Eat and be merry

Turkey, gravy, sweet potatoes, rolls, pies, stuffing, cornbread, wine, beer… the gluttony of Thanksgiving is upon us once again. But I’m not here to tell you what you think I’m going to tell you. I’m not here to lecture you on the danger of simple carbs and or the threat of rich sauces. In fact, as a healthcare professional, I’m here to tell you to go ahead and enjoy your Thanksgiving feast. It may surprise you that someone in healthcare would condone this behaviour, but it’s only one day of the year and everyone participating knows that they’re dumping their bodies with sugar. What concerns me is the sugar that you consume on a regular basis that you aren’t aware of. Let me tell you more about that.

Sugar is necessary for our brain and bodies, but it’s not something you need to go out of your way to find. Even if we don’t eat the white powdery sugar, we find sugar in other products that end in “-ose.” For example, lactose is in milk and fructose is in fruit. These sugars feed our cells, and once our cells have had their fill we store the excess in our livers, and once our liver has its fill, we store the rest as fat. So, a little bit of sugar — taking into consideration its many forms — is not inherently bad; it’s when we eat too much of it that it can lead to obesity, high triglycerides, fatty livers, and diabetes.

Unfortunately, many forms of sugars are often not obvious in our foods. Sugar is used to provide flavour and texture to foods, preserve foods, decrease acidity, ferment and help increase the bulk of foods. When it’s used in these different ways, it’s not labelled specifically on the label as “sugar.” Instead, you see it disguised as high-fructose corn syrup, cane juice, cane syrup, crystal dextrose, anhydrous dextrose, honey, fruit juice concentrate, and molasses. This makes it hard to track how much sugar you’re taking in.

So here’s a guide to reducing your sugar consumption on a daily basis. Look at the label. Ingredients are listed in the order of weight. If sugar (fructose, glucose) or one of its codewords is near the top of the list, then you know the item is laden with sugar and should be avoided. However, an even better way of avoiding these sneaky sugars is to eat a diet with more whole foods, where no added sugars are lurking (read: no weird ingredients on the label).

One of the dangers of sugar is that it’s hiding in foods that we buy regularly. Of course, when you’re checking out a new food, you will probably read the label. But what about foods you buy all the time? When’s the last time you checked if your favourite cereal is really as healthy as you remember? Every once in a while, check your staples to see if they’re as good for you as you think. Surely you’ll find that you can switch out some of them with healthier alternatives.

So on Thanksgiving, enjoy your food, family, and friends. But when it’s over, pay some attention to what you eat on a regular basis. Happy Thanksgiving!

Shoo flu, don’t bother me

When everyone around you is getting sick, you know the obvious rules, like “don’t share water bottles,” and “don’t stand in the way of your friend’s sneeze,” but what if you want to go above and beyond this year? What if you want a perfect track record – no sickness at all? With cold and flu season just around the corner, we thought it would be the perfect time to help you in your quest to keep yourself and your family healthy.

The easiest way to stay healthy is to avoid the bugs in the first place and to accomplish that there are a few things you should do:

1. Wash your hands frequently. Preferably with soap, but hand sanitizer works too.

2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

3. Carry your own pen. People share pens, but people don’t clean pens.

4. Sanitize public gym equipment before using it.

5. Be careful where you set your cell phone. Consider all of the places your phone has been, and then consider the fact that you put that phone on your face.

6. Avoid touching heavily used items, like water fountains and coffee pots.

7. Consider an annual flu shot. It’s best to get one in October to give your body more time to develop the antibodies that fight viruses but later is fine too. Remember that the shot only protects against 3-4 strains of influenza, so don’t get careless.

We recognize that it’s impossible to avoid all exposure to viruses, so it’s just as important to keep your immune system strong. There’s no single way to do that, but there are a lot of little things you can do that will go a long way:

1. Try to eat a little more fruits and vegetables. Fresh and raw is best, but frozen is the next best option if fresh produce is unavailable. Eating an actual piece of produce is better than a multivitamin for your immunity.

2. Limit your alcohol intake – keep it to a maximum of one drink per night.

3. Get plenty of sleep. Most adults need at least 7-9 hours of good, quality sleep a night. (Psst, we actually have an entire blog post about it.)

4. De-stress. Relax with family and friends, laugh often, or even consider getting a massage every once in a while.

5. Take care of your stomach. 80% of your immune system is thought to be located in your digestive system. Boost the good bacteria by eating yoghurt, kefir, and probiotics. And avoid unnecessary antibiotics as they can kill off immunity-boosting bacteria in your gut.

6. Don’t forget about Vitamin D in the winter. Aside from taking a nutritional supplement, you can also eat foods with Vitamin D, like fish, dairy, soy, and mushrooms, or use a safe tanning bed.

7. Drink hot tea with lemon and honey. The lemon will help thin mucus, and the honey kills bacteria.

You don’t have to do all of these things of course, but trying one or two can go a long way to keeping away colds this winter! Ultimately though, we just want you and your family to be healthy and happy. So whether it be our suggestions, or someone else, we encourage you to try out some new better for you habits – we’re sure you’ll be happy that you did.