Making minor, yet meaningful changes to your lifestyle can help you become a significantly healthier and happier person. Our health expert shares five tips on sleep, nutrition and fitness to help you achieve these goals.
"Why does she look and feel so good? I think I want what she's having!" If you find yourself thinking like this it might be time to adopt some new habits.
Your body needs some sugar to function, but Canadians, who consume the equivalent of 26 teaspoons of the sweet stuff every day, are probably overdoing it. We break down what too much sugar does to your body, and how you can cut back.
Good news for those with sweet tooths: Glucose is our main source of fuel, so, yes, we actually do need sugar in our diets. But don't get too excited— they're not all alike.
"All carbohydrate-containing foods, whether candy, pop, fruit, vegetables or grain products, break down into glucose in our bloodstream," says Patricia Chuey, a Vancouver-based registered dietitian. "But our bodies respond differently when we get sugar from nutrient-dense, fibre-rich foods, eaten as part of a balanced meal that contains protein, compared to 'empty' calories from zero-nutrient, fibre-less foods."
Those carb-heavy, low-nutrient foods cause our blood-sugar, or glucose, levels to spike, triggering the release of insulin in response. One of insulin's jobs is to move glucose from the blood to our liver, muscle and fat cells for storage, and when there's more in our bloodstream than what our bodies need for energy, it can end up as stored fat—"even though fat, per se, wasn't consumed," says Chuey. That's partially why excess sugar consumption is linked to fatty liver disease, as well as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Fibre-rich, nutrient-dense foods, on the other hand, break down more slowly, so they don't cause as much of a blood-sugar spike, or the resulting weight gain.
That doesn't mean you have to skip your favourite sweet indulgences entirely. What we know today is that moderation is key—a little sugar won't hurt you.
But, for the most part, Canadians are not consuming a little sugar. According to Statistics Canada, on average, 22 to 26 percent of our total daily caloric intake consists of sugar. Put another way, that's an average of 110 grams, or 26 teaspoons, per day. And it's not just how much; experts are also concerned about where it comes from.
"Whole foods that are sweet, like fruit, can be good sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre, which can contribute to overall health," says Gita Singh, a research assistant professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Boston's Tufts University.
It's added sugar, regardless of the source, that's the problem. You'll find it in processed foods, such as many breads, soups, salad dressings and pasta sauces. And then there's pop, sports drinks and fruit drinks, which experts collectively refer to as sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). These drinks are among the top causes of obesity and its attendant ailments, which include heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer and other chronic diseases. In fact, Singh coauthored a report published in the medical journal Circulation that estimates SSB consumption is partially responsible for the diabetes-, cancer- and cardiovascular disease–related deaths of 1,600 Canadians each year.
The fact that SSBs are a leading source of excess sugar in our diets is galling but encouraging. That's because the solution is straightforward: Stop, or at least cut back on, drinking them.
Chuey says you can further reduce the added sugar in your diet by avoiding convenience foods that list sugar (or maltose, corn syrup, cane sugar or honey) among the first three ingredients; swap your caramel macchiato for a latte; and top plain yogurt with fresh fruit. The less sugar you consume, the less you'll end up craving.
But when you do indulge, go all in. "Apply the pleasure maximization principle," says Chuey. "Make it really worth it! Not in terms of quantity, but the kind of quality that will really satisfy." So skip the soda fountain. But those homemade cookies? Enjoy!
YOUR BODY ON SUGAR
There are lots of table sugar subs on the market, but how do they stack up, health-wise?
Stevia: Zero calories per teaspoon
Stevia is a zero-calorie, fructosefree option.
Date sugar: 11 calories per teaspoon
Date sugar contains all the fibre and nutrients found in the dried fruit.
Coconut sugar: 15 calories per teaspoon
Made from the sap of coconut-tree flowers, coconut sugar has the same calorie count as table sugar, but it's lower on the glycemic index.
Agave nectar: 15 calories per teaspoon
Agave nectar is about 1 1/2 times sweeter than refined sugar, so you can use less. But it's high in fructose (hello, blood-sugar spikes!).
Who doesn't like chocolate cake?! Here's a roundup up of our best, most decadent chocolate cake recipes you'll want to make over and over again.
"This recipe is inspired by a chocolate cake my grandmother used to make for
special occasions. It's decadent, incredibly chocolaty and extremely easy to make." — Jennifer Bartoli, Food specialist
Get the recipe: Chocolate Fudge Cake With Raspberry Coulis
Don't worry if a few crepes aren't perfectly round; just layer the less attractive ones in the centre of the cake and no one will be the wiser. A bar zester makes perfect, delicate strips of rind and comes in handy when preparing the orange zest topping.
Get the recipe: Chocolate Orange Crêpe Cake
White and dark chocolate batters swirl together in this ganache-glazed cake. Serve with chocolate whipped cream or ice cream.
Get the recipe: Glazed Chocolate Marble Cake
Brilliant blue icing and a fun speckled effect make this show-stopping chocolate cake look like a robin's egg. For best results, practise your speckling technique on waxed paper before tackling the cake. The speckling can get a little messy, so protect the cake plate with strips of waxed or parchment paper.
Get the recipe: Speckled Easter Egg Chocolate Cake
Everyone should be able to eat chocolate cake! A few simple substitutions is all it takes to make our classic recipe free of dairy, gluten, eggs, white sugar and vegetable oil, without sacrificing the intense chocolaty taste and moist, fluffy texture you've come to love. Most high-quality semisweet chocolates are dairy-free; read the label to ensure the brand you've selected doesn't contain any milk products.
Get the recipe: Dark and Delicious Vegan Chocolate Cake
This is a fantastic fudgy dessert for any occasion.
Get the recipe: Flourless Chocolate Truffle Cake
If the stomach is indeed the way to a loved one's heart, then this ultra-decadent chocolate cake is sure to seal the deal. Just as easy and versatile as a cake mix— but way more moist and delicious—it's a recipe you'll want to make again and again.
Get the recipe: The Ultimate Chocolate Layer Cake
Picture this: a rich, brownie-like chocolate cake topped with chocolate mousse, whipped topping and garnished with even more chocolate. Sound divine? It is! Italian meringue gives the mousse a light, fluffy texture without the addition of gelatin.
Get the recipe: Chocolate Mousse Passover Cake
This fantastic dessert should stay refrigerated until serving. Use a hot knife, wiping it clean after each cut to get pristine edges.
Get the recipe: Mocha Mousse Cake
A smooth ganache topping is an easy yet impressive finish to this moist chocolate cake, which is layered with a buttery espresso-flavoured icing. Top the cake with the chilled chocolate shards just before serving so they keep their shape.
Get the recipe: Silky Mocha Layer Cake
Crunchy meringue, silky mousse, moist chocolate cake and decadent ganache give flavour and texture to this ultimate cake, which is well worth the effort to make.
Get the recipe: Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Cake
Chocolate-orange is a classic holiday flavour combination. The bright candied zest on top perfectly complements the chocolate chunks hidden within the cake.
Get the recipe: Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake
A double dose of chocolate gives this cake its rich flavour. Greasing your pan with butter and then dusting with flour is a foolproof way to ensure your cake comes out easily.
Get the recipe: Double-Chocolate Zucchini Bundt Cake
When you layer silky chocolate mousse with crunchy meringue, the meringue becomes soft and chewy, making this cake easy to slice with a hot, sharp knife.
Get the recipe: Malt Chocolate Mousse Cake
Shopping for that special man in your life can be struggle, so let us help. We've got something that will appeal to all sorts of men this Valentine's Day—at every budget.
Whether you’re looking for something for your fling, boyfriend, partner or husband here are the perfect manly, or just plain quirky, gifts of you guy.
For the proud Canadian
Let your man show everyone just how much he loves his home an native land with one of the most Canadian things in existence, a toque covered with mounties.
Arborist mountie toque, $30, drakegeneralstore.ca.
For the baseball buff
If your partner already has a Blue Jays hat and jersey surprise him with this handsome—and darn right cute—blue jay pin. This tiny treasure will allow him to sport some pride on the lapel of his jacket or event suit.
Blue Jay lapel pin, $10, crywolfclothing.com.
For the Clean Freak
If the smell of synthetic pine won’t cut it for your man (you got a keeper) gift him with a car smell that's more refined, and customizable. Infuse his vehicle with his favourite essential oil blend to feel soothed, uplifted and refreshed while you're on the road.
Saje Car Scenter, $17, saje.com.
For the gym rat
Do you lift bro? Well if your man does then headphones, sans strap, will make all the difference while he’s pumping iron. These wireless Jaybird in-ear bluetooth sport headphones are sweatproof, which means no slipping our of your ears, and offer a long battery life, eight hours, before it needs a charge.
Jaybird Freedom Wireless Headphones, $200, indigo.com.
For the coffee addict
Does your main squeeze appreciate a strong cup of coffee every morning? Buy him this french press with a cute little message, he’ll be sure to think of you fondly before he starts his day.
Brewed with love french press, $39.50, indigo.com.
For the fitness fanatic
This stylish little band automatically tracks steps, distance, calories and sleep. If your man is a triathlete this fitness tracker is swim proof and it also uses a replaceable battery (that lasts up to six months), so you'll have no hassle with daily charging after a training session.
Misfit Shine 2 Fitness tracker, $140, misfit.com.
For the fragrance aficionado
If your man has more than five fragrances, that he actually alternates between, that means he’s a fragrance guy. Try gifting him with the newest scent from Clean; Black Leather. The juice is a spicy blend of smoky musk, bergamot and black peppercorn.
Clean Black Leather, $98, sephora.com.
For the homebody
Nothing’s cozier than a plush natural wool lined pair of leather slippers. If he's a slippers guy, he'll love these from Ugg, consider them them the Rolls Royce of the slipper world.
Men’s scuffed Deco Slippers, $135, ugg.com.
For the bearded hipster
A freshly laundered man is something any woman can get behind, so consider this gift a win win. Give him this trio of male grooming essentials: facial cleanser, beard conditioning shave lube and beard oil.
Jack Black Beard Grooming Kit, $43, sephora.com.
For the music man
If your paramour is into his beats and always on the move gift him with this retro looking amp shaped portable speaker, the smallest from the music minded brand. It’s got a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that will allow him to blast his tunes for a solid 25 hours before needing a charge.
Marshall Stockwell speaker, $300, indigo.com.