Are you Getting Enough Vitamin D?

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Most of us in North America have heard about the importance of vitamin D, but do you know the signs and symptoms of deficiency, and when to know if it’s something you should be supplementing with?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and while a small amount can be found in the diet, most of it is made in the body in response to sun exposure.

A Few Facts About Vitamin D
• Required for the absorption of calcium
• Needed for the proper formation of bones & teeth
• Assists in regulation of the heartbeat
• Aids in healthy thyroid function
• Important for proper blood clotting
• Essential for healthy neuromuscular function
• Helpful in maintaining healthy eyesight
• Enhances immune function (cancer prevention)
• Helps with depression and anxiety

Symptoms of Deficiency
• Muscle aches and pain, weakness
• Bone aches and pain. Bones can feel painful to moderate pressure.
(often more noticeable in the ribs or shin bones)
• Malformation of bones
Osteomalacia (weakening of the bones – demineralization)
• Osteoporosis (thinning of bones, loss of bone density)
• Insomnia
• Myopia (nearsightedness)
• Depression
• Children with severe deficiency may have soft skull or leg bones. Their legs may look curved (bow-legged).
They may also complain of bone pains, often in the legs, muscle pains or muscle weakness. This condition is known as rickets.

A lack of vitamin D over a period of just a few months can cause the beginning stages of osteomalacia; skeletal demineralization of the spine, pelvis and lower extremities. Signs and symptoms of osteomalacia include: burning in the mouth and throat, bone tenderness, muscle  weakness, nervousness, diarrhea, and insomnia.

Causes of Deficiency
• Metabolic abnormalities with absorption or metabolism of vitamin D
• Sedentary indoor lifestyle
• Those who always cover up when outside, including those who wear traditional veils or burqas.
• Regular use of sunblock
• People over the age of 65. The elderly tend to have thinner skin which means it contains less fat/cholesterol to be turned into vitamin D by the sun.
• Having dark skin (darker skin absorbs less vitamin D)
• Liver of gallbladder dysfunction
• Kidney and liver disorders
• Intestinal ailments such as IBS, Crohn’s and celiac disease
• Low fat diets

Types of Vitamin D
There are several forms of vitamin D. D2(ergocalciferol) comes from food sources such as: fish, cod liver oil, eggs, dandelion greens, mushrooms, potatoes, sweet potatoes, alfalfa, nettle, and parsley. Vitamin D3(cholecalciferol) is synthesized in the skin in response to sun exposure. Both types are available in supplement form, D3 being the most active and bioavailable.

Precautions
Vitamin D has a potential for toxicity. Unless diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency, supplementing more than 1,000 IU for adults and 400 IU for children is not recommended.  Vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means your body has a hard time getting rid of it if you take too much. When you take large amounts of vitamin D, the liver produces a chemical called 25-hydroxy-vitamin D [25(OH)D].

Excess vitamin D increases calcium buildup in the blood and can increase the risk of kidney stones. High blood calcium is a condition called hypercalcemia.
Symptoms of hypercalcemia include: poor appetite or loss of appetite, thirst, frequent urination, abdominal pain, confusion, fatigue, and muscle weakness.

Testing
A 25-hydroxy vitamin D test is the most accurate way to measure how much vitamin D is in the body. Testing should be done at least once a year, especially at the beginning of winter. If you are supplementing, monitor your vitamin D levels approximately every 3 months until you are in the optimal range. If you are taking high doses as recommended by your doctor, ask to also have your calcium, phosphorous, and parathyroid hormone levels checked every 3 months.

Since everyone is different, Vitamin D toxicity can happen even at low levels of supplementation. (1)
As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, my professional opinion is that we should all be supplementing wisely when it comes to fat-soluble vitamins.

Optimal Levels
•  Dangerously Low Levels = Less than 12 ng/mL: Vitamin D deficiency, leading to rickets in infants and children and osteomalacia in adults
Low Levels = 20-30 ng/mL: Vitamin D insufficiency
Normal = Greater than 30 ng/mL: Sufficient
Optimal = 50-80 ng/mL: Recommended
High = Greater than 100 ng/mL: Emerging evidence links potential adverse effects to such high levels

Vitamin D and Thyroid Conditions
Vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining proper thyroid function and  balancing the Th1 and Th2 cells of the immune system. It behaves as a co-hormone, as sufficient levels of vitamin D are essential for proper uptake of thyroid hormones by the cells. Studies show that vitamin D deficiency goes hand-in-hand with hypothyroidism.(2)

Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis
Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with numerous autoimmune diseases, including MS. Since vitamin D is absorbed in the small intestine, an inflamed GI tract, which is extremely common in people with multiple sclerosis, reduces its absorption. Many medical doctors prescribe megadoses of vitamin D to patients with MS.  It is always wise to have blood serum levels checked before taking high doses of any fat-soluble vitamin.

FACTORS AFFECTING ABSORPTION

Stress and High Cortisol
High cortisol levels caused by stress or medications are also associated with lower vitamin D levels. The synthesis of active vitamin D from sunlight depends on cholesterol. Stress hormones are also made from cholesterol. When the body is in an active stress response, most of the cholesterol is used to make cortisol and not much is left over for the production of vitamin D. (3)

Obesity
Obesity reduces the bioavailability of active vitamin D. Those who are overweight typically have lower serum levels since it’s extracted from the blood by fat cells, altering its release into the circulation. People with a body mass index of 30 or greater often have low blood levels of vitamin D. (4)

Poor Fat Metabolism
Poor fat metabolism is another factor contributing to malabsorption of this important vitamin. Vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means it requires fat to be absorbed. It also requires conversion by the liver and kidneys before becoming fully active. Those on low-fat diets and people with conditions that impair fat absorption like IBS, IBD, gall bladder dysfunction, liver or kidney disease are more likely to have low levels of vitamin D and are at higher risk for osteoporosis.

Medications
Some medications are known to reduce absorption or biologic activity of vitamin D such as antacids, replacement hormones, corticosteroids, anticoagulants, blood thinners and laxatives.

Inflammation
Inflammation of any type reduces the utilization of vitamin D, which is why those with any inflammatory health condition should be following a well balanced, hypoallergenic, anti-inflammatory diet! (5)

Sources:
1. http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13050
2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24320141
3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15211579
4. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/72/3/690.full
5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18194227

Chocolate Banana Muffins With Homemade Caramel Center

chocolate_banana_muffin_flat

Chocolate Banana Muffins With Homemade Caramel Center
*makes 12 muffins

Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free/Egg-Free/No white sugar!

Ingredients:
2 ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup apple sauce
3/4 cup coconut sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup dark cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
2 Tbsp. ground flax seeds (soaked in ½ cup water)

 Method:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Mash the bananas with a fork until smooth.
3. In a small pot, add the coconut oil and bananas over low/medium heat, and whisk until the mixture is well combined. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. Add the oats to a food processor and blend until finely ground.
5. In a mixing bowl, combine the oat flour, coconut sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and chopped walnuts.
6. Stir in the vanilla, apple sauce and mashed bananas.
7. Whisk in the soaked flax seeds and stir until well combined.
8. Scoop the batter into a well greased muffin tin just under half full, then spoon about 1 tsp. of caramel into the centre of each muffin and top with remaining batter.
9. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
10. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack for 15 minutes before adding the caramel topping.
11. While the muffins are cooling, prepare the topping.

Homemade Caramel Sauce:
3/4 cup full fat coconut milk
1/2 cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)

1. Add the coconut milk and sugar to a medium size pot and bring to a boil while whisking continuously.
2. Simmer over medium/high heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring every few minutes until the mixture thickens and changes colour.
3. When the desired consistency is reached, remove from heat and set aside half the caramel to insert into the center of the muffins and save the other half for the topping.

Topping:
Caramel sauce
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 tsp. sea salt

1. Chop the walnuts and pecans and add to a bowl with the salt.
2. When the muffins are finished baking, you might have to rewarm the reserved caramel on the stove, as it might have hardened as it cooled. Mix in 2 Tbsp. of the heated caramel sauce in with the chopped nuts to stick them together.
3. Drizzle the remaining caramel sauce over muffins and top with the caramel covered chopped nuts.

Winter Skin Care Tips

skin_care
Winter weather can wreak havoc on our skin and as a natural health and wellness consultant, I’ve been hearing many people complain about dry skin lately so I thought I’d share some of my favourite winter skin care tips.

It so important not to just care for our skin from the outside, but did you know that we can also nourish our skin from the inside-out! This time of year can be especially harsh on the skin, causing painful chapping and cracking. Luckily, there’s a lot we can do to avoid all that…and this is how!

- Moisturize From The Inside Out -

The skin is made from the proteins elastin, collagen and keratin. When these proteins are damaged due to prolonged sun exposure, cold winds or oxidative stress, the result can be fine lines, brown discolourations, enlarged pores, and sagging skin. Dry skin can result from both a lack of oil and moisture. Chapping and cracking are signs of extremely dry, dehydrated skin.

Dry skin can be caused or aggravated by a poor diet, and environmental factors such as exposure to sun, wind, cold temperatures, chemicals, cosmetics, or harsh soaps. Nutritional deficiencies can also contribute to the problem. If the skin or dry or chapped, increase water intake and consumption of essential fatty acids.

Keep Hydrated
Dehydrated skin will accentuate fine lines and wrinkles. Keep well hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Ditch chemical-laden drinks like soda, alcohol, and sugary drinks. Sugar can accelerate aging through a process called glycation. Instead, try sipping on antioxidant-rich herbal teas, lemon water, fresh vegetable juices, soups, and eating fresh fruit.

The Skin Loves Healthy Fats!
A lack of essential fatty acids will be reflected in the skin and hair. Omega–3 essential fatty acids help maintain cell membranes, allowing water and nutrients in, but keeping toxins out. These healthy fats also reduce inflammation throughout the body, which can result in fewer skin breakouts, and an overall more even skin tone.

Consuming foods high in omega-3 fats help keep the skin supple and soft, and increases elasticity, which minimizes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Signs of Omega-3 Deficiency: Rough dry skin, dry brittle hair, scaly skin, eczema, psoriasis

Foods high in Omega-3: Flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, pecans, avocados, wheatgrass, seaweed, nori, spirulina, wild caught, cold water fish, fish oil

Fill up on Fiber For Radiant Skin
A lack of dietary fiber in the diet can lead to sluggish bowels and constipation, which will have a direct effect on the appearance of your skin. When bowel movements are less than once a day, toxins and waste, which should ideally be excreted everyday, will be recirculated back into the bloodstream. Constipation can not only lead to dry, rough skin and acne, but other serious health problems of the gastro-intestinal system. The soluble fibre in found apples, flax seeds, oat bran, fruits and vegetables acts as a cleanser and eliminates toxins from the body.

Fibre also helps to improve circulation, keeps the blood thin, and improves the supply of oxygen and nutrients to skin cells, thus improving your skin’s appearance from the inside out. A high-fiber diet with plenty of fluids will ensure skin that is soft, well-hydrated and flawless!

• Eat at least 2 cups of dark leafy greens a day
• Consume high fiber fruits with the skin such as apples, pears and berries
• Include a variety of whole grains in your diet
• Eat a variety of beans, legumes and lentils

 Zinc
Zinc is necessary for tissue and cell formation, required for collagen production and regulates the activity of oil glands. Using zinc topically and taking it orally has shown some potential in preventing and alleviating the inflammation and scarring associated with acne and wind burn and can help to heal wounds, scars and overly dry skin.

Signs of Deficiency: white spots on the fingernails, thin fingernails that peel, acne, skin lesions, frequent infections, slow healing cuts or wounds, loss of taste or smell, premature hair loss, dry skin

Food Sources of Zinc Include: kelp, legumes, lima beans, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, whole grains, alfalfa, cayenne, parsley, sage, chamomile, chickweed, dandelion, fennel seed, milk thistle, wild yam, eggs, fish, oysters, liver

Factors that Impair Zinc Absorption: Do not take supplemental oral zinc with foods which interfere with absorption such as: bran, coffee, phytates, phosphorus, calcium, iron and medications that inhibit stomach acid. Zinc levels are lowered by diarrhea, kidney disease, cirrhosis of the liver and diabetes. Significant amounts of zinc are lost through perspiration.

Hyaluronic acid
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a naturally occurring substance present throughout the human body and is distributed widely throughout connective, epithelial, and neural tissues. Its function in the body is, among other things, to bind water and lubricate the joints and muscles. Because of its ability to hold water, it also hydrates and plumps the skin and is added to many anti-aging skin formulations and moisturizers. Because HA is one of the most hydrophilic (water-loving) molecules in nature with numerous benefits for the human body, it has often been described as “nature’s moisturizer”. Pure hyaluronic acid can be purchased for topical use (I like adding a few drops to my avocado oil and zinc moisturizer). It can also be taken internally as a supplement.

Hyaluronic acid is only present in a limited number of foods, but not many. Root vegetables, fruit, beans and legumes contain the nutrients needed to stimulate the production of HA. Incorporating the following foods into the diet can encourage the body to make additional hyaluronic acid.

Food That Stimulate The Production of Hyaluronic Acid: Purple potatoes, beets, daikon, radishes, turnips, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, celery root, beans, tempeh, apples, bananas, lemons, melons, carrots, berries, kale, spinach

* The best way to cook starchy root vegetables is to steam them, which not only preserves the nutrient value but lessens the formation of acrylamide and advanced glycation end products (AGEs)

Grilling, deep frying and baking result in the production of acrylamide, one of the hundreds of chemicals known as Maillard reaction products (MRPs), which form when foods are heated at high temperatures. Studies have shown that acrylamide is a cancer-causing and potentially neurotoxic chemical

Acrylamide is known to form adducts to DNA, potentially leading to DNA mutations, contribute to oxidative stress and increase the signs of aging. Potato chips, french fries, burnt toast and baked, grilled or roasted carbohydrate foods contain the highest levels of acrylamide. These levels increase the more cooked and burnt the food is.

- Moisturize From The Outside –

Avoid Abrasive or Drying Facial Cleansers
Most facial cleansers on the market contain alcohol, as well as other harmful preservatives and chemicals, which can be very drying and damaging to the skin. Try exfoliating with granulated sugar and honey, or coffee grounds. Exfoliate your skin twice a week to increase cell turnover.

Natural Moisturizers
Using natural, cold pressed plant-based oils help protect and hold moisture in the skin without clogging the pores. Natural oils are high in antioxidants, protect the skin from free radical damage, and can heal dry and chapped skin that can result from cold winter winds.

Plant based oils also draw impurities out of the skin by unclogging pores. People with oily skin might have reservations about applying oil to the face, but oils can actually help balance the production of sebum, while balancing out the natural pH of the skin.

Oils are lipophilic (fat loving), and they pass though the lipid layer of the skin faster, preventing water loss and plumping skin with moisture more effectively. Natural oils are extremely nourishing and moisturizing for the skin. Experiment and find which oils work best for you! The oils listed below will not clog pores, or cause the skin to be oily.

Castor Oil: Extremely moisturizing for severely dry skin. This is thicker oil and takes a bit more time to absorb so it’s best to apply it at night about an hour before bed. Castor Oil is very anti-inflammatory and penetrates deep into the skin which helps to soften, hydrate and plump the skin, minimizing the appearance of wrinkles. It is also great for healing cracked, chapped skin.

Jojoba Oil: Great oil to use for hair and oily skin. Helps lighten and heal scars and reduce wrinkles and stretch marks. Creates a protective film over the skin and hair shaft to seal in moisture. Dissolves clogged pores and returns skin to a natural pH balance.

Olive Oil: High in vitamins A and E. Great to use an evening moisturizer.
*Personal note: For years, I’ve been using olive oil to remove eye make-up. It leaves the skin around the eyes nourished and moisturized. It even works for water-proof mascara.

Argan Oil: High in vitamin E and fatty acids. Helps with dry skin, acne, psoriasis and eczema. Treats split ends and tames dry, frizzy hair. Use as an all over body moisturizer, including the face and neck.

Rosehip Oil: Absorbs easily. Contains vitamin C, A and lycopene which repairs the skin’s surface, restores elasticity and protects against sun and wind. Reduces the appearance of scars, age spots and hyper-pigmentation.

Avocado Oil: Extremely moisturizing and rich in vitamins and fatty acids. Keeps the skin moist and smooth. Contains high concentrations of Vitamins A and E. Soothes sensitive skin and especially useful for dry, scaly skin and scalps.

Sweet Almond Oil: Great for all skin types. Alleviates dry skin, soothes inflammation and relieves itching caused by eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis.

Goji Berry Seed Oil: Contain a high amount of vitamin C, which is known to support the production of collagen, to speed wound healing, and to protect the skin from free radical damage. It’s also been shown to help fade sun and age spots.

Tamanu Oil: Promotes the formation of new tissue, thereby accelerating wound healing and the growth of healthy skin. Relieves and protects the skin against inflammation and redness. Moisturizes, nourishes and repairs the epidermal cells of dry and damaged skin.

Sea Buckthorn Oil: Great for irritated or inflamed skin. Contains omega 3, 6, 9 and 7, which helps reduce redness, burning and itching while vitamin E helps heal skin quickly and reduce scarring. Helps maintain the skin’s elasticity and smoothness.

Coconut Oil: Great moisturizer for irritated or inflamed skin. Not the best choice to use on the face if one is prone to clogged pores or acne. Helps relieve dandruff and eczema due to its anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.

Hemp Seed Oil: Anti-inflammatory, reduces redness. Easily absorbed by the skin. For very dry skin, it should be mixed with a thicker oils as hemp oil absorbs quickly and is known as a “dry” oil.

Natural Skin Care Recipes

Castor Oil Face Wash
Helps to deep clean pores and remove blackheads without stripping the skin of moisture! To wash your face with castor oil before bed, dampen a face cloth, add a quarter sized drop of castor oil to the cloth, cleanse the face in small circular motions, and rinse. Blot dry and apply a natural moisturizer to the face and neck.

Sugar and Honey Exfoliator
Combine 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon honey, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and mix well. If the mixture is a too runny, add a bit more sugar.

Coffee Scrub
Combine 1 tablespoon of ground coffee with 1 tablespoon of water or olive oil.
To make this exfoliating face scrub more economical, use the wet coffee grounds from your brewed morning coffee.

Other Tips

Cover up!
This might seem obvious, but when you are heading outdoors, keep your face and body covered with proper winter clothing. Always wear gloves and a scarf, and keep your face covered in cold and windy  weather.

Humidify Your Home
Indoor heating is especially drying to the skin, as well as the nasal passages. If the air inside your home is dry, use a humidifier to help keep moisture in the air.
If you do not have a humidifier, keep a pan of water in each room, which will help prevent the skin from drying out.

Dry Skin Brushing
Dry skin brushing is a unique skincare method, which uses a natural bristle body brush to exfoliate the skin. Dry skin brushing on a daily basis provides numerous benefits such as improved circulation and new cell renewal. It helps shed dead skin cells, resulting in smoother, brighter skin. Dry skin brushing also stimulates the lymphatic drainage, which helps to eliminate toxins from the body.

Apple Pecan Sweet Potato Harvest Rice

rice

Ingredients:
1 cup uncooked brown rice
1/4 cup uncooked wild rice
1 1/4 cups vegetable stock
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup vegetable stock (for sautéing the onions)
1 sweet potato, chopped and roasted
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 small honey crisp apple, chopped (raw or roasted)
1/2 small purple onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 tsp. Himalayan pink salt
Pinch of black pepper
1 cup sweet and spicy roasted pecans (roasting the pecans is optional)
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup almond slivers
2 Tbsp. coconut oil

Method:
For this recipe, the rice is cooked in half water and half vegetable stock.

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Cook rice using half vegetable broth and half water. Save about 1/4 cup of broth to sauté the onions.
3. While the rice is cooking, peel and chop the sweet potato into bite sized cubes and add to a bowl. Drizzle with coconut oil and a pinch of salt, then place the cubed sweet potato on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and roast until tender (12-15 minutes). If you are roasting the apple, add it to the baking sheet with the sweet potato.
4. Chop up the pecans and them to a bowl. Drizzle with the sweet and salty spice mixture below and place on the baking sheet with the sweet potatoes and apples and roast for 12-15 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are ready to come out of the oven.
5. When the rice is nearly finished, warm 1/4 cup of vegetable stock in a large skillet and sauté onions, garlic, with the cinnamon and cloves over medium heat until onions soften (about 5 minutes).
6. Add the cooked rice to the sautéed onions, and mix in the apple cider vinegar, and maple syrup and simmer for 2 minutes on low/medium heat.
7. Gently add the sweet potatoes, being careful not to mash them as you mix them into the rice.
8. Toss in the apples, pecans, almond slivers and pumpkin seeds.

Sweet and Spicy Roasted Pecans
1 cup pecans
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. sea salt
3 Tbsp. maple syrup

1. Combine all ingredients together in a bowl, coating the pecans with the spice mixture.
2. Spread the pecans on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for approximately 12-15 minutes.
3. When cool, coarsely chop and add to the rice.

How Much Fiber Do We Really Need?

fiber_flat
According to statistics, the average adult consumes roughly 15 grams of fiber each day, yet in order to prevent digestive and intestinal tract related health concerns and avoid constipation, the Institute of Medicine advises the average adult to consume between 25-38g of fiber every day.

It is important to keep in mind that each and every one of us has unique dietary needs. In some cases, those with acute digestive problems such as loose stools, diarrhea, stomach pain, and chronic gas and bloating are sometimes advised to reduce the amount of fiber in their diet temporarily—until the root of the problem is properly addressed by a qualified health practitioner.

There are several types of fiber that function differently and provide us with distinct health benefits, but we can categorize them into two main categories – soluble and insoluble fiber. Both types of fiber are found in varying degrees in fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains.

Soluble Fiber helps slows digestion and allows the body to absorb nutrients from food. This type of fiber can help lower blood cholesterol and control blood sugar levels.

–> Foods High in Soluble Fiber Include: Oatmeal, blueberries, cucumbers, beets, quinoa, strawberries, celery, squash, nuts, apples, carrots, flax seeds, chia seeds oranges, apricots, kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, hemp seeds, pears, asparagus, sunflower seeds, almonds, lentils

Insoluble Fiber is considered “gut-healthy fiber” because they add bulk to the stool and can help prevent constipation. Insoluble fiber also helps us feel fuller longer and can help cut cravings.

–> Foods High in Insoluble Fiber Include: Whole grains, barley, dark leafy vegetables, kale, spinach, nuts and seeds, oats, flax seeds, broccoli, zucchini, turnip, cabbage, celery, carrots, Brussels sprouts

In order to maintain optimal health and bowel regularity, these are the amounts of fiber we should aim for each day.

CHILDREN:
Children 1-3: 19g
Children 4-8: 25g
Girls 9-13: 26g
Boys 9-13: 31g
Girls 14-19: 26 g
Boys 14-19: 38g

ADULTS:
Women 50 and younger: 26g
Men 50 and younger: 38g
Women 51 and older : 21g
Men 51 and older: 30g

Why Fiber Needs Vary
Both adults and children should aim for 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed. In general, men need more fiber than women because their calorie requirements are often higher. An adult woman’s calorie needs may only be 1,800 – 2,000 calories per day, which puts her fiber requirements between 26-28 grams a day. As a person ages, their calorie intake is often lower. Therefore, fiber requirements might decrease as a person gets older, depending on how active they are and their state of health.

Here is an example of what 26 grams of fiber would look like in one day.

1/2  cup rolled oats = 4.5g
1 apple = 3.8g
1/2 cup of blueberries = 2g
3 brazil nuts = 1.2g
1 Tbsp. ground flax seeds = 2g
1 cup of broccoli = 4g
1 medium, raw carrot = 1.7g
2 Tbsp. hemp seeds = 2g
1/2 cup of long grain brown rice = 2g
1/2 cup of green beans = 2g
1 cup of romaine lettuce = 1.5g

To put this in perspective, a high fiber meal plan might look something like the example below. Keep in mind, this is only an example of how to add more fiber to each meal, and does not take into account any other nutritional needs, or foods you might add to the meals.

EXAMPLE OF A HIGH FIBER MEAL PLAN

Breakfast
Rolled oats with blueberries, almond milk and flax seeds
Snack
1 apple with 3 brazil nuts
Lunch
Broccoli salad with shredded carrot and hemp seeds
Dinner
Brown rice with green beans and a leafy green salad
Total: 26 grams of fiber

BENEFITS OF A HIGH FIBER DIET
- Fiber helps stabilize blood sugar levels
– Promotes weight loss
– Supports good gut bacteria
– Prevents constipation
– Reduces the risk of colon cancer, hemorrhoids, diverticulitis and heart disease

Sources:
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/Fiber-and-Childrens-Diets_UCM_305981_Article.jsp

http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/fiber-how-much-do-you-needhttp://healthyeating.sfgate.com/calculate-much-fiber-one-needs-day-4814.html

http://www.nationalfibercouncil.org/food_chart.shtml

http://nutritiondata.self.com/foods-000006000000000000000-w.html

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/high-fiber-foods/art-20050948

Maple Pecan Pumpkin Pie With Coconut Whipped Cream

This recipe uses agar-agar for both the coconut whipped cream, as well as the pie filling. While the agar-agar is not completely necessary for the filling, it does help to solidify the consistency, since no eggs or other binders are being used. The agar-agar however, is an integral part of the whipped cream recipe, and the ingredient that allows it to be solid at room temperature.

Agar-agar is a gelatinous substance obtained from seaweed, and is often used as a vegetarian substitute for gelatin, or as a binding agent in baking. It is usually seen abbreviated as agar. It can often be found in Asian grocery stores, health food stores, bulk food stores, or purchased online. One place I never find it, is at traditional baking supply stores. From my experience in trying to hunt it down, you are best to start with health food stores, or buy it online.

Agar comes in either powdered form or flakes. If you are using the agar flakes in the whipped cream, you will want to strain the mixture at step #6, to remove any gritty pieces that might not have dissolved. The powdered agar will dissolve completely, therefore, you do not need to strain the mixture if using the agar powder. If you are using the agar flakes in the filling, it does not need to be strained. The agar flakes will dissolve completely when the pie is baked.

* Please note, the whipped cream needs time to set in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours. I usually let mine sit overnight. It is perfectly alright to make the whipped cream the day before. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 7 days with the same texture and consistency. The recipe for the whipped cream is listed at the bottom of this post.

The measurements for the agar are slightly different depending on whether you use the agar powder or flakes. Follow the recipe accordingly.

pie

Maple Pecan Pumpkin Pie with Coconut Whipped Cream
Gluten-free/Vegan
*makes one large pie

Step #1 for the filling (only if using agar)
If you are not using agar in the filling, skip this step and add the pumpkin puree and coconut cream at step #2 of the filling directions.

Begin by combining the agar, coconut cream and pumpkin puree, and letting it sit for 30 minutes while you make the crust and prepare the other filling ingredients. Follow the instructions below.

2 ¼ cups pumpkin puree
1/4 coconut cream. I use Wilderness Family Naturals: http://ow.ly/EbSjs
2 Tbsp. agar flakes (or 1 tsp. agar powder)

1. Pour the coconut cream into a small pot, add the agar and whisk well.
2. Slowly warm the mixture over medium heat, stirring continuously until it reaches the boiling point.
3. Remove from heat, stir in the (unspiced)pumpkin puree and allow it to sit, uncovered for 30 minutes, or until cool. In the meantime, prepare the pie crust and measure out the remaining filling ingredients.

Maple Pecan Crust
2 cups raw pecans
1 cup rolled oats, processed into flour
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 Tbsp. coconut sugar
3 Tbsp. ground flax meal
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. coconut oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Add the pecans to a food processor and grind. If the mixture becomes too dry, scrape down the sides of the food processor and add a bit of coconut oil.
3. Next, grind the oats into a fine powder.
4. Combine all ingredients together in a bowl and mix well.
5. Grease a pie pan and press the pecan crumble into the pan.
6. Bake for 10 minutes, then allow to cool before continuing.

Remaining Filling Ingredients:
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 Tbsp. coconut oil
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. sea salt

1. In a bowl, whisk together the maple syrup and corn starch.
2. Add the remaining spices and combine with the pumpkin puree and agar mixture. Blend well with electric beaters.
3. Pour the filling into the crust and smooth over.
4. In your preheated oven, bake at 350° F. for 35-45 minutes.
5. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack for one hour before transferring to the refrigerator to set for another 3 hours.

Make sure the pie has cooled and set before adding the whipped cream.

Coconut Whipped Cream Recipe
This whipped cream can be added to the pie any way you like. It remains solid at room temperature so it can be piped into a variety of shapes or simply dolloped on top. It will not melt at room temperature and will completely hold its form.

Ingredients:
389 ml (14 fl oz)can full fat coconut milk (room temperature)
1 ½ Tbsp. agar flakes or 1 ½ tsp. agar powder
2 Tbsp. cornstarch, divided
2-3 Tbsp. raw cane sugar, or powdered sweetener of your choice (stevia, coconut sugar etc.)
1/2 cup almond milk (sweetened or unsweetened, your choice. I used unsweetened)
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Method:
1. Begin by combining the coconut milk, almond milk and agar in a small pot. Whisk well, then allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
2. Stir in 1 Tbsp. of the cornstarch along with the sugar and blend until smooth.
3. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring continuously until it reaches boiling point.
4. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes, whisking occasionally. Be careful not to overheat or burn the mixture.
5. Remove from heat and add the vanilla.
6. If you are using the agar flakes, strain the mixture into a glass bowl to remove any bits that haven’t fully dissolved.
7. Let the mixture cool at room temperature for 30-45 minutes then place in the refrigerator overnight (or for a minimum of 4 hours).
8. When the mixture has chilled, place in a food processor with 1 Tbsp. of cornstarch and process until smooth. You may adjust the sweetness at this point, if desired.

The whipped cream is ready to added to the pie at this stage. You can either add it to a piping bag and make rosettes or other designs, or simply dollop it on top.

Kale Pesto Beet Crust Pizza

beet_pizza_flat

Kale Pesto Beet Crust Pizza

*Makes five 6″ thin crust pizzas
Gluten Free/Yeast Free/Vegan

Pizza Crust Ingredients:
1 medium beet, peeled and finely grated
1 cup chickpea flour
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1½ cups water
1/4 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. Himalayan sea salt
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup coconut oil ghee (for cooking)

Method:
1. Add all the dry ingredients together in a bowl and whisk thoroughly.
2. Mix in the water to form a paste.
3. Stir in the lemon juice and grated beet, and combine well.
4. Pour the mixture into a blender and process until smooth.
5. Add a few drops of coconut oil to a large skillet on medium heat.
6. Drop about 1/4 cup of batter in the center of the pan and let it spread as though you are making a pancake. Watch for the surface to begin to bubble, then flip.
7. Cook on the other side for approximately 30 seconds to 1 minute.
8. Remove from pan, place on a cooling rack and continue making the rest.

Quick & Easy Kale Cashew Pesto
2 cups purple kale, loosely packed
1/4 cup cashews, soaked for 20 minutes
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 cup water
Pinch of salt

Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped and well combined.

Toppings:
Cherry tomatoes, sliced
Daiya cheese (or cheese of your choice)
Pea shoots
Freshly ground black pepper

 Assembling The Pizza
1. Preheat oven to 350°
2. Arrange the pizza crusts on a baking sheet.
3. Spread a layer of kale pesto followed by the toppings of your choice.
4. Bake for 15-20 minutes, then remove from oven and cool on a cooling rack before serving.