Why You Need Antioxidants & How to Get Them Naturally

We hear nutrition buzz words like antioxidants, free radicals, and oxidative stress all the time… but what do they really mean, and more importantly what does it mean for your health?

What are antioxidants?
Photo by Darren Hester

What Are Free Radicals?

Free radicals is a chemistry term that describes a molecule that is unstable. A molecule is unstable when it has an uneven number of electrons, and is constantly searching to bond with other molecules to gain that electron.

When an unstable molecule bonds with an existing stable molecule, it “steals” the electron it needs and causes a domino effect by making the once-stable molecule turn into a new free radical.

The term “free” refers to the fact that these molecules are traveling throughout the body looking for a fix (an electron).

Sounds innocent enough, but free radicals are responsible for:

  • Accelerated aging
  • Destruction of DNA
  • Clogging of arteries
  • Tissue damage

I should add that our body naturally produces free radicals when it needs to fight off viruses and bacteria. However, most of us have way too many free radicals due to environmental factors like pollution, radiation, smoking or inhaling smoke, pesticides, herbicides, and stress.

What Are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants are phytochemicals, vitamins, and other nutrient dense substances that fight free radicals. Antioxidants to the rescue!

How can you tell if a food has antioxidants? Colors!

Plants create different colorful pigments to protect themselves from the sun’s UV rays. Plants too can develop free radicals if they are under too much ultra violet sun light. That’s why they develop bright and colorful antioxidants.

Lucky for us, we can eat these colorful plants and fruits and gain the beneficial antioxidants to help us fight free radicals.

Ever notice how all of these “antioxidant superfoods” are dark and colorful like pomegranate, blueberries, acai, etc? Yep, it’s those color pigments that have the antioxidant properties we’re looking for.

Antioxidants act like scavengers for free radicals, giving them one of their electrons. The key is that antioxidants continue to be stable even if they donate an electron. Hence antioxidants have a stabilizing effect, that can repair damage and prevent more from happening.

Antioxidants also improve your body’s immune system, helping you fight off colds and out of control cell reproduction.

Antioxidants are colors
Photo by Doug Wheller

How Do You Get Antioxidants Naturally?

I’ve already hinted at this in the previous section, but the trick to getting your antioxidants in naturally is to eat lots of colorful plant based foods.

Think in rainbows. Dark blues and purples, shimmering reds, yummy oranges, delightful yellows, powerful greens.

When you shop at the farmer’s market or grocery store, look for the bright colors. Manufacturers try to lure you in with brightly designed boxes and cans, but if you let your instincts kick in you’ll be drawn to the naturally beautiful colors of fresh organic produce.

Studies have shown that eating more than 5 portions of fresh fruits and vegetables each day can cut down your risk for heart disease and stroke by 25%.

I think these natural antioxidants are working their magick!

Leave a comment

What’s your favorite colorful fruit or veggie? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Love, Nathalie

Homemade Acne Treatments? How About Foods that Prevent Acne

This article has been a long time coming, and it is hard for me to post pictures and write about my journey with acne. I started getting lots of pimples when I was eleven years old, and tried everything to get rid of it.

Finally, after years of struggling with facial and body acne, I feel like I am ready to share what I have learned to stop zits and breakouts. I’m by no means an acne expert, I share only what has worked for me.

Homemade Acne Treatment
Acne photos – before and after high raw diet

Hormonal Acne, Pimples, and Sugar

I started having lots of acne and breakouts when I was 11 years old. At that point in my life candy was a staple in my diet, and so were processed sugary foods like cakes and cookies. I also drank soft drinks left and right.

Oh, and I should mention that my favorite restaurant growing up was McDonald’s. For the toys.

Since I started breaking out at a young age (no one else had acne yet) my parents and I tried all kinds of things. I went to the dermatologist, the esthetician, and bought every type of cream and “system”.

I kept hearing “rumors” that acne was caused by chocolate, or soda, or sugar. When I asked my dermatologist, the answer was a flabbergasted – of course not! Diet has nothing to do with breakouts, it’s all hormones. (Now I know that the body is a sum of the whole, and that nothing is ever isolated!)

Nothing really put a dent into the acne, no matter how much on the spot acne treatment stuff I applied. The years went by and I continued to eat peanut butter sandwiches, lots of sugary snacks, junk food, and soda.

Acne and Birth Control Pills

Finally in an act of desperation when I was 16 I went on the birth control pill, as recommended by my dermatologist.

I saw a slight improvement in my skin, even though the acne never completely went away. Unfortunately the birth control pill would go on to affect a lot of other things in my body.

I gained about 20 pounds in one summer when I started on the pill. This exacerbated an already messed up relationship with food and emotions.

It also put my hormones out of whack. In fact when I decided to stop taking the birth control pill 5 years later, I had a hard time getting my period back.

Oh, and when I stopped taking the birth control pill my acne remained at the same level. So really, I think the pill did more harm than good… especially when you take into account the side effects and how it threw off the balance of good bacteria and yeast in my body.

Homemade Acne Treatments

So what do I think is the best homemade acne treatment? A change of diet, quite truthfully. I’ve tried all the creams, all the homemade masks, and the closest I’ve come to clear skin is by eating right.

So what do I consider to be “eating right”? Eating lots of high water content fresh fruits and vegetables, reducing or even eliminating sugar, wheat, and dairy.

Here’s a little bit of what might be going on underneath your skin, and why what you eat really influences acne and breakouts:

  • You get breakouts and pimples when oil glands get infected with bacteria, causing an inflammation response and filling up with white blood cells and pus.
  • Eating foods that boost your immune system will help your body fight the bacteria, thus reducing the inflammation. Immune system boosting foods include those high in Vitamin C like oranges, kiwis, and broccoli.
  • Sugar causes spikes in energy and blood sugar, and generally leads to a compromised immune system, low energy, and a cycle of eating more sugar.
  • Sugar also feeds the yeast, causing an imbalance of good bacteria in the body. Without the good bacteria to protect you, you are more vulnerable to breakouts.
  • Stress has an impact on the immune system, essentially shutting down our digestion and other auxiliary “services” to undertake the fight or flight response. That’s why you get more breakouts when you’re stressed.
  • Toxins and other unwanted substances can get lodged in the body, either through the foods we eat, the air we breathe, or the products we put on our skin. If you observe breakouts after using certain products, discontinue their use.
  • Allergies and food sensitivities cause your body to go into an immune response, leading to constant inflammation, and reducing your body’s immune response sensitivity over time.
  • Water is essential for flushing out the toxins, hydrating the body and the skin. Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day.

Acne Tips

Here are some other acne tips I’ve learned along the way.

  1. Check out Acne.org for videos on how to wash your face to reduce inflammation.
  2. Picking pimples is not recommended, it causes scarring, and just encourages more pimples in the same spot.
  3. Be gentle on yourself – a lot of this is about mindset, and change is never an overnight transformation.

Finally, I need to say that I’m not totally blemish free. I still get some acne and pimples, but it’s much more manageable.

In fact, I usually know exactly why I am getting breakouts. Lack of sleep, too much stress, not eating right, a certain type of make up or lotion, that time of the month, etc.

Got Any More Acne Treatments or Tips?

I’d love to hear your acne story. If you found a natural way to reduce or stop your acne, let us know in the comments!

We’re all in this together and the more we share, the better for future visitors who are in need of advice.

Love, Nathalie

How Much Water do You Need to Drink a Day?

Drinking water story
Photo by Patrick

This story starts a long time ago, in a small town where families had dozens of kids. Her name was Monique, and she was a bright eyed bushy tailed girl, who liked to draw horses and sometimes people too.

Monique liked to dance, and she hid stacks of love letters under her mattress. As she grew older, she did what most young girls do. She settled down and got married. Then Monique started a family of her own.

Somewhere along the way she stopped being a bright eyed bushy tailed girl. Not that she wasn’t happy, because clearly she was. She had all that a woman could hope for, and she was content.

But somewhere along the way, she stopped doing the things that had kept her healthy and shiny-eyed.

She stopped drinking water.

As Monique grew older, she watched her children move out on their own and start families. She even taught some of her grand children how to draw horses and sometimes people too.

When one of her bright eyed bushy tailed grand daughters asked Monique why she didn’t drink water, she replied: “Because I don’t want to go to the bathroom too often.”

How Much Water Really Affects Us…

We all think that wrinkles are normal, and that it’s age that makes us sick and weak. But what if it was just a matter of keeping your body fully hydrated?

Monique was my grand mother. She passed away when I was a young girl, suffering from bladder and kidney issues and later on cancer.

I’m sure there were other contributing factors, but from my research and experience I know that drinking more water could have helped keep her healthy longer.

How Much Water Should You Drink a Day?

We’ve all heard something about drinking 8 eight ounce glasses per day. But the amount of water you drink should really depend on the individual, as well as your lifestyle.

If you exercise and sweat a lot, then you would need to drink more water. Also, it’s important to note that drinking liquids other than water are not a good substitute.

Even changing the amount of minerals the water contains can change how your body absorbs it. So think twice before drinking anything other than pure water, and counting it toward your total.

My recommendation for figuring out how much water you need to drink in a day, is to look at the color of your pee.

Yes, it might seem silly, but it’s a great way to get immediate feedback on how dehydrated your body is. If your pee is dark or yellow, then you aren’t drinking enough water. It’s only once your pee is clear that you know you’re getting enough water.

Notice that most mornings your pee is dark, whereas throughout the day it is more clear. That’s because our bodies get dehydrated during the night from exhaling, sweating, and because we aren’t drinking any water during the night.

Should You Drink Less Water if You’re Eating Raw?

Recently, I was talking to a client about green smoothies and he mentioned that he had to go to the bathroom more often after drinking a smoothie. Since green smoothies are high in fiber, that made sense to me but he was more worried about having to pee more often.

A lightbulb went on in my head, since I had heard the whole “I don’t want to pee too often” excuse somewhere before.

The truth is that high water content fruits and vegetables are good for you. They help flush out toxins in your body, and they keep you hydrated with the most purely filtrated water available – from plants!

I recommend you use the same strategy of looking at your pee to determine if you’re drinking enough water.

How Much is Too Much Water?

With every recommendation there’s always a caveat, and this one is the possibility of drinking too much water. I remember hearing about a case where people drank so much water while fasting that they experienced major problems, and some even died.

Clearly, it’s a case for listening to your body. If your pee is clear, then don’t try to force yourself to drink too much extra water. Just to be on the safe side.

And remember that going to the bathroom often is not a bad thing! If you are worried about an elderly person, why not bring a bedside commode for them to use, so they can get the health benefits of drinking enough water.

Tricks to Keep Hydrated

If you really don’t like the taste of water, try adding a slice of fresh ginger, or cucumber, or a lemon or lime. This adds flavor, it’s inexpensive and can make drinking water a little more enjoyable.

Another tip is to have water with you where ever you go. That means bringing a water bottle, or knowing where the water fountains are.

If you need more tips, check out the follow-up article all about how to drink more water every day!

What other tips do you have for keeping hydrated?

Share in the comments below!

Love, Nathalie

Holistic Healing Approach: Heal Yourself With Raw Food

Last night I attended a group healing session here in Toronto. The session was called “A night with intention”, and was facilitated by a man with over 10 years experience with energetic healing.

The topics we discussed really got me thinking. First of all, I truly believe that each of us has the ability to heal ourselves.

How else can the body know what to send to heal a paper cut? Why should it be different for cancer, or heart disease?

If you came to raw foods for healing or weight loss, then trust in your body’s ability to return to a whole balanced place.

Raw Food is Only Part of the Healing Puzzle

One thing I’ve really been pondering on a lot lately is the realization that raw food is just a tool. For some cases using raw food to heal yourself is the best choice. In others, maybe a different approach might work better.

I’m not a fan of conventional Western medicine and the emphasis on the quick-fix pill-popping “solutions” it provides. But if I get hit by a bus, send me to the emergency room – don’t try to heal me with raw food or an energetic healing technique.

There’s a time and a place for each of the healing tools we have available to us.

Similarly, there’s something to be said about the placebo effect. If the placebo effect operates in 1/3 of all healing cases, then why don’t we learn more about this miraculous possibility? If I can heal someone just by placing my hands on them, or by jumping on one leg and waving a magick gourd… then why wouldn’t I do it?

Health Promoting Environments

Disease and illness happens over time, it rarely just appears out of nowhere. That’s why I believe that the environment in which we live is just as important as the food we eat.

For example, if you live in a very toxic and mentally damaging environment you’re not likely to feel your best.

Create a safe healing sanctuary for yourself with your favorite plants, relaxing music, comforting smells, and maybe a cushy blanket or pillow.

If there are unsupportive people who bring you down, find a way to let them know their treatment is not welcome or distance yourself from them. This is tough, but sometimes necessary.

Healing Thoughts

This is something that Jonathan Mead and I talked about in our Raw Food Q&A Call. Jonathan said something that really zeros in on one of the biggest pieces of the healthy living puzzle.

“It’s better to be eating something that’s not raw and feeling good about it, than to be begrudgingly eating something raw but feeling horrible.”

This works both ways, if you beat yourself up when you “fall off the wagon” of eating raw foods, you’re inflicting more pain and stress on yourself than the non-raw foods themselves might be.

The thoughts you think and the feelings you feel play such a huge part in the healing process.

If your thoughts and feelings aren’t supporting your healing efforts, it might be time to change your habits or find a practice that takes you out of your head space.

Healing with Raw Foods

I don’t think there’s one right way to go about healing yourself. For me, eating more raw food has been the first step on a journey of whole body and mind healing.

For you, raw food might be step one or step three, it doesn’t really matter. Find what works for you, and go from there.

All I know is that raw food has been instrumental in healing myself and those around me.

What has been instrumental in your personal healing journey?

Love, Nathalie

What is the Raw Food Diet?

To most people the term “raw food diet” might seem a little extreme, if not far-fetched. That’s why I want to spend a little bit of time today explaining exactly what Raw Food is all about, and a few reasons why some people include more Raw Food in their diet.

(Oh, and just a little reminder that I’m not advocating a strict 100% raw food diet. I think we can all benefit from more raw food, but it might not be right for everyone right off the bat. Right batman? Right.)

(If you’re reading this via email click here to watch the quick introductory video.)

What Does The Raw Food Diet Consist Of?

The raw food diet consists mainly of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. These four main food groups are great because they are essentially the revitalizers and immune system builders of the body. Not to mention that anyone can benefit from more fruits vegetables in their diet.

Reasons Why Raw Food is “Raw”

The raw food diet further qualifies food that is raw by stating that it not be heated above 112 Fahrenheit. The reason being that food heated above 112 Fahrenheit loses some of its digestive enzymes. All foods have enzymes that help us digest and absorb nutrients properly. Without these enzymes, we use our own limited supply of enzymes to digest food.

Raw Food as a Creative Outlet

Okay, you might be thinking that eating a bunch of carrots and raisins is not going to keep your taste buds happy. Fortunately, raw food is full of opportunities for creative food prep.

  • Raw food allows you to make wacky green smoothies that are full of essential nutrients that help you maintain your weight while building strong bones and muscles.
  • Raw food is a great way to try new fruits and vegetables that you’ve never even heard of before. Fancy trying durian fruit, or venturing out into new green territory with kale, collards, swiss chard, or even dandelion greens?
  • With raw food you have a chance to experiment with new food combinations and spices. You can load up your blender with produce, hit the blend button, and cross your fingers. Chances are it will turn out tasting great.

I hope this quick article gave you a little more insight into exactly what the raw food diet consists of.

I just wanted to add that there are also variations of the diet that include raw dairy products, eggs, and even raw meat. I don’t think any one diet has all the answers, and I encourage you to find what works for you.

Love, Nathalie