Is Coconut Oil the Newest Fad or is There Something To It?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that coconut oil is the new ‘must-have’ product in your home. It boasts an array of benefits which span from the bathroom to the kitchen, and it seems almost too good to be true. People have been asking me whether it’s just a fad, but it looks like coconut oil is definitely here to stay!

The truth is coconut oil has been used for thousands of years in other cultures. It is a staple in Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional medical system of India, as well as in many other traditional health practices.

We’re a couple of millennia late to the party, but it’s better late than never! Here are some of the reasons why you should invite coconut oil into your life:

 

It’s Great for Cooking! 

  • It’s a terrific substitute for butter or margarine because it is solid at room temperature.
  • Because of its high smoking temperature, it’s great for baking, stir frying and roasting (unlike olive oil).
  • Unlike butter, it is ideal for vegans.
  • It is extremely stable and resistant to oxidation, which lends itself to a shelf life of up to 2 years!
  • Coconut is classified as a seed or a fruit so people with tree nut allergies generally do not have to worry about allergic responses.

It Keeps You Gorgeous!

  • Dry skin from the winter?  No problem! Coconut oil works wonders as a moisturizer, and can prevent dryness and flaking of skin.
  • It is a great anti-wrinkle cream because of its antioxidant properties. Apply coconut oil directly to your skin to soften the appearance of fine lines.
  • It can be used to treat eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis.  This is why it is often the first ingredient in soaps, creams, and lotions.
  • You can use it as massage oil, lip balm, and even to treat diaper rash!
  • It can be used as a hair mask, as it has healing and nourishing properties for dry and damaged hair. It can be heavy, so if your hair is on the thinner side just massage it lightly into the ends, and don’t forget to wash it out!
  • It is an amazing eye make-up remover.

It Helps Keep You Healthy!

  • It can help improve digestion and digestive problems including Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
  • The saturated fats in coconut oil have antimicrobial properties which can fight various bacteria, fungi, and parasites that can cause indigestion.
  • Most of the saturated fat in coconut oil is lauric acid.  This is considered a healthy
    choice as studies show that lauric acid can raise your ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL)
    and lower the ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL).
  • Coconut oil also helps in the absorption of other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
  • Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) which are small enough to be absorbed into the cells where they’re quickly converted to energy. Through this process insulin sensitivity is improved as there is no spike in blood sugar or insulin levels.

It Might Even Keep You Skinny!

  • The short and medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) in coconut oil can help take off excess weight. These MCFAs are sent directly to the liver and immediately converted into energy rather than being stored as body fat.
  • Even Oprah is behind it! In September 2012 Oprah magazine cited two studies linking coconut oil to weight loss. Here are the specifics:

“A study published in the journal Lipids found that a small group of obese women who consumed two tablespoons of coconut oil a day for 12 weeks saw their waistlines shrink, while women who consumed the same amount of soybean oil experienced no such change. And one of St-Onge’s studies, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, revealed that overweight subjects who consumed medium-chain triglycerides as part of a diet program lost more weight and more abdominal fat than subjects who consumed olive oil.”

 Coconut Oil: Not Just a Fad!

I only keep two oils in my home; olive oil for salad dressings and low heating,
and coconut oil for everything else.

If you decide to purchase coconut oil, make sure it’s labeled virgin or extra virgin as they are produced from the first pressing of fresh, raw coconut without adding any chemicals.

Why the Menopause Taboo?

For one reason or another, menopause is something that we just don’t talk about. It’s not like women go around waving tampons in the air when they have their periods, but it does seem that in general, we are more open to talking about the trials and tribulations of menstruation than the lack thereof.

The reasons we don’t talk about menopause could be attributed to a number of things. It could be that for years, menopause has been treated as a ‘disease,’ and has developed a kind of stigma that prevents us from seeing it as normal and natural. Most people aren’t too keen on publicly acknowledging the list of things that are wrong with
them. Or it could be that our culture is so obsessed with youth that women going through menopause feel a loss of self- worth. Or it could be as simple as the fact that menopause is accompanied by hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and mood swings, and we just don’t want to talk about it… because what’s worse than being in a bad mood and being prodded at and coerced into discussing it?

Because menopause is a time in a woman’s life when she undergoes a number of physical, emotional, and lifestyle changes, she requires support, understanding, and sympathy from those around her. The problem with this is that if a woman doesn’t acknowledge or discuss these changes, how is she supposed to elicit these kinds of responses?

I was listening to a radio show this morning, and a woman wrote in anonymously with a question about menopause. She said, in short, that she was more comfortable emailing the radio team than discussing the issue with her friends. If you’re reading this and find her situation strange, you might be surprised to learn that (even in 2014) most women don’t talk about menopause. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you think about it, because as women, the one thing that we inevitably have in common is the future, current, or past experience of menopause. As our life expectancy increases, so too does the amount of time we spend on the other side of menopause, and so it is not at all an indication that life is over, and for many women is actually quite the contrary!

I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading about menopause lately, and in doing so stumbled across a website by a woman named Ellen Dolgen, who is a ‘menopause guru’ of sorts. Ellen has coined the term ‘Menopause Mondays’ to describe support groups for women going through menopause. These groups provide an opportunity for women to discuss their symptoms and questions with other women going through similar experiences without judgment. Women can swap notes, stories, and remedies to help get those symptoms under control, and if not, at least laugh about them for an hour over a glass of wine!

We need a reminder in between the hot flashes and bad moods that it is menopause (not jeans) that is the great equalizer, and that starts with a conversation. If you have a funny menopause story to share (we call them menomoments), please post it in a comment here or on Facebook and help us open the dialogue!

 

 

 

The Women of the Oscars

As is the case every year, last night’s Academy Awards celebrated the abundance of talent that we saw in film over the course of 2013. One of the most memorable moments was when best actress winner Cate Blanchett pointed out in her acceptance speech that her win should mean something to the people “in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the centre are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them, and in fact, they earn money.”

Judi Dench, Age 79 (eonline)

There’s a misconception somewhere in Hollywood, or with Boards of Directors, or in society at large, that audiences don’t want to see female-driven films. There’s a further and equally damaging misconception that there is no substantive room for women in Hollywood after they ‘expire’ after age 39. That four of the five best actress nominees last night were over the age of 40 demonstrates the depth of this falsity, especially in conjunction with the fact that Blanchett’s Blue Jasmine was entirely driven by its female lead.

Sandra Bullock, Age 49 (People.com)

As exciting as the Academy Awards are, what does any of this have to do with women’s health? A lot, actually. So much of what we perceive as normal is influenced by the media. As much as we want to believe the media doesn’t manage our expectations, there is always a certain extent to which it will. The problem here is that when 35 year old women are presented as old, how are we supposed to perceive the changes that come with age as normal? Hollywood’s typical ‘mother-of-the-bride’ is younger than you were when you took your kids to their first day of school, and this is inevitably going to make you question why you have a couple of wrinkles and your boobs don’t hit your chin.

Cate Blanchett, Age 44 (People.com)

What was so significant about this year’s Academy Awards were the number of women over 40 who were represented and celebrated for their meaningful work. These are beautiful, accomplished women whose success is representative of the importance of women in general, and of the fact that audiences don’t want to see women’s careers hit a ‘glass ceiling’ when they turn 40. We want to see women’s entire lives portrayed on screen, not just their reproductive years! That Hollywood is beginning to embrace roles for ‘older women’ (I am reluctant to describe a 44 year old woman as older without
quotation marks) is a step towards all women accepting the changes that come
with age.

Meryl Streep, Age 64(Huffington Post)

 

 

Tips for Reducing Your Risk of Heart Disease

Heart disease is considered to be largely preventable. Below are 10 simple tips for reducing your risk of heart disease:

1.Take 10,000 steps a day. Use a pedometer and gradually increase the number of steps you take each day. Exercise fights heart disease in numerous ways: it lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, improves circulation, reduces stress and strengthens the heart.

2. Get another hour sleep. A recent Sleep in America poll reported that less than half of adults are getting adequate sleep (7-8hrs). Lack so sleep can raise blood pressure, trigger inflammation, and promote atherosclerosis. Getting 6 hours of sleep or less per night has been found to increase risk of heart disease in women, independent of other risk factors (such as smoking).

3. Eat more fish and garlic and drink green tea. These foods contain various compounds that support heart health. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish can help reduce triglycerides and inflammation and prevent clotting. Garlic and green tea contain powerful antioxidants that can improve several aspects of heart health. Consider supplements of garlic and fish oil to complement your diet.

4. Choose whole grains over refined products. Studies show that highly refined carbohydrates that have a high glycemic index, such as white bread, are worse for your heart than foods high in saturated fat, like red meat and butter. Whole grains contain more fiber and are digested more slowly. Try oatmeal and chia seed for breakfast; soluble fiber in oats and chia can help lower cholesterol levels and support weight management. Swap potato chips in favour of tortilla chips. Tortilla chips have more fibre and less fat and if you choose ones that are fortified with extra fiber (flax, chia, bean flour), they can actually help lower your LDL cholesterol. Dip your tortilla chips in fresh salsa. The lycopene in tomatoes can help lower blood pressure.

5. Eat more brightly coloured vegetables and fruits. The antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre can support the health of your blood vessels, improve circulation, help reduce cholesterol and reduce free radical damage. Canada’s food guide recommends 7-10 servings for adults (based on age and gender) yet according to a recent survey by Statistics Canada only 40% of Canadians are consuming five or more servings daily. If your diet falls short, take a multivitamin/mineral complex to ensure you are getting all essential nutrients.

6. Make better fat choices. Cook with palm fruit oil rather than olive oil. Olive oil is great to use in salad dressings or add to foods after it is cooked, but it is not heat stable and its beneficial properties are lost when it is heated to high temperatures. Palm fruit oil is heat stable and contains potent antioxidants called tocotrienols that are good for the heart and the brain. NIH-funded research show tocotrienols found in palm fruit oil may reduce damaging effects of stroke and it can have a positive effect on cholesterol levels. Tocotrienols from palm fruit oil are also available in supplement form.

(A note from femMED: when buying palm oil, make sure you check the label to make sure that it is sustainably farmed).

7. Stress less. Stress is a powerful risk factor for heart disease. Stress impacts several risk factors for heart disease: it raises blood pressure and cholesterol, triggers inflammation and promotes blood clots. Stress can also hamper immune function, and cause insomnia, headaches and weight gain. To better manage stress, try deep breathing, meditation, yoga and get regular exercise.

8. Laugh more and be optimistic. Laughing relaxes and expands blood vessels, which helps protect the heart. Research conducted in over 97,000 women has found that optimists have lower rates of heart disease than those who are negative and pessimistic. Negative emotions such as anger, hostility, worry and pessimism are associated with increased risk of heart disease, whereas the opposite trails are protective.

9. Floss your teeth daily. Poor oral hygiene not only affects your breath and appearance but it can lead to bone loss and increased risk of heart disease. Brush after meals and floss daily. This only takes a few minutes and is vital for your health. If you are out and can’t brush, use a toothpick to loosen food stuck between teeth and rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash. Chew sugarless gum sweetened with xylitol.

10. See you doctor and know your numbers. There are often no obvious symptoms of high cholesterol or elevated blood pressure until the conditions are advanced, and so it is important to keep on top of the heart disease symptoms in women. Delaying treatment can increase your risk of serious consequences. Have a regular check-up with your doctor and discuss your results. Know your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar numbers. Keep a health record at home.

What You’ve Heard about Heart Disease: What’s Fact and What’s Fiction?

February is National Heart Health Month so this is the perfect time to talk about what women can do to protect themselves against their number one health threat. That’s right…heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in North America.  One in three women in their lifetime will develop heart disease, but sadly the odds are approaching one in two. Every minute a woman dies of heart disease. This could be you, your mother, your sister, or your friend. Cardiovascular disease in women has been understudied, under-diagnosed and largely ignored by both women and their doctors. There are many myths and misconceptions that prevail about heart disease in women. Here are just a few:

Myth:
Heart disease is only an issue for elderly women.
Fact: While heart disease is the chief killer of women over the age of 65, it is also the second-leading cause of death in women ages 45 to 64 and the third-leading cause of death in women 25 to 44.

Myth: Women are more likely to survive a heart attack than men.
Fact: Women are twice as likely as men to die after suffering a heart attack. The unfortunate reality is that women delay getting treatment, are treated less aggressively after a heart attack and are less likely to be given life-saving medications or referrals to
cardiologists.

 

Myth: Risk factors for heart disease are the same in women as in men.
Fact: Certain conditions are more likely to cause heart disease in women than in men, such as metabolic syndrome and menopause. Stress and lack of sleep also appear more likely to damage women’s hearts.

Myth: Sex increases the risk of heart attack.
Fact: It is commonly thought that sex is a major trigger for heart attacks, yet only one percent of heart attacks are brought on by sexual activity.

Myth:
Hormone replacement therapy protects against heart disease.
Fact: Menopausal women who take estrogen replacement therapy actually may be at increased risk for heart disease.