specific micronutrient. As a general guideline, choose foods that are high in calcium, iron, fibre, and vitamin C & A and foods that are lower in saturated & trans fats, cholesterol and sodium more often.
5. Percent Daily Value (% DV) – The percent daily value (% DV) is used to determine whether a food item is low or high in a certain nutrient. The %DV is based on the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for minerals and vitamins, and reference standards. A %DV of 5% or less is considered a little bit, while 15% or more is considered a lot, remember that this percentage is based on the serving size. The %DV is beneficial as a guide if you are deciding between two different products and want the product with a higher or lower content of a specific nutrient, for example a product that has a high content of iron. Note that the % DV is based on a 2,000 calorie diet for a healthy adult, per day, however you may eat more or less than this.
Below is a chart of various Nutrients and their Daily Values, provided by the Government of Canada:
The % DV for a nutrient is calculated by: dividing the amount of a nutrient in a serving size by its daily value, then multiplying that number by 100.
For example, knowing that the daily value for fibre is 25 g, if a certain granola bar contains 6 g of fibre, this means that the %DV for fibre would be 24%. (6 g ÷ 25 g) × 100 = 24% DV
6. Ingredient List – An ingredient list is the list of all the ingredients contained in a food product, and is found at the bottom of a nutrition facts table. Ingredients on food packaging are listed in descending order by the ingredient that is most predominant in the food product – meaning the heaviest ingredient is listed first and the lightest ingredient listed last.
Often nutrients are listed on ingredients list under many different names, ingredients to be mindful of include: trans and saturated fats, sugar, sodium, and additives and/ or preservatives. Sometimes reading the various ingredients listed and actually knowing what they are is difficult as ingredients such as sugar have numerous names: sucrose, HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup), crystalline fructose, barley malt, maltose, crystalline fructose, dextrose, coconut sugar, fruit juice, rice syrup, to name a few! After taking the time to read ingredient lists, you will become much more familiar with the ingredients used in food products.
A note on additives and preservatives:
Preservatives and additives are added to food for numerous reasons, and occur both naturally and synthetically. Preservatives are commonly added to foods to kill or slow the growth of harmful bacteria, extend the food products shelf life, to act as a gelling agent, an emulsifier, or a thickening agent, to amplify a products taste, or to enhance the colour. Often preservatives and additives are listed at the end of the ingredient list as they are often found in very small amounts. A few examples of additives/ preservatives include: citric acid which is used to prevent the browning of fruit,tocopherols and ascorbic acid which look like frightening ingredients but are simply the chemical names for Vitamin C and E and work to prevent microbial growth, lactic acid which is often added to fruit drinks and is the by product of corn or cane sugar, and sorbic acid which prevents your red wine from growing fungi and bacteria (which is very important ;)). Although numerous people are fearful of preservatives and additives, thinking they are necessary to avoid, in reality, if we did this, we would miss out on a lot of tasty foods! If preservatives and additives are present in foods, they must be included in safe amounts. If you are abiding by a balanced diet, the amount of preservatives and additives you are ingesting will not be of concern as overall your diet will consist of various fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If consumed in small amounts, preservatives and additives pose no risk to your health. Like most things in excess, if you are ingesting an excess amount of processed foods, you are more likely to be ingesting a large amount of preservatives and additives and this has potential to be harmful to your health. The only preservatives and additives to be mindful of are nitrates and nitrites, which are often used as preservatives in processed meats. Excess consumption of nitrates and nitrites have been linked to increased risk of colorectal cancer.
Choosing foods in which you know all of the ingredients contained in the food product is often challenging and not necessary, but with time, can become easier.
7. Nutrient Content and Health Claims – Finally, nutrient content and health claims are beneficial to make note of. Nutrient content and health claims are optional on food packaging/labels. Both nutrient content claims and health claims on food products are regulated by the Government of Canada. A nutrient content claims informs buyers of the amount of a specific nutrient contained within a specific food product. For example: “source of”, “high in”, “excellent source of”, “___ free”, “low in”, “___ reduced”. Whereas health claims are the statements found on food products that address the certain effects or benefits when consuming specific foods within a healthy diet, and the effect that this has on an individuals health.For example, “Adequate calcium and vitamin D as part of a healthful diet, along with physical activity, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis in later life.” Nutrient content and health claims are beneficial when comparing different products, when you are looking for a product that is high or low in a specific nutrient or when you want to know why it is beneficial to consume a certain nutrient.
Additionally, for products to be considered in various categories – “organic” for example, it is regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and must follow a set of specific guidelines to ensure that the product is not misleading to buyers.
Food is fuel!!! It’s handy to understand how to read a food label and nutrition facts table to determine the amount of energy your food contains and the various nutrients that you are fuelling your body with. Although this is the case, it is important to always keep it mind that you should aim to abide by a diet of moderation, balance and sustainability! #ALLFOODSFIT
Dietary fibre is a carbohydrate and the structural part of plant foods – such as vegetables, fruits and grains. Unlike other carb sources, dietary fibre is a non-glycemic carbohydrate. The human body is unable to digest or breakdown fibre, meaning that it cannot be broken down into digestible sugar molecules, thus is not a source of absorbable glucose. Despite this, ingested fibre can be fermented in the colon to produce short-chain fatty acids which can be used as a source of energy. There are two kinds of fibre: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fibre dissolves in water to form a gel like substance, enabling digestion to be slowed. This not only helps to lower blood cholesterol levels, but slowing digestion also allows blood glucose levels to remain steady, avoiding blood glucose spikes.
Some sources of soluble fibre include: fruits (apples, bananas, citrus fruits, pears, figs, prunes, strawberries, avocados, and apricots), vegetables (carrots, broccoli, brussel sprouts, green cabbage, and cauliflower), legumes (lentils, black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, lima beans, and green peas), chia seeds, flax seeds, psyllium, barley, oats, and oat bran.
In contrast, insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water and works to stimulate the movement of intestinal content through the digestive system, this adds bulk to one’s stool. Insoluble fibre is of large benefit to help normalize bowel movements – preventing constipation and irregular stools. Insoluble fibre is of particular importance for those with inflammatory bowl diseases (IBD) as it helps to optimize gut health.
Some insoluble, fibre rich food sources include: nuts (almonds & peanuts), whole grains, cereals, wheat bran, whole-wheat flour, brown rice and the skins of various fruits and vegetables – like kiwis! 🙂
Recommendations for individualized dietary fibre intake depend on a number of factors such as age, gender, and energy intake. As a general guideline, it is recommended that Canadian women consume ~25 grams of fibre per day and men consume~38 grams of fibre per day. Meeting these recommendations daily poses numerous benefits to your health!
The physiological roles and benefits of adequate dietary fibre consumption:
Individuals who consume adequate amounts of dietary fibre are at significantly lower risk for developing hypertension (HTN), type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease (CHD) obesity, stroke, and certain gastrointestinal (GI) diseases. Here’s why:
Sufficient fibre intake helps to lower blood pressure and serum cholesterol levels – Bile is a greenish-brown alkaline substance that aids in digestion. The liver uses blood cholesterol to make bile. On a high fibre diet, bile binds to fibre and is excreted in the feces. Alternatively, on a low fibre diet, much of the cholesterol in bile is absorbed back into the bloodstream, elevating ones blood cholesterol levels. Given this, soluble fibre helps to lower cholesterol by binding to bile. Abiding by a high fibre diet works to decrease cholesterol, reducing your risk of acquiring various cardiovascular diseases.
An ample intake of soluble fibre improves glycemia and insulin sensitivity (helps control blood sugar levels) in both non-diabetic and diabetic individuals – Persistent elevated blood sugar levels leads to chronic insulin circulation. Chronic insulin circulation induces insulin resistance and/or impaired glucose tolerance, often leading to the development of type 2 diabetes. Eating adequate amounts of fibre avoids this by slowing the rate of digestion. This helps to better regulate blood sugar levels as levels remain relatively consistent and are not spiked rapidly. Additionally, ingesting adequate amounts of fibre acts as a glycemic index reduction, this enables the body to release insulin at a slower rate, again, controlling blood glucose levels and avoiding glucose spikes. This reduces ones risk of acquiring type 2 diabetes.
Adequate fibre intake normalizes bowel movements – Without going into too much gross detail, adequate fibre intake both softens and increases the bulk of your stool, making it easier to pass – this limits constipation. Additionally, ample fibre intake limits diarrhea and watery stools by allowing for the absorption of water – this adds bulk to the stool and helps it to solidify. Eating adequate amounts of fibre mitigates both constipation and diarrhea, helping to maintain optimal bowel health.
Sufficient fibre intake helps with weight control and has potential to enhance weight loss – Adequate fibre intake results in increased satiety, leading you to feel satisfied after meals and full for longer. Foods rich in fibre are more filling in comparison to low-fibre foods. This prevents both over eating and hunger between meals, often leading to a decrease in energy intake and weight loss.
High fibre intake benefits numerous gastrointestinal disorders that are often seen with IBD such as: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, duodenal ulcer, and constipation– A high intake of dietary fibre in comparison to a low dietary intake has potential to alleviate negative GI discomfort, minimize symptoms, lessen gastric acid production, reduce reoccurring inflammation, and is likely to be a protective measure and prevent the reoccurrences of flare ups. For these reasons, a high fibre diet is often suggested for the management and prevention of various GI issues. It is important to keep in mind that individual nutritional needs vary. Specifically for those with GI complications, foods that cause GI discomfort vary based on the individual. For those with GI disorders consult a health professional prior to making drastic changes to your diet!
Prebiotic fibres have potential to enhance immune function (& are GREAT for your gut health!!) – Non-digestible carbs (such as probiotics and fibres) can be fermented in the colon, promoting the stimulation of the growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon. This encourages the generation of short-chain fatty acids, in turn stimulating the immune system.
For these reasons, fibre is an important part of your diet!
If you intend to increase your fibre intake, add fibre to your diet slowly and increase the amount gradually. Increasing your fibre intake too quickly has potential to result in negative implications such as abdominal bloating, stomach cramping and constipation. Additionally, increasing your fibre intake gradually gives the bacteria naturally present in your GI tract a chance to adjust to the change.
Tips for increasing dietary fibre in your diet:
Choose whole grain products more often – try sources such as barley, wild rice, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, bulgur wheat, buckwheat, whole wheat couscous, quinoa, wheat germ, lentil pasta, and edamame pasta.
Sneak fibre into your cooking and baking – some examples include: substituting whole-grain flour into baked goods, adding seeds (chia or hemp) to spaghetti sauces, adding beans and lentils into soups, or adding a few tablespoons of fibre rich food sources into snacks like yogurt bowls, smoothies, and cereals. This is an easy way to boost your fibre content and often you can’t even taste it!
Consume more fruits and vegetables – not only are fruits and veg rich in fibre, but rich in various vitamins and minerals too!
Incorporate more legumes into your diet – eating more plant based food sources will not only boost your fibre intake but will come with various other benefits to your health!
Choose snack foods that are rich in fibre – choose snack foods such as granola bars, cereals, crackers, gorps, granolas, and even popcorn that are rich in fibre.
Take time to read nutrition labels while grocery shopping – choose products that contain a high amount of fibre. Foods that contain at least four grams of fibre per serving are considered a rich source of fibre. Foods “very high” in fibre have at least six grams per serving.
Consider a fibre supplement – Although meeting your daily fibre recommendations through whole foods in comparison to a fibre supplement is preferred, if you find yourself habitually failing to consume an adequate amount of fibre, a fibre supplement may be a good idea. Consult a health professional prior to taking fibre supplements as some have potential to result in negative health implications.
So….Why is fibre a staple in your diet?
Fibre is an important part of your diet for numerous reasons as it poses many benefits to your health. In addition to the discussed advantages of consuming an adequate amount, fibre is a great source of various vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. To reap the benefits of fibre, you need to drink adequate amounts of water – fibre depends on water! When abiding by a high fibre diet, drinking enough water is particularly important as this prevents constipation and promotes movement throughout the GI tract.
Fibre is an important staple in your diet for the many benefits it has to your health!
Enjoy your weekend, I hope it’s filled with fibre!
Anderson, J., Baird, P., Davis Jr, R., Ferreri, S., Knudtson, M., & Koraym, A. et al. (2009). Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutrition Reviews, 67(4), 188-205. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x
Carbohydrates (CHO) act as the body’s primary source of energy during exercise. Energy derived from CHO’s comes from glucose and the breakdown of liver and muscle glycogen, providing fuel for the central nervous system (CNS) and working muscles.
The Importance of CHO’s for Endurance Athletes:
Optimal nutrition is essential for athletes to achieve their full potential. Athletic performance is limited by CHO availability, thus the quantity, variety, and timing of foods consumed has a large impact on an athlete’s performance. Adequate CHO intake is important for endurance athletes for numerous reasons such as it maintains high levels of CHO oxidation, enhances the CNS, prevents hypoglycemia, and maximizes skeletal muscle glycogen stores, which can later be used for fuel during exercise.
The diet of a physically active individual should consist of mainly CHO’s, equating to about 55-60% of their total caloric intake. Most sources of CHO’s consumed should come from unprocessed, fibre-rich, whole grains and fruits and vegetables.
During long durations of exercise, glycogen stores are almost entirely depleted. High-intensity, aerobic exercise for 1-hour in duration decreases liver glycogen by ≃ 55%, while a 2-hour strenuous workout nearly completely depletes the glycogen content of the liver and exercised muscles. Adequate levels of CHO’s must be consumed to replenish liver and muscle glycogen stores before and after training sessions. A low- CHO diet compromises both glycogen reserves and athletic performance. Inadequate CHO intake will leave endurance athletes feeling tired and fatigued, thus it is vital that individuals consume sufficient amounts of CHO-rich foods, at every meal when training. Additionally, consuming adequate amounts of CHO’s will spare proteins, and preserve tissue protein by minimizing protein breakdown for energy, resulting in gain of muscle mass.
What is CHO (glycogen) loading?
CHO loading is a strategy used by endurance athletes that enables individuals to maximize glycogen stores in both the muscles and liver. After CHO’s are consumed, they are broken down into glucose. Excess glucose is converted to glycogen and stored in the skeletal muscles or liver for later usage, or to assist as fuel during exercise. Glycogen can later be turned back into glucose when needed for energy.
CHO loading works to maximize one’s glycogen stores. Skeletal muscles provide the body with the majority of glycogen storage, equating to about 500 grams, while the liver provides about 100 grams of glycogen storage. CHO loading is done by reducing CHO intake and eating meals high in fat and protein, while simultaneously heavily exercising to exhaust glycogen stores. This is followed by reducing exercise duration and intensity and reversing to a high CHO diet prior to the days leading up to a long run or race. This process maximizes glycogen stores, enabling muscle glycogen stores to increase to 2-4 times their typical level. Typically, each 100 grams (g) of muscle contains 1.7 g of glycogen, CHO loading increases these stores to approximately 5g of glycogen per 100g of skeletal muscle.
CHO loading is often only recommended for athletes participating in endurance events of 1 hour long or more in duration. There is minimal benefit of CHO loading in low-moderate intensity or short-term exercise as these events do not require heavy demands on the body’s glycogen supply. Some activities beneficial for CHO loading include: half marathons and marathons, triathlons, distance swimming, cross-country skiing, soccer, cycling time trails, and distance canoeing. While some activities not suitable for CHO loading include: basketball, < 10 km runs, most swimming events, walking and hiking, weight-lifting, and most track and field events.
There are three main types of CHO loading:
Classic Carb Loading
Modified Carb Loading
Rapid Carb Loading
1. Classic Carb Loading
Reduce muscle glycogen content with prolonged exercise about 6 days prior to competition
Maintain a low-CHO diet (about 60-100 g/day) for 3 days to further deplete glycogen stores – glycogen depletion enhances formation of glycogen-storing enzymes in the muscle fiber
3 days prior to long run or race, transition to a high-CHO diet (400-700g/day) and maintain up until pre-competition meal
Two- Stage Dietary Plan to Increase Muscle Glycogen Storage
Stage 1 – Depletion
Day 1: Perform demanding exercise to deplete muscle glycogen stores
Day 2, 3, &4: Low-CHO intake (high % fat and pro intake in diet)
Stage 2 – CHO Loading
Day 5, 6, &7: High-CHO intake (regular % of pro intake in diet)
Abide by a high-CHO pre-competition meal
Modified Carb Loading
6-day procedure that does not require prior exercise to exhaustion
Exercise at ~75% of VO2 max (the maximum rate of oxygen consumption measured during exercise) for 1.5 hours, 6 days prior to long run or race
On consecutive days, gradually taper or reduce exercise duration
Continue to gradually reduce exercise duration, while increasing CHO intake for the 3 days leading up the the long run or competition (similar to the classic CHO loading method)
This method reduces some of the negative effects associated with the classic CHO loading procedure
Days 1-3: CHO supply about 50% of total calories.
Days 4-6: CHO increases to 70% of total energy intake.
Rapid Carb Loading – 1-day procedure
Engage in 3 minutes of intense exercise
24 hours prior to competition, ingest foods containing a high glycemic index (10g/kg body weight)
This method results in ~ an 80% increase in glycogen storage (similar to other 2 day and 6 day regimes)
Negative Aspects of CHO loading:
Only beneficial for prolonged, intense aerobic activities lasting more than 60 minutes in duration
Potential negative implications: muscle tightness and swelling, loss of flexibility, weight gain before competition (due to the addition of 2.7g of water with each gram of glycogen stores)
Potential to negatively affect individuals with muscle enzyme deficiencies
Goals of Post-Exercise Nutrition
Replenish electrolytes and fluid lost in sweat
Restore glycogen stores
Consume protein (amino acids) to aid in muscle repair and synthesis
So… is CHO loading actually effective?
YES, YES, YES!!!
CHO loading is a very effective method for endurance athletes! CHO loading prevents athletes from “hitting a wall” which often leads athletes to feel a sudden loss of energy or fatigue while participating in endurance events. CHO loading works effectively to maximize skeletal muscle glycogen stores, which are used to constantly replenish glucose circulating in the blood and as a main source of fuel during exercise. To ensure optimal performance, ingesting CHO’s one to four hours prior to and post endurance exercise is critical as glycogen- synthesizing enzymes are most active during this time, thereby increasing CHO availability during exercise. CHO loading is a well researched, common, and simple method used by endurance athletes that greatly enhances performance.
What is better than another excuse to eat more carbs?!?
Happy CHO Loading!!
With help from my favourite Professor at the University of Adelaide, Dr. Nichola Thompson.
 Burke, L., Hawley, J., Wong, S. and Jeukendrup, A. (2011). Carbohydrates for training and competition. Journal of Sports Sciences, 29(sup1), pp.S17-S27.
 Burke, L., Thomas, T. and Erdman, K. (2016). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(3), pp.501-528.
 Donaldson, C., Perry, T. and Rose, M. (2010). Glycemic Index and Endurance Performance. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 20(2), pp.154-165.
 Getzin, A., Milner C., and Harkins M. (2017). Fueling the Triathlete: Evidence- Based Practical Advice for Athletes of All Levels. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 16(4):240–246.
 Jensen, J., Rustad, P., Kolnes, A. and Lai, Y. (2011). The Role of Skeletal Muscle Glycogen Breakdown for Regulation of Insulin Sensitivity by Exercise. Frontiers in Physiology, 2.
 Ranchordas, M., Dawson, J. and Russell, M. (2017). Practical nutritional recovery strategies for elite soccer players when limited time separates repeated matches. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14(1).
For starters… What is apple cider vinegar and why does it taste so bad?
Apple cider vinegar is the by-product of fermented apples. To make apple cider vinegar, apples are crushed and the juice is extracted. In the first part of the fermentation process, yeast is added to the extracted apple juice – this converts the natural sugars contained within the apple juice to alcohol. The second fermentation process converts the alcohol into acetic acid, by means of the addition of acetic acid bacteria (AAB). This mixture then ferments for as long as 3 months, resulting in apple cider vinegar. During the fermentation process, a non-toxic goo, known as “the mother” made up of acetic acid bacteria and yeast forms in the mixture.
While some companies that make apple cider vinegar choose to pasteurize it by straining out “the mother”, this goo from the fermentation process is what gives apple cider vinegar all of its potential health benefits. As a result of the fermentation processes, apple cider vinegar is very low in sugar, but very acidic, giving it a very pungent smell and sour taste.
Why apple cider vinegar may be of benefit to your health:
Way back in the day, the Ancient Greeks often used apple cider vinegar to treat wounds. Today it is consumed for its many potential health benefits.
For those who are habitual consumers of apple cider vinegar, apple cider vinegar:
May enhance gut health – as it is rich in enzymes and various strains of probiotics enabling it to kill harmful gut bacteria
May help to boost immune function, increasing the bodies ability to fight various infections and pathogens
May help reduce risk of acquiring Diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels
May help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, thus increase heart health
May reduce risk of acquiring certain types of cancers by both slowing cancer cell growth and shrinking tumours
May enhance weight loss, by slowing digestion and reducing visceral fat
May help to clear acne when used as a natural toner – the antibacterial properties found in apple cider vinegar might help to reduce red spots, balance the pH of your skin, and help to exfoliate and soften the skin
May help to boost energy
How should you consume apple cider vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar can be used in baking and cooking, and is frequently used in salad dressings, or for the brave by adding 1-2 tablespoons into a glass of water or tea. It is not recommended that you drink apple cider vinegar plain as the acidity it contains has potential to cause eroding of the enamel of your teeth. If you choose to add apple cider vinegar directly into a beverage and find it to be too acidic tasting, add a teaspoon of honey.
In short ….
Although not all the potential health claims for apple cider vinegar are backed up by scientific-based evidence or high-quality clinical trials, it is definitely worth a shot to try it out for its vast potential medicinal health benefits. Particularly for those with IBD diseases, apple cider vinegar is a rich source of probiotics that is a simple and cost effective treatment that may be of great benefit to your gut health!
Enjoy the rest of your week!
Sakr, H. (2016). Protective effect of Apple Cider Vinegar on Stress Induced Gastric Ulcer. Journal Of Medical Science And Clinical Research. doi: 10.18535/jmscr/v4i1.28
Saqib, A. (2017). Antimicrobial Activity of Apple Cider Vinegar. Mapana – Journal Of Sciences, 16(2), 11-15. doi: 10.12723/mjs.41.2