Saturday, June 25, 2016

A Look at the Myths and Benefits of Low-Carb Diets

On average, approximately one-third of Canadians are considered to be obese, which is why Canadians are progressively turning to diets to help them lose weight and stay healthy.

For many, the word “diet” can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Healthy eating by way of low-carb diets is a safe and effective way of keeping your body properly nourished, and will also keep you feeling strong and energized in addition to helping you with weight loss in the process.

Of course there are many myths surrounding all diets, with one of the most common myths being that diets that are low in carbohydrates are harder to stick to and will leave you feeling hungry. People often mistake low-carb diets as meaning you have to cut out all of your favourite foods. However, that is just not the case. As with every diet, certain foods must be restricted, but with a low-carb diet in particular the types of foods that you will eat will depend solely upon what your main goals are. It is important to remember that being on a low-carb diet doesn’t necessarily mean you’re on a no-carb diet and have to deprive yourself of certain foods. It simply means that you are choosing to eat fewer carbohydrates and more of the “healthy” fats and proteins. These include grass-fed meats such as beef, port and chicken, wild-caught fish such as salmon or trout, olive oil, nuts, and high-fat dairy products such as cheese and yogurt. If weight-loss isn’t your main reason for wanting to go on a low-carb diet, then you can also include potatoes, legumes, and non-gluten grains such as rice and quinoa in your diet in moderation. Moderation is key to healthy eating and dieting, because when you eat well, you feel well. It is important to avoid sugary soft drinks, candy, gluten-grains such as wheat and pasta, trans-fats, and omega-6 rich seeds, oils, and vegetables like canola oils, cottonseed oil, and corn.

Another common myth about low-carb diets is that they are high in saturated fats, therefore must be dangerous and will cause health problems (such as heart disease) if you eat low-carb on a long-term basis. This has never been proven to be true. In fact, on a low-carb diet, saturated fats like meats and omega-3 rich eggs are encouraged, and have been proven to be beneficial for one’s overall health. In comparison to low-fat diets, low-carb diets have been proven to be the better option to reduce body fat, blood pressure, and also improve symptoms of diabetic patients.

These health benefits are why more and more physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary are strong supporters of low-carb diets – because not only are they essential in keeping you feeling robust, but they are also easy to manage and proven to be effective.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Low-Carb Diets: Paleo Diet

Diets are not always easy to maintain. However, with the appropriate knowledge on exactly what it means to “diet” and the types of foods that you are putting into your body, as well as a little bit of tenacity and the will to follow through, you would actually be surprised by just how easy dieting and healthy eating can be to sustain. With 60% of Canadian adults and over 20% of Canadian children currently struggling with obesity, family physician Dr. Ali Ghahary is a strong advocate of low-carb diets and physical activity being implemented into patient’s health care regimens.

Unlike certain fad diets that are out there today that focus solely on fast weight loss and counting calories, low-carb diets such as the Paleo diet (also known as the Hunter-Gatherer diet) are designed to be long-term and help control your glycemic levels, increase your HDL cholesterol levels (otherwise known as the “good” cholesterol), and restrict certain (but not all!) carbohydrates, with the focal point being on your overall well-being. Following a Paleo-based diet is beneficial to your health and decreases your risk of certain health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, osteoporosis, and even certain cancers. Accompanying weight loss, a Paleo based diet also improves your digestion, reduces chronic inflammation, and gives you more energy.

The term “Paleo” comes from the prehistoric era from over 2 million years ago known as Paleolithic. If you think about it, processed foods and many of the ingredients that we are ingesting into our systems today did not exist back then – food had to be found or hunted. The Paleo diet gets back to basics, so to speak, and was established upon the foods and lifestyles of our prehistoric ancestors. It predominantly consists of grass-produced meats, omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, walnuts, flaxseed oil, soybeans), rich antioxidants (fruits and vegetables), while it excludes things like processed foods, dairy, grain products, salt and sugar.

The Paleo diet is all about limiting certain foods and strategically choosing others, and it is one of the best diets that you could go on to preserve a healthy body and mind. One incentive of following a Paleo-based diet is the fact that you don’t have to count calories and can even indulge in some of your favourite foods and beverages, as long as it’s done in moderation. For example, dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or higher, is a great source of antioxidants and can lower your risk of heart disease, and while the Paleo diet doesn’t encourage anyone to start drinking alcohol, studies have also suggested that two antioxidants found in red wine, Polyphenol and Resveratrol, can also improve heart health.

Meal planning can be the most difficult part of finding success with any diet, but is an important factor of the Paleo diet, and below are just a few small examples of Paleo-based foods. There are also many different Paleo recipes available online.

Eggs (scrambled in olive oil)
Kiwi and kale smoothie
Seasonal fresh fruit

Salad & grilled chicken (drizzled with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice)

Spaghetti squash (instead of pasta) topped with marinara sauce
Turkey breast (skinless)
Salmon (drizzled with olive oil and minced fresh garlic)
Steamed vegetables

Dried fruit and nut mix
Seasonal fresh fruit
Celery sticks
Carrot sticks

Green tea
Almond milk (instead of cow’s milk)
Decaffeinated coffee (in moderation)

Homemade fruit juice

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Non-Contraceptive Uses for Birth Control

Oral contraceptives have been a long-time method for women wanting to avoid unwanted pregnancy. However, at least 15% of Canadian women use birth control for non-contraceptive purposes. This includes irregular menstrual cycles, menstrual cramps, Endometriosis and PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.)

Oral contraceptives contain two types of synthetic hormones: Estrogen and Progesterone. The physiological effects and uses of these hormones, as well as the type of oral contraceptive prescribed, are fully dependent on the symptoms being experienced by the individual.

While it is not abnormal for most women to experience some cramping and general discomfort as a direct result of their menstrual cycle, it could also be a sign of Endometriosis. If you are noticing abnormally painful periods, have heavier than normal bleeding during your menstrual cycle, pain during intercourse or are having fertility problems, these signs may be indicative of Endometriosis. Other signs of Endometriosis include bloating, diarrhea and nausea. As a result, birth control is prescribed to help treat the aforementioned symptoms, and in severe cases will be taken on a frequent and continual basis to stop the menstrual cycle all together. Oppositely, in women with significantly short menstrual cycles and very little bleeding (also known as “amenorrhea”), oral contraceptives may be prescribed to help replace estrogen into the body, which will regulate the menstrual cycle. Lack of a menstrual cycle may be caused by weight loss, stress, or excessive exercise, so it is important to speak with your physician so that you can also treat any potential underlying causes that are a factor in leading to menstrual problems.

Along with treating menstrual irregularity, there are other medical benefits to using oral contraceptives. The hormones in birth control pills have been show to significantly reduce breakouts in individuals prone to acne. While the results typically aren’t immediate, these skin changes do become noticeable over time. Oral contraceptives have also been said to lower the risk of ovarian cancer, ovarian cysts, and even menstrual migraines.

However, as with any medication, the use of oral contraceptives does not come without side effects. Spotting and irregular periods may occur during the first 3 weeks of starting birth control. In addition, you may also notice nausea, and in that case you will want to take your medication with food or an anti-nausea medication such as Gravol. Birth control has also been shown to cause significant weight gain in some individuals, so it is important to exercise regularly and watch your portion intake. Low-carb diets are something Dr. Ali Ghahary strongly advocates, and may even be beneficial while on birth control to avoid potential weight gain.

Every individual will react differently to birth control medications, so it is important to write down a list of any concerns you may have to discuss with your family doctor upon your next visit.