Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spa Girl asks what's in your Shopping Bag?

You have most likely noticed I have been writing about food and vitamins this month.  Well there is a good reason! March is Nutrition Month in North America and there is nothing more satisfying than a well planned meal--especially if you share it with friends.  And let's face it, food is a major part of our day and so important to our overall well being.  What we eat directly impacts on how our bodies function, so why not make it fun, colourful, local, organic, and nutritious.

I am a foodie and will be the first to admit that I love Spa Cuisine!  However you can't eat out everyday, so knowing how and what to prepare at home is a critical part to good nutrition. Eating Well suggests "the best way to ensure you have everything you need to prepare delicious meals is to keep a well-stocked pantry. When you cook at home you can prepare healthy, nourishing food using quality, fresh ingredients—much better than prepared food that is often loaded with calories, fats, sodium and added sweeteners."

They have provided some great tips on How to Stock Your Pantry...

Spa Girl asks did you know?

·       Canadians spend about 70 minutes a day on eating, while the French spend about 135 minutes a day.
·       Milk is 87% water. The nutrients, like protein, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals are all found in the other 13%.
·       Only 11 per cent of the salt we eat is added by the salt shaker; over 75 per cent comes from processed and restaurant foods.·       Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium from foods.
·       Fluid needs vary depending on your age and gender. Teens and adults need anywhere between 8 and 13 cups of fluid each day. Water is great, but milk, juice, soup and anything else you drink also count as fluid.
·       Carbohydrate is stored as glycogen in muscles, where it is used as a source of quick energy. If you deplete your glycogen stores during long steady intense activity like marathon running, you will become fatigued and exhausted. The only way to refill muscle glycogen stores is by eating carbohydrate-rich foods.
·       Broccoli is a source of calcium. You can get 50 mg of calcium from a 3/4 cup (175 mL) portion. Adults aged 19–50 need 1000 mg of calcium every day.
·       Avocados are a super food, relatively high in fat and calories, but one of the best foods you can eat as they are packed full of nutrients, heart-healthy compounds and  disease-fighting antioxidants.
Enjoy a lifetime of good health by making nutritious choices where you live, work, and play. Use these useful tools and science-based information that you can trust. 

Assess Yourself
Assess your current lifestyle and eating habits. Find out if you are on track or if some changes are needed.
Learn more

Plan, Shop, Cook
From tips on meal planning to delicious new recipes to try, if you like to shop, cook and eat well we’ve got tips and ideas for you!
Learn more

Nutrition A-Z
Nutrition Month 2012 is dedicated to busting up popular food and nutrition myths by bringing truths to Canadians from dietitians, the food and nutrition experts.

Use these 10 tips to learning more about where food comes from and how to get your family more involved in mealtime.

For more information on how to become or where to find a Registered Dietitian near you, go to www.dietitians.ca

Sometimes all it takes to eat healthy is a well-stocked pantry. Here are 10 tricks that will save you time in the kitchen

Sustainable Table celebrates local sustainable food, educates consumers on food-related issues and works to build community 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spa Girl says Sweet Dreams!

"Romantic, soothing, creative, erotic--what kind of dreams do you desire?"

So starts the beginning of my most recent addition to Spa Girls library--Making Herbal Dream Pillows by Jim Long, co-owner of Long Creek Herbs in Oak Grove, Arkansas.

I received my first herbal pillow from my God Mother. A wonderfully wise woman who owned a physio-therapy practice on one of the magical Gulf Island for years and years. I found them irresistible for their heavenly aromatherapy scents and I also seemed to have vivid dreams when I used them.

Making Herbal Dream Pillows shares 17 recipes for "dreams made to order" and describes characteristics of the herbs and flowers  most effective in aromatherapy.  What I also appreciate, is the book provides information on how to grow and dry your own herbs in order to prepare them for your special dream pillow.  And while it is snowing outside my door as I write this post--I am still well into planning this summer's herb garden and several of the herbs and flowers I will be growing will be used in my herb dream pillow. 

For those following Spa Girl blog know from past posts I have been slowly transitioning my wee small garden and patio pots into all edibles or useable herbs for my aromatherapy DIY's, which has been a delightful gardening work out.  Over 30 eatable plants and counting!

The European craft of making Dream Pillows, also known as comfort pillows dates back several centuries when herbs were considered to have magical powers.  Today, while we might not believe in their magical powers, we definitely know the art of aromatherapy is a powerful tool in the  arsenal of health practitioners both traditional and alternative.

One of the most important aspects of selecting herbs for aromatherapy use is to know what they are used for--don't for example, use an herb for sleep that is meant to wake you up--and make sure you find their aroma pleasing.  Smell is essential!

All scents connect you with memories, and you want to ensure those memories are enjoyable ones! 

From reviewing many different recipes it seems the most common herbs used in dream pillows are chamomile, hops, lavender, mugwort, and rosemary.  

Here is a recipe for those hoping on and off air planes

Travellers Comfort Pillow

Mix together and place in a small bag and tuck into your pillow:
1/2 cup mugwort
1/2 cup rose petals
1/4 cup lavender flowers
1/4 cup marjoram
1 tablespoon passionflower (leaves or petals) 
Sweet Dreams!
Making Herbal Dream Pillows : Secret Blends for Pleasant Dreams by Jim Long

Friday, March 16, 2012

Spa Girl says this is the one that should not get away--fish oil

I am a firm believer in both traditional and alternative medicine.  Both have played a critical role in my overall well-being; and I have had the good fortune of having doctors that support and encourage this twofold path.

One of my doctors routinely asks me if I am taking my fish oil and each time I confess, yes but not faithfully!  Spa Girl definitely needs to heed her own advice!

Most of my friends when asked that same question answer "of course" or "why should I take fish oil" and when I dig deeper, most of the time it boils down to a lack of knowledge about which omega-3 to take and its overall importance to our health.  I find the same confusion exists around multi-vitamins, but that's another blog!

Two of the most important omega-3's found in fish oil are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoicacid) critical for heart and brain health.  But like all supplements, some are better than others, so make sure to ask your health practitioner which are the best brands and make sure you read the labels, you definitely want a brand that has EPA and DHA.

In researching this blog I came across a great deal of information (both pro and con) and one of the best, and most detailed overviews was by Tracy Shields, co-owner and Marketing Director of N3 Oceanic, Inc.  She is a writer, a triathlete, and nutrition junkie.

Tracy discusses the "five big myths about fish oil you simply can’t afford to Ignore"!

Myth 1: The best omega-3s can be found in flax and walnuts. They’re healthier for you than fish. 
It’s true that there are omega-3s found in flax and other plant-based foods. But they are not the best version of omega-3s. All omega-3 fatty acids are "essential" fatty acids (EFA) because they are vital for normal metabolism and cannot be synthesized or created by the human body. 
There are three main types of omega-3s: EPA, DHA and ALA. Foods like flaxseed, leafy green veggies and walnuts all have the ALA form of omega-3s, and while they are very healthy for you, our bodies need to work to convert them into something recognizable that we can actually use—EPA and DHA. Fish and high-quality fish-oil capsules contain EPA and DHA, so they’re already in the form your body recognizes. The fish in the sea have done all the work for you! No extra work needs to be done to convert anything. EPA and DHA are required in high amounts for optimal heart and brain heath. 
There are also two issues with ALA that prevent it from being the best form of EFA:
• Some people’s bodies have trouble converting ALA to EPA and DHA, or they simply cannot convert it at all.
• If you are taking an omega-3 for the prevention of heart disease, the ALA form has not been shown in case studies to lower triglycerides significantly, whereas EPA and DHA have. In fact, most studies on omega-3s have been done on EPA and DHA, simply because these molecules have already been converted. They are also the two essential fatty acids that make up the brain. 
Myth 2: Omega-6s are just as important. 
While this is a true statement, it’s a little misleading. Both omega-3s and omega-6s are essential. We need them to survive and we need to find them in our diet because our bodies cannot make them. While omega-3s are found in fish, omega-6s are found in plant-based vegetable oils. Trouble is, we ingest 14-25 times more omega-6s than omega-3s when the ratio should be balanced. Years ago, our intake of omega-3s compared to omega-6s was closer to a 1:1 ratio. Our diets consisted of a lot more fish and grass-eating wild game animals and a lot less vegetable oil, corn and soy products (did you know that corn oil or a variety of it is found in almost ALL our snack foods as a processing agent?). Today, it is grossly imbalanced. In fact, “Some researchers believe an imbalance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may lead to a variety of mental disorders, including hyperactivity, depression, brain allergies and schizophrenia.” (fi.edu) 
The other problem is inflammation. Even though omega-6s are essential, they tend to cause inflammation, whereas omega-3s reduce inflammation. When we have a 1:1 ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s, our chance of inflammation—including that associated with heart disease—is vastly lower. 
Did you also know that scientists studying the evolution of man’s brain found that “early humans who lived near water sources and ate seafood experienced the big brain change!” Conversely, “the inland Australopithecines did not have access to omega-3 essential fatty acids and got stuck at a brain capacity that was not much bigger than a chimpanzee for three million years.” (fi.edu) Omega-3s in the form of EPA and DHA grow your brain! 
Myth 3: I get enough omega-3 from fish. 
There’s no question, eating fish is healthy for you. Not only do you get valuable amounts of EPA and DHA in fish, but they are also an excellent source of protein, vitamin B-12 and iron. There are also trace amounts of iodine, calcium, phosphorus and vitamins A and D found in most fish. 
Trouble is, fish can be contaminated with various toxins including metals like mercury and lead, industrial chemicals like PCBs, and even pesticides like DDT and dieldrin. Some fish are so contaminated that the federal government and environmental protection agencies recommend limited or no consumption of those fish. As an example, wild-caught Alaskan salmon is a relatively safe fish to eat, whereas farmed Atlantic salmon is one of the worst. 
And yet, as a rule, we are still only supposed to eat a maximum of two servings per week. How can we balance our ratio of omega-3s with omega-6s if we can only eat two servings per week while getting 25 servings of omega-6s? Cutting back on omega-6s can help, but supplementing with omega-3s is crucial in maintaining better health and a more balanced metabolism. 
Myth 4: Supplements such as fish oil don’t do anything for you. 
This one is false. For the past 30 years, research has only grown to include more and more reliable, well-respected studies on the benefits of supplementing with EPA and DHA. In fact, in 2004 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave "qualified health claim" status to EPA and DHA fatty acids. In short, EPA and DHA have been found to improve cardiovascular disease, decrease triglycerides, reduce inflammation, improve immune function, improve memory, increase eye health and much more. 
According to some, "high-dose pharmaceutical-grade fish oil is as close to a medical miracle as we will see in the 21st century." For hundreds of customers’ feedback on what supplements can and will do for you, please see our Testimonials page. 
Myth 5: Fish oil is only for people who are sick. 
False. They don’t call omega-3s “essential fatty acids” for nothing. They are essential to every living thing on the planet that has a brain. They are not just required for superhuman health, but to keep us alive and generally well on a very basic level. Unfortunately, our bodies do not make them on their own. That means we need to find them in our diet. As short as 50 years ago, fish and wild-caught game were abundant. But now with the onslaught of processed foods and meats procured from animals that are now exclusively grain-fed (instead of grass-fed), there are virtually no omega-3s in our diet. According to some experts, we only eat 23 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per day. That’s way below the recommended 950 milligrams of omega-3s necessary for our survival. It’s no wonder that heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other kinds of brain disorders are astronomically high. Without omega-3s people become sick!
The Best Omega-3s Come From Norway

Ask a health expert: Do I need a fish oil supplement?

What You Need To Know About Fish Oil

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spa Girl & Spa Cuisine (nutritious and delicious)

I have posted several articles about spa cuisine and related information on diet and nutrition since starting Spa Girl and as we head into gardening season, I thought it was a good time to touch base on how important what we eat is to our overall good health. 

Those of us looking to improve or whip up something creative often look to spa cuisine for inspiration.  It's all about simple, healthy, nutritious and delicious recipes. Colour, Variety, Freshness, and Organic are the foundation of eating for your health. And like exercise, you need to find foods that you love to eat and recipes that incorporate "CVFO" and gradually your diet will become healthier. 

There are three basic food groups, carbohydrates, proteins and fats. The MayoClinic.com states that a ratio of about half your daily calories in carbs, a quarter in protein and a quarter in fat will set up the right basis for a healthy diet. Whole-grain breads, cereals and pasta will provide healthy carbs and dietary fiber. Low-fat dairy items and lean meats and fish will give you plenty of protein to process fat-soluble vitamins like A, E, K and D. And make sure you have a variety of colours in the fresh produce you select in order to provide the vitamins and minerals needed for healthy cell function.

I found a great book, check it out and enjoy the festival of food from garden to table!

Healthy Spa Cuisine: 400 Signature Recipes from the World's Top Spas [Paperback] Lynn Nicholson (Author), Tracy A. Smith (Author)

Cordon Bleu Chef Lynn Nicholson treats you to healthy, delicious recipes from more than sixty of the most renowned international spas. From Bangkok to Carmel, top spa chefs share their secrets for creating low-calorie, highly satisfying meals that have put their kitchens on the culinary map.  
Learn what spa cuisine is and how you can incorporate it into your life from some leading spa chefs.
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Fruit and Vegetables Are Critical For Healthy Eating