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Nutrition Tips

Secrets to Longevity

Nutrition Tips with Julia O’Loughlin, RHN

I recently read an interesting book, “The Blue Zones” by Dan Buettner. The book investigates the areas of the world with the highest populations of people who have lived past their 100th birthday.  See below for a list of common factors Buettner observed in these populations and believes to be the secrets to longevity.

  • Calcium and magnesium
  • Eating a light dinner
  • Engaging in daily physical activity
  • Maintaining social networks
  • Moderate sun exposure
  • Having a sense of purpose (reason to get up in the morning)
  • Omega 3
  • Goat’s milk
  • Polyphenols, flavanoids and antioxidants
  • Plant-based diet
  • Consumption of seasonal, local foods
  • Whole grains
  • Engaging in ritual
  • Focusing on family
  • Laughing often
  • Spending time with like-minded people
  • Having sacred time
  • Eating less meat and more nuts
  • Giving something back to the community

Dieting is not the Answer

Nutrition Tips with Julia O’Loughlin, RHN

Fat loss is not about dieting: it is about eating for a long and healthy life. It is a lifestyle change that is permanent, so unless you seek a lifetime of exerting willpower and discipline, a diet should not consist of an eating plan you don’t enjoy.  The cornerstone of successful weight loss is finding healthy foods that you love to eat, those that maintain a healthy weight, extend your lifespan and increase your vitality.  Eating practices should not be based on depriving ourselves of the foods we enjoy, but rather on satisfying all nutritional needs with foods that are delicious, meet our individual tastes and habits, minimize hunger, and boost energy.

The answer is really quite simple: eat whole foods; foods that are in the natural form, foods that have not been refined, foods that have not been processed. When it comes to food, the emphasis should be not on quantity but on quality.

You may ask, if the answer is so simple, why don’t more people know about it or how come there are so many diets that state the opposite?  Well, most people and creators of the fad diets understand weight gain and weight loss in a very 1 dimensional sense: as related to the amount of fat we consume.  Understood in this way, the answer seems simple: eat less fat and we will lose weight.  Enter the plethora of low fat/diet foods, a North American scam that has lead to the understanding that less fat is equivalent to better health and being thin. With some critical analysis, not to mention cross-cultural analysis, it is clear that this is not so.

The factors that are involved in weight gain and/or an inability to lose weight despite doing things “properly” are complex and varied.  Poor nutrition, hormone imbalance, acidic pH level, stress and liver congestion are amongst the most common culprits however. Notice that very few fad diets address any one of these factors.

Think of low fat yogurt: a product that, via an industrialized process, has had its fat content cut in half, is in essence a product with poor taste, unpalatable texture and few health benefits. The solution? Add in excessive sugar to improve the taste, milk solids to improve the texture and synthetic vitamins to meet CFIA demands. The result: weight gain and acidic pH due to the sugar content and milk solids, a confused liver due to the foreign combination of nutrients, and a hormone imbalance that can cause your body to crave more food than it actually needs, and the wrong foods at that.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am not saying that fat consumption doesn’t play a role in weight gain.  It most certainly does.  However, again with the emphasis being on quality rather than quantity, it is easier to understand the relationship between the fat we eat and the fat we gain.  The body uses certain fats for energy and stores only fats in excess and fats it has difficulty metabolizing. The easier a fat is to breakdown, the more readily available it is for the body to use as energy (metabolism).  For example, butter, a commonly demonized saturated fat, is made up of short chains fatty acid, not long chain fatty acids and is therefore more available for energy than red meat, which is made up of long chains.

Whole foods work because, simply put, they meet the demands of any body.  Whether the need be for cleansing or for building, whole foods are the answer.  They balance hormones, create a healthy pH balance, support a healthy liver and meet all nutrient requirements of the body.   They are indeed, the long term answer for meaningful weight loss.

Experimenting with Whole Grains

Nutrition Tips with Julia O’Loughlin RHN


The health benefits of whole grains are vast in comparison to their nutrient-depleted refined grain counterparts.  A whole grain has all its original parts intact, meaning it contains the fiber-rich bran, the nutrient rich germ, and the starchy endosperm. When a grain is refined, the bran and germ are removed, and most of the fiber, protein, and a number of vitamins and minerals are removed, too.

Because food, by definition, has to contain nutrients, refined grains are required to be enriched, meaning that some of the lost nutrients — thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, iron, and folic acid — must be synthetically added back in. Nutrients that are not replaced are vitamins E, K, and B-6, pantothenic acid, magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, protein, and fiber.

Careful when purchasing whole grain products, it’s easy to be tricked into thinking a food is a whole grain when it’s not. Just because a grain product is dark doesn’t necessarily mean it is a whole grain. Sometimes molasses or caramel coloring is added to breads, darkening them.  Unless a grain ingredient is listed as “whole,” it is a refined flour and not a whole grain. See below for a list of  my favourite whole grains.

  • Brown rice (regular, not quick)
  • Whole or rolled oats (not quick or instant)
  • Whole wheat
  • Wild rice
  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Kasha
  • Cracked wheat, also called bulgur
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Spelt
  • Whole rye
  • Kamut

You Are What You Digest

Nutrition Tips With Registered Holistic Nutritionist Julia O’ Loughlin

We’ve all heard the saying “you are what you eat,” but that’s actually only a half truth.  The saying should really be “you are what you digest,” because without proper digestion, we can not fully benefit from the potential health impacts of the food we eat.  In order for nutrients to be absorbed by the body, they have to be properly broken down.  This process occurs in the stomach and is accomplished with the help of hydrochloric acid (gastric acid) and the body’s own digestive enzymes.  Some health professionals, including North Vancouver naturopathic doctor John Matsen, believe that inefficient digestion is a factor in ALL disease and its improvement is the single best tool for preventative medicine. So, how can you increase your own digestive abilities? See below for a list of simple ways that will help you rest assured you are absorbing all the wonderful nutrients from the food you eat.

  • Chew food properly – Stimulates the production of gastric juices and the release of an enzyme in the saliva that begins the breakdown of starchy foods.
  • Prevent dilution of hydrochloric acid – don’t drink large amounts of cold fluids with meals as this dilutes digestive juices and causes premature dumping of food into the small intestines.
  • Eat smaller, simpler meals, more frequently – to increase metabolism, relieve difficult digestion and balance blood sugar.
  • Do not eat with upset or rushed – this can upset the digestive process and lead to malabsorption.
  • Eat prior to 7:30 pm – As the digestive process weakens throughout the day, the earlier you eat the higher likelihood that nutrients will be effectively assimilated and absorbed.
  • Enhance consumption of digestive enzymes – do so by supplementation or by eating more raw foods, particularly tropical fruits.
  • Increase production of hydrochloric acid – begin day with a cup of water mixed with apple cider vinegar or lemon, or supplement with Betaine HCl-.