It may still be wintery white outside this month, but greener pastures are on the horizon. March marks the beginning of spring, and is the perfect time to dust off those winter bones and bring yourself some “green”, with how you eat, supplement, and live your life. We sat down with Holistic Nutritionist, Joy McCarthy, author of Joyous Health for some all-star tips and tricks that will make you one lean-green-health machine!
Q: Hi Joy! So let’s get started, why is “going green” important for our overall health and wellbeing?
Joy McCarthy: We are in such a health crisis right now! The numbers speak for themselves. Did you know that 1.6 million Canadians are considered to be “obese” and 31% of the children in this country are overweight? That is just the tip of the iceberg; so many more people are suffering from the ill-effects of poor health. Stress, mental issues like depression and anxiety, cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are all increasing by staggering amounts each year.
Q: That all sound really serious. What are the driving factors behind all of this ill-health?
JM: There are so many factors, poor diet, toxins from body care products, household cleaners and pollution, not enough sleep, too much screen time, lack of outdoor activity, and stressful lifestyles are all playing into this. That is why it is super important to not just green your diet, but green your life!
Q: Well since you are known for your amazing nutrition advice, and awesome recipes, let’s start with diet. What is the first rule of greening your diet?
JM: The first rule of greening your diet is getting rid of all the processed and unnatural foods that lack the essential vitamins, minerals and enzymes that promote health in the body. We want to eat foods that are closest to their natural source, and are packed full of nutrition to nourish the body.
Q: So it may seem like a no-brainer here, but green foods probably rank pretty high on your list?
JM: Absolutely! Green foods are awesome! There are so many benefits to including green foods in your diet. They are high in water to help keep you hydrated, they are rich in calcium to keep bones strong, contain chlorophyll which helps to naturally detoxify the body, and are packed with fibre to aid with weight loss, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, and keep things moving so toxins can’t accumulate. They are also some of the most nutrient dense foods you can eat giving you a rich source of minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, and iron, vitamins like A, C, E and a wide arrange of B’s, and a ton of wonderful phytochemicals that help prevent free radical damage, and inflammation.
Q: Wow, green foods sound pretty amazing. Do you have a favourite?
JM: It is hard to choose, but I would have to say the “Queen of Green”, kale, is pretty high on my list. This leafy green is part of the brassica family that contains more anti-cancer phytochemicals than any other vegetable family. It is also high in carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, which helps promote eye health, especially age-related macular degeneration which is the number one cause of blindness in the elderly.
Q: Any other green rock stars we should try?
JM: Totally! Get creative. Broccoli, arugula, Brussels sprouts are all amazing additions to the diet. You can sip your “green” by enjoying a daily cup of green tea, and of course flavouring food with herbs like mint, rosemary and parsley are also a great way to sneak more green into the diet.
Q: So what about days where eating green veggies just seems downright impossible. Should we still try to get some greens into us?
JM: Eating green everyday may seem like a challenge for some, but there are some great supplements on the market that can help you ensure you are getting a solid dose of greens every single day.
Q: So when it comes to green supplements, do you have a favourite?
JM: I love Greens+ O from Genuine Health. This is an organic green food formula that is 100% gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free and vegan. One of the key ingredients in it is organic spirulina, which is a type of blue-green algae that is rich in a wide variety of nutrients, and has been shown improve immune function, lower blood-pressure and encourages the growth of good bacteria. greens+O also contains organic broccoli, broccoli sprouts, chia seeds, apples, and carrots to name a few. Just one scoop is the antioxidant equivalent of 6 servings of organic fruits and veggies.
Q: So I guess there really is no excuse not to get your daily greens!
JM: Absolutely. And it tastes great too! The best way to start your day.
Q: Now you mentioned at the beginning of the interview that it is not just diet that is leading to our increased risk of disease, that toxins are also a key contributor. What is one green habit that you recommend to all your clients?
JM: Ditch the plastic! Plastic food containers contain chemicals that can leach into your food and have the power to disrupt our hormones. Using glass is a great way to prevent this, and as an added bonus can be reused and recycled, which many plastic containers can’t.
Q: There is a lot of talk around toxins in our food and the organic debate wages on. What are your thoughts on this?
JM: Definitely where ever possible you want to buy organic, but I am also a huge fan of buying what is local and in season from nearby farms that have a small carbon footprint.
Q: What about meat and seafood? Do you have any recommendations for those of us who aren’t vegetarian or vegan?
JM: I always recommend that people try to eat fewer animals, as the world’s livestock accounts for 18% of greenhouse gases, more than all forms of transportation combined! When you do eat meat though, choose responsible and look for free range, organic sources. It may cost more, but these types of animals put less strain on the land; important for our health and the health of our world.
When it comes to seafood always choose “sustainably sourced”. Nearly 85% of the world’s fisheries are at capacity or overfished, but by choosing sustainably source fish you know that they have been farmed in a way that can maintain or increase populations in the long run.
Q: So we are still touching a lot on diet, but I know you mentioned that household cleaners and beauty products play a big part in our toxin exposure!
JM: They sure do, and what is scary about household cleaners and beauty products is that they have the tendency to bio-accumulate and persist not only in our body, but also in the environment around us. For example run off from chemical cleaners has been found to enter the aquatic system and be toxic to aquatic organisms. There are so many great natural beauty care products on the market now, or you can always play around and make your own! I like to use the David Suzuki Shopper’s Guide as a reference for the ingredients to avoid. When it comes to household cleaners, I am a fan of Seventh Generation that again was endorsed by my hero David Suzuki!
Q: Ok Joy, we are just about to wrap up but I know you are a fan of moving your bod! What do you recommend for greening up your movement?
JM: Get outside!! Man is an outdoor animal, but unfortunately “screen time”, and busy jobs have kept us indoors. Did you know that when people get outside and view natural, rural settings it lights up different areas of the brain? People show more emotional stability, empathy, and love. Getting outside has also been shown to decrease cortisol levels, lower blood pressure, and decrease muscular tension, great for further reducing your risk of disease.
If you want to learn more green tips from Joy, be sure to check out her website www.joyoushealth.com or grab a copy of her new book Joyous Health.