What is Xylitol?

October 20, 2014 — 1 Comment

I was at the dentist today when out of the blue my dentist told me that I get cavities quite easily and that I should start taking xylitol mints after eating. He tells me this while my mouth is crammed with gauze, a dental dam and a drill so I didn’t have a chance to ask WHY until the end.

When my mouth was free again and I remembered his demand that I buy Xylitol mints I asked about it and he went into a little more detail. He told me that some people get get cavities more easily than others because of the type of bacteria in their mouths. He went on to tell me that we’re born without our mouth bacteria and that we get it from our environment – usually from our mothers who taste our food as babies before they feed us.

It sounded vaguely like a scam being perpetuated by the sugar free/dental industry, but by the end he’d convinced me to at least try it out. Apparently taking Xylitol mints after each meal is a god way to improve the environment in our mouths. According to my dentist bad bacteria that feeds on sugar and causes cavities in our mouths will eventually die out due the the Xylitol and will over time leave us with a healthier colony of bacteria that’s less inclined to cause cavities.

I’m willing to try this because popping a few mints after each meal is harmless, but here’s what the internet has to say about Xylitol.

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a naturally occurring alcohol found in most plants, including many fruits and vegetables. It’s mainly extracted from birch wood and is used a a sugar substitute in ‘sugar-free’ gum and candy. Structurally Xylitol is different than sugar because it has five, not six carbon atoms. Most mouth bacteria cannot make use of such sugars, which is why xylitol can help prevent cavities.

Benefits of Xylitol?

Well – according to Xylitol Canada, which may be biased, Xylitol is a dentist’s dream. It reverses the negative effects of sugar on your oral health. Because Xylitol is non-fermentable it can’t be converted to acids by oral bacteria, which helps to restore a proper alkaline/acid balance in the mouth. This alkaline environment is inhospitable to all the bad bacteria, and it inhibits plaque formation.

Long-term use suppresses the most harmful strains of oral bacteria, making a long-lasting change in those bacterial communities. Xylitol even has the ability to enhance the mineralization of the enamel. It is most effective in treating small decay spots. Although larger cavities won’t go away, they can harden and become less sensitive.

How to add Xylitol to your diet

Using xylitol right before bedtime, after brushing and flossing, protects and heals the teeth and gums. The best way to start adding it to your diet is to pop a couple of xylitol mints after each meal. You could consider this a fairly affordable supplement, and if in fact it will save your teeth it’s definitely worth it. I’ve picked up this pack of mints from Spry

Xylitol warnings:

Xylitol is said to be safe in the amounts found in food. It seems safe as a medicine for most adults in amounts up to about 50 grams per day. Higher doses is known to cause diarrhea and stomach discomfort. There is some concern that extremely high doses for long periods of time (more than three years) can cause tumors.

Conclusions:

There seem to be some alarmists out there, but overall Xylitol seems to be safe and beneficial when taken in small quantities. To me it’s worth trying as it’s relatively affordable and easy to include in your diet and if it really is as good for oral health as the industry claims then it would be well worth the effort of popping a few mints after a meal.

 

summer berry smoothie harley pasternak

Another day, another smoothie. Today I’m trying out another smoothie recipe from Harley Pasternak’s Body Reset Diet book. This one is the Red Smoothie and it isn’t as delicious as the Apple Pie Smoothie I tried the other day, but it’s definitely not bad.

With just some frozen berries, half an orange and some vanilla protein powder this meal replacer takes less than five minutes to make, and it tastes like my usual protein shake. I had to add quite a bit of water to get it to blend, and I didn’t love the little orange bits that made it through the blender, but I’d have it again.

Red Smoothie
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries
  • ¼ cup frozen blueberries
  • ½ orange, peeled
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (I used Vega)
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • water to desired consistency
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to blender. Blend until you get a smooth consistency

 

harley pasternak apple pie smoothie for breakfastI was browsing through Harley Pasternak‘s Body Reset Diet book for some smoothie ideas and thought I’d give the “Apple Pie Smoothie” a try. Normally smoothies that masquerade as delicious desserts end up tasking like spinach and diarrhea, but this one is seriously legit.

You can find the original recipe here, but I modified the recipe below based on what I had available this morning. My NutriBullet had no problem blending it out pretty smoothly and I’ll definitely do this again. It tastes sweet and creamy like apple pie à la mode crammed into a blender. Yum!

Apple Pie Smoothie
 
Ingredients
  • 1 red apple, unpeeled, cored and chopped
  • 1 small frozen banana, chopped
  • ¾ cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon, or more to taste
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients in a blender.
  2. Blend at least 30 seconds, until smooth.

 

 

silk purealmond almond milk

My fave brand of silky delicious almond milk

Almond milk is a staple in my house. I gave up the real stuff years ago after horror stories about hormones, puss filled milk, and sad cows with infected teats. Yes – I love beef, but milk seems so…unnecessary, and why do we glorify the discovery of a madman. Why would you get under an animal and drink creamy white liquid from its giant dangling breast(s)?

Anyways – while almond milk isn’t quite as drinkable as cow’s milk it is a great substitute in cereal and smoothies. I use it every single day so when I heard that Doctor Oz was dissing almond milk as being potentially dangerous because of an ingredient called carrageenan I thought I’d look into it…Is almond milk bad for you?!

What is Carrageenan?

It’s a natural ingredient that derives from red algae and is used to thicken the almond milk to make it more like cows milk.

Why do people think Carrageenan is dangerous?

Some studies have suggested that carrageenan may trigger an inflammatory reaction in our gut which could result in tumor production or cancer. it sounds terrible, but it’s more complicated than that because there are two types of carrageenan and while mainly tested on mice we know it reacts differently in different kinds of animals.

Alternatives?

1. Look for store brands that don’t include carrageenan. It must be listed in the ingredients so if you don’t see it on the label then it’s not there.

2. Make your own almond milk, like the folks over at The Kitchn

3. Try other non-dairy substitutes. Rice milk is a little watery and is for the truly advanced non-diary lover. Hemp milk is better for beginners as it’s much more similar to real milk and has a mild nutty taste.

Final Thoughts?

At this point I think the research on carrageenan doesn’t seem particularly damning…yet. I’m going to continue buying almond milk for daily consumption, but it’s better to be safe than sorry so I will consider rotating my ‘milks’ to minimize the risk.

more reading:

 

Earlier this month I ran out of vitamins so I put in an order at Well.ca. While ordering I thought I’d try out a few energy boosting supplements I saw a nutritionist Miranda Malisani recommend on an episode of the Marilyn Dennis Show. Here are three that I’ve been giving a try this week:

SISU To Go Ester-C Energy Boost – Lemon Lime

30 Packets – $13.64 CAD

Claim: These packets combine Ester-C and energy-supporing B vitamins along with minerals, and electrolytes to help keep you feeling at peak performance. Just add water and drink.

Taste: At first I mixed this into a small glass of water and the taste was awful. Second time around I mixed it into a full bottle of water and the taste improved drastically. It’s like a dull lemonade that could use some sweetness.

Result: I felt good about this one, but it made me feel so bloated and gassy. I’ll have to wait and see if this is something my gut will get used to. I’m not sure yet if I’d buy this again.

Amazing Grass Green Superfood – Original

480 g (60 Servings)  – $49.99

Claim: This green powder will help you meet your required daily servings of fruit and veggies. It naturally detoxifies and boosts your immune system, plus it comes in a full range of flavors that taste great.

Taste: In a glass of water it tastes like leafy death. In a glass of juice or in a shake it’s great!

Result: Again, this might be my imagination, but I just felt great about drinking some veggie powder. I’ll definitely buy this again.

Vega Sugar-Free Energizer – Lemon Lime

136 g – $44.99

Claim: With ten synergistic ingredients and only 5 calories it is a healthy alternative to coffee, giving you both immediate and sustained energy – without the jitters! Not only is it a great pick-me-up, but also it can help you focus and boost energy so you can power through a yoga class or lower intensity exercise.

Taste: Pretty similar to SISU’s muddy lemonade. Not bad in a glass full of water or juice

Result: This didn’t make me feel like I was going to deflate from my butt like the SISU product. I felt a distinct pick me up after taking this in the afternoon. I’d definitely buy it again and keep it at my desk at work for the 3 o’clock slump.

 

Once a year Daniel and I treat ourselves to a vacation in New York City because we think it’s one of the best places in the world. It’s wild and exhausting and beautiful and so unlike anywhere else in the US. This time we stayed at a new hotel between Bryant Park and Time Square and had a great time – far enough from Time Square to avoid that chaos, and within walking distance to all that midtown has to offer. Later this week I’ll be sharing some natural energy boosting supplements I purchased before my trip, but until then…some pics of NYC:

Grand Central Station

Grand Central Station

Midtown View from Hotel

Midtown View from Hotel

Radio City at Night

Radio City at Night

Late Night with Seth Myers...The guest was TINA FEW

Late Night with Seth Myers…The guest was TINA FEW

Midtown Manhattan

Midtown Manhattan

Bryant Park

Bryant Park

Central Park

Central Park

Today we went to Toronto’s CNE and walked home along the waterfront. The fried chicken was a fail, but how could I resist trying deep fried chicken covered in chocolate?! Thinking back on it I can’t see what I thought was appealing, but I fell for the hype and the pull of an I insanely long line in the food pavilion. The chicken wasn’t sweet or chocolatey – it was slightly smokey and just…not great. Regardless, the CNE is always a great for a few hours of chaos.

coco's fried chicken toronto CNE coco's fried chicken with fries downtown toronto lake ontario marina toronto music garden view of cn tower

fresh egg pastaI keep seeing the contestants on MasterChef throw together pasta from basically nothing and after my success with making bread from scratch I thought I’d try my hand at making fresh egg pasta. Turns out it’s not so bad!

This basic recipe from Jamie Oliver calls for a pasta machine, but I don’t have room for any more equipment into my tiny condo kitchen so I just rolled it out thinly and sliced it with a knife.

I find it amazing that one of my favourite foods is made from only two ingredients, and while rolling it out thinly was pretty hard this whole process was surprisingly quick and easy. The bonus here is that the ingredients are incredibly low cost, and the lack of preservatives means that unlike processed pasta your body breaks down the pasta easily. Slightly gross picture proof here.

Fresh Egg Pasta Recipe
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup flour (Tipo "00" is best for pasta, but I used regular all purpose white)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
Instructions
  1. Pour out your flour and form a well at the centre.
  2. Add eggs to the centre of your flour well.
  3. Use your fingertips to combine the flour and egg until it comes together.
  4. You can't over knead this dough so just go for it - kneading until it becomes a dense ball.
  5. Wrap your ball in cling wrap and throw it in the fridge for 30 minutes (if you don't have time you can skip this step, but your pasta won't be quite as good).
  6. When you're ready to work with the dough begin by rolling it out as thinly as you can.
  7. Once it's thin use a knife to cut your dough into thin strips.
  8. Now your pasta is ready to keep in the fridge for a few days

 

 

apple cider vinegar dressing

Apple cider vinegar is said to help with a multitude of things from acid reflux, to liver detoxification, to weight loss. One thing it’s not known for is having a great taste…Unless you turn it into a simple vinaigrette with a few other basic ingredients.

And once you do you won’t be disappointed. This apple cider vinegar dressing is soooo good! It takes about 5 minutes to make and it’ll keep in the fridge for a week – if it lasts that long. Toss it in with your favourite greens or into a nice slaw and you’ll be hooked!

Apple Cider Vinegar Dressing
 
Ingredients
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp mustard
  • ¼ apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • dash of salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. add all ingredients to a mason jar and seal the lid
  2. shake until all ingredients are combined and add additional lemon juice or salt to taste, if necessary
  3. serve over your favourite greens

quick bread recipeThis no-knead bread recipe could just as easily be thrown in a pyrex bowl and baked in the oven, but I love a gimmick! When I found out that you can make bread in a rice cooker I picked up a package of yeast next time I as at the grocery store. The ingredients only set me back a few dollars, and the end result was a crusty wheel of bread that exceeded my wildest expectations. Not only is it delicious with a bit of butter, but it has no sugar, or preservatives. I used quick rise yeast and this was done from beginning to end in barely over an hour – with no dirty dishes!


No-Knead Bread Recipe
 
Ingredients
  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
  • 1½ cups water, hot
  • 1 package quick-rise yeast (I used Fleischmann's)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. mix all the dry ingredients in your rice cooker
  2. add hot water and stir until the mixture is wet and sticky
  3. put on the rice cooker lid and set the dough aside until it bubbles (15 minutes)
  4. spread some flour onto a cutting board and dump out the dough mixture
  5. fold the dough over itself once or twice until you get a nice ball
  6. coat the dough in olive oil and set it back into the rice cooker.
  7. let this rise for another 15 minutes and then turn on the rice cooker.
  8. cook for 10 minutes, pop out the bead and put it back into the rice cooker upside down for another 10 minutes.

Quick Bread - after first rise

Quick Bread – after first rise

 

Quick Bread - after second rise

Quick Bread – after second rise

Bob Harper Jumpstart to Skinny Breakfast.jpgWell, no…I didn’t have breakfast with Bob Harper, but I did read just “JumpStart to Skinny” and it got me hooked on a new breakfast. It takes me more time to prepare than my usual Vega shake, but there’s something more satisfying about it.

What you may or may not know about me is that I love reading diet books. I’ve bought more than I’d care to admit, and borrowed countless editions from the e-library on my Kindle. I think that most of them are nonsense, but a bunch of them are written by reputable leaders in the fitness or nutrition industry and I like to take away tips or tricks every once in a while.

What’s nice about JumpStart to Skinny is that Bob doesn’t even pretend that this is a long-term lifestyle solution. It’s labelled right off the bat as a low-calorie crash diet that will help you drop some pounds, and it segue’s perfectly into Bob’s other book which guides you to a more realistic healthy lifestyle solution.

My takeaway from this book was pretty simple : Bob’s 40/40/20 rule.
A meal comprised of 40% protein, 40% carbs, and 20% fat is the ideal mix of macro nutrients to keep you feeling full and keep cravings in check. I really felt that this works, and I plan to stick to this breakfast for a while. It takes some time in the morning, but it’s very filling while being quite low calorie – and along with a coffee it keeps me full until lunch.

Bob Harper’s Jumpstart to Skinny : A 40/40/20 Breakfast

1. Omelette:
3/4 cup of liquid egg whites (equivalent to 6 egg whites).
1 tsp coconut or olive oil.
Coat pan with Pam or olive oil. Add eggs and cook on medium-low heat until cooked through and golden on one side.

2. Oatmeal:
1/3 cup of Quaker Large Flake Oats
1/3 cup frozen blueberries
6 raw almonds
Add water to cover oatmeal. Add berries and microwave for 2 minutes. Sprinkle almonds on top or eat separately.

Here’s what all this looks like in Myfitnesspal. You can see it meets the 40/40/20 guideline pretty closely.

jumpstart to skinny breakfast

 

For the past month now Daniel and I have been going for a run early on Sunday morning and I thought I’d take the opportunity to show you what I’ve found. Some great places to walk or run right in the heart of the city.

1. The new Park at the heart of the Regent Park Revitalization has lots of play space and is adjacent to the new Aquatic Centre.Toronto Regent Park Revitalization

2. The Western half of Riverdale Park is always full of people playing baseball of walking their dogs.20140622-102101-37261280.jpg

3. Cross the footbridge to Riverdale Park East and climb a huge hill to find one of the best views of downtown. The park is full of runners and ambitious hill climbers.20140622-102100-37260868.jpg

4. Leaving the park before hitting Riverdale Farm you’ll find this quiet marshy area to stop and catch your breath.toronto green 2

5. Farther into Cabbagetown you’ll find old homes with fantastic gardens, like this ivy covered cottage. These quiet one way streets are full of joggers.toronto cottage cabbagetown