Though I usually recommend that singers try to stick to eating whole unprocessed foods, the truth is that packaged foods are part of the landscape of our dietary lives. And many unprocessed foods are found in packages as well.
Now if we are eating packaged foods, the priority is to read the ingredients list to make sure you are not getting a food full of artificial sweeteners, colours, preservatives and other chemical additives.
After that we can move on to the Nutrition Facts.
The Nutrition Facts table is on the side of most packaged foods. It’s often found close to the ingredient listing.
The purpose of it is to help consumers make better nutrition decisions. When people can see the number of calories, carbs, sodium, etc. in food, they should be able to eat better, right?
Whether you like the Nutrition Facts table or not, let’s make sure you get the most out of it, since it’s here to stay!
Here’s my four-step crash course on reading the Nutrition Facts table.
Step 1: Serving Size
The absolute most important part of the Nutrition Facts table is to note the serving size. Manufacturers often strategically choose the serving size to make the rest of the table look good. Small serving = small calories/fat/carbs. So, it's tricky.
All the information in the table rests on the amount chosen as the serving size. And, since every manufacturer chooses their own, it’s often difficult to compare two products.
In Canada, in the next few years (between 2017-2022), serving sizes will be more consistent between similar foods. This will make it easier to compare foods. The new labels will also have more realistic serving sizes to reflect the amount that people eat in one sitting, and not be artificially small.
Let’s use an example - plain, unsalted walnuts from Costco.
As you can see, right under the Nutrition Facts header is the serving size. That is a ¼ cup or 30 g. This means that all the numbers underneath it are based on this amount.
FUN EXPERIMENT: Try using a measuring cup to see exactly how much of a certain food equals one serving. You may be surprised at how small it is (imagine a ¼ cup of walnuts).
Step 2: % Daily Value
The % Daily Value (%DV) is based on the recommended daily amount of each nutrient the average adult needs. Ideally, you will get 100% DV for each nutrient every day. This is added up based on all of the foods and drinks you have throughout the day.
NOTE: Since children are smaller and have different nutritional needs if a type of food is intended solely for children under the age of 4, then those foods use a child’s average nutrition needs for the %DV.
The %DV is a guideline, not a rigid rule.
You don’t need to add all of your %DV up for everything you eat all day. Instead, think of anything 5% or less to be a little; and, anything 15% or more to be a lot.
NOTE: Not every nutrient has a %DV. You can see it's missing for things like cholesterol, sugar, and protein. This is because there isn't an agreed "official" %DV for that nutrient. The good news is that the new Nutrition Facts tables will include a %DV for sugar. Keep your eyes out for that.
Step 3: Middle of the table (e.g. Calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, carbohydrates, and protein)
Calories are pretty straight forward. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts has 200 calories.
Fat is bolded for a reason. That 19 g of fat (29% DV) is total fat. That includes the non-bolded items underneath it. Here, 19 g of total fat includes 1.5 g saturated fat, (19 g - 1.5 g = 17.5 g) unsaturated fat, and 0 g trans fat. (Yes, unsaturated fats including mono- and poly-unsaturated are not on the label, so you need to do a quick subtraction).
Cholesterol, sodium, and potassium are all measured in mg. Ideally, aim for around 100% of potassium and sodium each day. It's easy to overdo sodium, especially if you grab pre-made, restaurant foods, or snacks. Keep an eye on this number if sodium can be a problem for you (e.g. if your doctor mentioned it, if you have high blood pressure or kidney problems, etc.).
Carbohydrate, like fat, is bolded because it is total carbohydrates. It includes the non-bolded items underneath it like fiber, sugar, and starch (not shown). Here, 30 g of walnuts contain 3 g of carbohydrates; that 3 g are all fiber. There is no sugar or starch. And as you can see, 3 g of fiber is 12% of your daily value for fiber.
Proteins, like calories, are pretty straight forward as well. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts contains 5 g of protein.
Step 4: Bottom of the table (e.g. vitamins & minerals)
The vitamins and minerals listed at the bottom of the table are also straightforward. The new labels will list potassium, calcium, and iron. Yes, potassium will drop from the middle of the table to the bottom, and both vitamins A & C will become optional.
Manufacturers can add other vitamins and minerals to the bottom of their Nutrition Facts table (this is optional). And you'll notice that some foods contain a lot more vitamins and minerals than others do.
I hope this crash course in the Nutrition Facts table was helpful. While you can take it or leave it when it comes to making food decisions, it’s here to stay. And it will change slightly over the next few years.
Do you have questions about it? Have you seen the new labels with a %DV for sugar? If so, leave me a comment below.
Or join our free online community at Vibrant Body Vibrant Voice.
Recipe (walnuts): Delicious and Super-Easy Walnut Snack
This is a great snack for singers on the go!
8 walnut halves
4 dates, pitted
Make a "date sandwich" by squeezing each date between two walnut halves.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Try with pecans instead.
There has been a lot of conflicting information about dairy products for singers. Some say it causes excess mucus, some say that it’s a myth that’s been debunked. Most singers will agree that it feels icky if you have to sing right after consuming dairy.
For those that have dairy intolerance to lactose, casein, and whey it can be a concern and affect your ability to sing at your peak. Read on to find out the low-down on dairy...
Having a food intolerance is not fun. It can cause abdominal pain, discomfort, and nausea. It also causes embarrassing symptoms like flatulence and diarrhea. Other symptoms linked to food intolerances include muscle or joint pain, headaches, exhaustion, and even skin symptoms like rashes and eczema.
Definitely no fun to sing with abdominal pain, bloating, muscle pains, headaches or exhaustion.
Dairy is just one of those foods that many people seem to be intolerant of. Let’s talk about the main components of milk that people react to: lactose, casein, and whey.
Milk sugar (lactose) intolerance
It’s estimated that up to 75% of adults are lactose intolerant. Lactose is the carbohydrate “milk sugar” naturally found in most dairy products. Lactose intolerance is so common you can buy lactose-free milk in your regular grocery store. Lactose-free products are treated with the enzyme “lactase” that breaks the lactose down before you ingest it. It’s this lactase enzyme that is lacking in most people who are lactose intolerant.
The lactase enzyme is naturally released from your intestine as one of your digestive enzymes. It breaks down the lactose sugar in the gut. When someone doesn't have enough lactase, the lactose doesn't get broken down the way it should. Undigested lactose ends up being food for the resident gut microbes. As they ferment the lactose, they create gases that cause bloating, flatulence, pain, and sometimes diarrhea.
Lactose is in dairy but is in lower amounts in fermented dairy (e.g. cheese & yogurt) and butter. Steering clear of lactose isn't that easy as it is added to other foods like baked goods, soups, and sauces. And if you're taking any medications or supplements, check to see if it's in there too, as lactose is a common ingredient in them.
If you have symptoms of lactose intolerance, keep an eye on food, medication, and supplement labels.
Milk protein (casein & whey) allergy
Milk is a known, and common, food allergen. In Canada, it is considered a “priority allergen” and must be declared on food labels.
So, what are the allergens in milk? You've heard of "curds and whey?" Well, these are the two main proteins in milk. The solid bits are the curds (made of casein), and the liquid is the dissolved whey.
Unlike lactose intolerance, casein and whey can cause an actual immune response. It’s an allergy. And this immune response can cause inflammation, which can put you at higher risk of vocal injury. In fact, we don’t know how many people have these milk allergies, but most estimates put it far below that of lactose intolerance.
Like lactose, these allergenic milk proteins can be found in other products too. They're not just in dairy but are often in protein powders as well (Have you heard of "whey" protein powders?).
Some of the symptoms of milk protein allergy differ from that of lactose intolerance; things like nasal congestion and mucus (phlegm) are more common here. And casein seems to be linked with belly fat.
Interestingly, people who have gluten intolerance are often allergic to milk proteins like whey and casein as well. These can go hand-in-hand.
Like lactose intolerance, if you're allergic to casein and whey keep an eye on labels so you can avoid these.
If you get gassy, bloated, or diarrhea after eating dairy, you may have a lactose intolerance. If you often get a stuffy nose and mucus, then you may be allergic to casein and/or whey.
While dairy may be an entire food group, it is not an essential nutrient. All the nutrients in dairy are available in other foods. If you experience these symptoms, you can try removing dairy from your diet. You may find improved digestion and fewer gut issues. Or you may find improved nasal congestion, or even less belly fat. You may even find you recover faster from vocal fatigue since inflammation places a large part in this.
If you decide to (or have already) removed dairy from your diet, let me know your experience in the comments below.
Recipe (Dairy-free): Chocolate Ice "Cream"
3 bananas, sliced and frozen
2 tsp cacao powder, unsweetened
1 tbsp almond butter
Place frozen bananas in food processor and blend until smooth (a few minutes). You may have to stop a few times to scrape the sides.
Add cacao powder and almond butter and blend until mixed well.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can make this in advance and freeze in an airtight container.
To get more great dairy free recipes, join our free Vibrant Body Vibrant Voice community.
It’s been a long evening of performing and you come home feeling vocally tired and want to unwind.
Golden Milk may be just the thing for you. Not only does it have a name fit for a diva, but this incredible drink has some exceptional health benefits, especially when you drink it in the evening.
The main ingredient is the powerful spice tumeric, which has been used in ayurvedic medicine for centuries. The main compound of turmeric is curcumin, a polyphenol, has the potential to create more than 150 therapeutic activities. It’s non-toxic, antiseptic and natural.
It also has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-cancer properties.
That already sounds like just what your poor tired and inflamed vocal folds are asking for.
But there’s more! You can boost the bio-availability of curcumin by pairing it with black pepper. The piperine in black pepper allows for an increase in absorption of curcumin by 2000%. That means way more anti-inflammatory action in your bloodsteam.
More benefits of turmeric:
– Boosts memory and brain function
– Improves insulin sensitivity
– Aids a healthy digestive system
– Detoxifies the liver
– Helps maintain cholesterol levels
– Strengthens the immune system
– Help with stress management
– Help speed post-exercise muscle recovery
How to make Golden Milk:
First make a turmeric paste separately by following these instructions:
Mix all the ingredients together in a small cooking pot, stirring them over a medium heat until the mixture becomes a thick paste. Let the mixture cool and store in a jar in the fridge.
Next, make the Golden Milk by adding ingredients and some of the turmeric paste:
Mix all the ingredients together in a cooking pot on a medium heat except the honey, do not let boil. Add the honey to taste.
Drink Golden Milk every night before you go to bed to really see the health benefits. This may be especially beneficial if you are rehabilitating a vocal injury.
At the very least drinking Golden Milk once a week alongside a healthy and balanced diet should also improve your overall health and keep down any voice-use related inflammation.
Looking for more ways to help your vocal health? Then join our free Vibrant Body Vibrant Voice community.
Singers, in our competitive industry the total package matters. There I said it.
It is a sad truth, but it's there. No matter how glorious your voice, for some companies, directors and fans that just isn't enough.
If it was a perfect world we wouldn't have to put up with that. However, we still should be concerned about our health and most people will agree that excess weight can be a health concern that can ultimately affect our singing and our day to day lives.
Is weight really the issue though?
You totally want to ditch your scale, don't you?
You may have this weird kind of relationship with your “weight”.
I mean, it doesn't define you (obviously) and it doesn’t prevent you from singing up a storm.
What you weigh can matter (as I said, it's unfortunate that some casting is based on the outer package more that the voice for singers), but if we’re talking about health, then weight only matters to a certain extent.
Let's look at your waist circumference (well...you look at yours and I'll look at mine).
Waist Circumference (AKA “Belly Fat”):
Do you remember the fruity body shape descriptions being like an “apple” or a “pear”? The apple is kinda round around the middle (you know – belly fat-ish, kinda beer belly-ish) and the pear is rounder around the hips/thighs.
THAT is what we're talking about here.
Do you know which shape is associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea, blood sugar issues (e.g. insulin resistance and diabetes) and heart issues (high blood pressure, blood fat, and arterial diseases).
Yup – that apple!
And it's not because of the subcutaneous (under the skin) fat that you may refer to as a “muffin top”. The health risk is actually due to the fat inside the abdomen covering the liver, intestines and other organs there.
This internal fat is called “visceral fat” and that's where a lot of the problem actually is. It's this “un-pinchable” fat.
The reason the visceral fat can be a health issue is because it releases fatty acids, inflammatory compounds, and hormones that can negatively affect your blood fats, blood sugars, and blood pressure.
And the apple-shaped people tend to have a lot more of this hidden visceral fat than the pear-shaped people do.
So as you can see where your fat is stored is more important that how much you weigh.
Am I an apple or a pear?
It's pretty simple to find out if you're in the higher risk category or not. The easiest way is to just measure your waist circumference with a measuring tape. You can do it right now.
Women, if your waist is 35” or more you could be considered to have “abdominal obesity” and be in the higher risk category. Pregnant ladies are exempt, of course.
For men the number is 40”.
Of course this isn't a diagnostic tool. There are lots of risk factors for chronic diseases. Waist circumference is just one of them.
If you have concerns definitely see your doctor.
Tips for helping reduce some belly fat:
Get continuing motivation, tips and accountability to reach your goal when you join the FREE Vibrant Body Vibrant Voice community. Join now by clicking here.
Recipe (High fiber side dish): Garlic Lemon Roasted Brussel Sprouts
1 lb brussel sprouts (washed, ends removed, halved)
2-3 cloves of garlic (minced)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
dash salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400F.
In a bowl toss sprouts with garlic, oil, and lemon juice. Spread on a baking tray and season with salt and pepper.
Bake for about 15 minutes. Toss.
Bake for another 10 minutes.
Serve and Enjoy!
Tip: Brussel sprouts contain the fat-soluble bone-loving vitamin K. You may want to eat them more often.
Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”
For singers the topic of gut health is usually restricted to gastroesophogeal reflux disease (GERD) and it's cousin Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LRP), but with so many other health conditions beginning in the gut that can ultimately affect a singer's ability to perform it's time to look at the full picture.
While "All disease begins in the gut" may not be 100% true for every disease in every person, more and more research shows that our gut (digestive system) has a bigger role in many diseases than we used to think. And we're not just talking about heartburn (which includes GERD and LPR), constipation, diarrhea, IBS, IBD, etc. We're talking about all kinds of issues like allergies, which is a common complain among singers, as well as pain, mood disorders, and nutrient deficiencies.
There are a lot of reasons for this. Our gut is the portal to the outside world. It's here where we take in disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. We also take in nutrients (and toxins) through our gut. The nutrients we ingest and absorb are the building blocks of every single part of our body. We're just learning the connections between our gut and other areas of our body, like our brain (have you heard of "the gut-brain axis"). Not just our gut per se; but, its friendly resident microbes too. These guys also have newly discovered roles in our gut health and overall health.
So, let's talk about the roles that our gut and our gut microbes play in our overall health. Then I'll give you tips to improve your gut health naturally.
Our gut’s role in our overall health:
Our gut’s main role is as a barrier. To let things in that should get in, and to keep things out that should stay out. Think of “absorption” of nutrients as things we want to let in; and “elimination” of waste as things we want to pass right through and out.
This seemingly simple role is super-complex! And it can break down in so many places.
For one thing, our guts can "leak." Yes, like a long tube with holes in it, it can allow things to get into our bloodstream/bodies that can wreak havoc (bacteria, undigested food, and toxins). You name it, whatever you put into your mouth can be absorbed by your gut and get into your bloodstream, even if it's not supposed to. And when your gut wall gets irritated, it can "leak." When this happens, you get inflammation, which is a starting point for many diseases that don't seem linked to the gut but have a sneaky connection there. This includes colds, flus and sore throats, which every singer dreads!
FUN FACT: 70-80% of our immune system lives in and around our gut.
A healthy gut is not a leaky gut. It maintains its barrier and shuttles things through to be eliminated. Maintaining a healthy gut barrier is the first pillar of gut health.
The second main part of your gut are the billions of friendly health-promoting microbes. Gut microbes help us digest and absorb nutrients. They fight off disease-causing microbes, make some vitamins for us, and have all kinds of other health benefits, like mental health benefits, reducing inflammation, and stabilizing blood sugar.
So, keeping your gut microbes happy is the second pillar of gut health!
How to improve gut health:
There are a lot of natural ways to improve gut health. Let’s start with what to stop. It’s always best to eliminate the cause, so let’s stop giving our guts junk to deal with. How about eliminating added sugars, processed foods, and alcohol? Try that for a few weeks, and you may be amazed at how much better your body (and gut) feels.
You may also want to eliminate other gut irritants. Dairy and grains contain common compounds known to irritate some people’s guts. Sometimes you only need to eliminate them for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference for your health.
By eating nutrient-dense foods, we allow ample macro- and micro-nutrients into our gut to maximize the chance for absorption. These nutrients help our bodies build and repair our gut, and every other body part as well. Some of the most nutrient-dense foods include dark leafy greens, colourful fruits and veggies, and fish.
The second pillar of gut health is our microbes. By ingesting probiotic-rich foods and drinks, we can help to replenish our gut microbes. These are found in fermented foods like kombucha, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Make these a part of your daily diet.
Whole foods are full of gut-friendly fiber. Not eating enough fiber increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Fiber plays lots of roles in our gut, including whisking away some of those pesky bad bacteria and toxins so they can be eliminated. Fiber also helps to feed our friendly resident microbes that help us absorb and digest our food better. What foods have a lot of fiber? Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even cacao.
And don’t forget the uber-important lifestyle factors like getting enough sleep, stressing less, and getting the right amount (and intensity) of exercise for you. It’s easy to forget some of the simple, but key links there are between what we do with our bodies and how well they function.
The function of your gut is key to your overall health. There are two pillars of gut health: maintaining a good barrier and maintaining healthy gut microbes.
The main ways to improve both of these naturally is by eating nutrient-dense whole foods. Foods filled with nutrition, probiotics, and fiber. And eliminating common gut irritants like added sugar, processed foods, and alcohol.
To find out more join our free Facebook community here.
Recipe (Probiotic-rich): Fermented Carrots
Yield: 12 servings
1 L warm water
4 tsp salt
4 carrots, medium, peeled, sliced
1 clove garlic, smashed (optional)
Make a brine by dissolving the salt in water.
Place carrots into a clean canning jar, packing them in tight. Make sure to leave about 1 inch of head space at the top.
Fill the jar with brine, making sure to cover the carrots completely. Weigh the carrots down to make sure they don't float (you can use a "fermenting weight").
Close the jar and let it sit at room temperature for 1-4 days. The longer it sits, the more the flavor will develop. Feel free to open and taste.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Use this as a side dish, or even a snack.
Valentine’s Day – the perfect time to talk chocolate! And share a decadent chocolate recipe that only has 3 ingredients!
As singers we are told to avoid chocolate prior to singing due to increased mucus production. This is mostly due to dairy and refined sugar being present in most chocolate and contributing to thickening of mucus.
I actually was not able to find any research that used raw cacao as the basis of these kinds of studies. This may be great news for you as a singer because cacao has many great benefits for you!
The best benefits of chocolate can be found in raw cacao powder, raw cacao nibs and raw cacao beans, along with dark cocoa powder and very dark chocolate, containing at least 80% or higher cacao content. Raw chocolate will contain many more antioxidants than heated forms like standard cocoa powder or processed chocolate bars, so stick to the raw forms whenever possible.
Raw Cacao has a huge number of health benefits that will have you singing great! This includes increasing the release of endorphins which can help to create a ‘feel good’ buzz and help improve your mood. Perfect before heading out on stage.
More importantly, it can help you stave off those nasty colds, flu and sore throats that threaten every singer. Cacao is a powerful antioxidant that boosts the immune system. It also contains a number of important vitamins & minerals such as magnesium, calcium, zinc, potassium, B-complex vitamins and iron.
Raw cacao is made by cold-pressing un-roasted cocoa beans. The process keeps the living enzymes in the cocoa and removes the fat (cacao butter). Then, you heat it to a certain temperature and enjoy as a warm or hot drink. When consumed regularly, raw cacao has the ability to help you feel more energized, boost your concentration and fuel your body's immune system.
Did you miss the boat and ended up with a cold that’s now turned into a persistent cough? Cacao has got you covered there, too!
Skip the honey and lemon — and grab some chocolate. Researchers claim that cacao has demulcent properties, which means it relieves inflammation or irritation. Essentially, it's stickier than typical cough syrup, and better forms a coating to protect the nerve endings in the throat that trigger the urge to cough. Just suck on a square of extra dark chocolate so that it has time to coat the throat.
To keep with the Valentine’s mood I have a great simple recipe for Raw Cacao Truffles to share with special someone. (Did I mention that cacao also has benefits for fertility?)
Raw Cacao Truffles
1 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup cocoa powder (or raw cacao powder)
1 cup dates, pitted (I used halawi dates, but medjool would work just as well)
2 tablespoons water
extra cocoa or cacao powder, for dusting
Grind the cashews in your food processor until they have a flour-like consistency, add the 1/4 cup cocoa powder and pulse.
Toss in the dates and water and process until a ball of dough starts to form.
Shape into 1 inch balls with the palms of your hands. Dust each truffle with cocoa powder, and chill until you’re ready to serve!
Have you said “bye bye” to sleeping through the night?
Are late night performances messing with your sleep routine?
Are you feeling exhausted or “running on stress hormones” all day?
Do not fear, I have some great tips (and an amazing recipe) for you!
The science of sleep is fascinating, complicated and growing
Sleep is this daily thing that we all do and yet we're just beginning to understand all of the ways it helps us and all of the factors that can affect it.
Lack of sleep affects just about everything in your body and mind. People who get less sleep tend to be at higher risk for so many health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer; not to mention effects like slower metabolism, weight gain, hormone imbalance, inflammation, and poor immunity. And don't forget the impact lack of sleep can have on moods, memory and decision-making skills. Ever had a memory gaff during a performance? It could be lack of sleep.
Do you know that lack of sleep may even negate the health benefits of your exercise program? (Gasp!)
OMG – What aspect of health does sleep not affect???
Knowing this it's easy to see the three main purposes of sleep:
Do you know how much sleep adults need? It's less than your growing kids need but you may be surprised that it's recommended that all adults get 7 - 9 hours a night. For real!
Try not to skimp! And I know it can be hard as a singer if you have a day job, but for your healthy and longevity as a singer it's best to try to find a solution.
(Don't worry, I have you covered with a bunch of actionable tips below.)
Tips for better sleep
So how many of these tips can you start implementing today?
Recipe (Caffeine-free latte for your afternoon “coffee break”): Caffeine-Free Chai Latte
1 bag of rooibos chai tea (rooibos is naturally caffeine-free)
2 cups of boiling water
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon almond butter (creamy is preferred)
2 dates (optional)
Cover the teabag and dates (if using) with 2 cups of boiling water and steep for a few minutes.
Discard the tea bag & place tea, soaked dates, tahini & almond butter into a blender.
Blend until creamy.
Serve and Enjoy!
Tip: You can try this with other nut or seed butters to see which flavour combination you like the best. Cashew butter anyone?
Coffee is one of those things - you either love it or hate it. You know if you like the taste or not (or if it’s just a reason to drink sugar and cream). You know how it makes you feel (i.e. your gut, your mind, etc.).
Not to mention the crazy headlines that say coffee is great, and the next day you should avoid it!
As singers we are also told to avoid it due to the dehydrating effect of caffeine on our vocal folds.
There is actual science behind why different people react differently to it. It's a matter of your genetics and how much coffee you're used to drinking.
NOTE: Coffee does not equal caffeine. Coffee contains between 50-400 mg of caffeine/cup, averaging around 100 mg/cup. Coffee is one of the most popular ways to consume this stimulant. But… a cup of coffee contains a lot of things over and above the caffeine. Not just water, but antioxidants, and hundreds of other compounds. These are the reasons drinking a cup of coffee is not the same as taking a caffeine pill. And decaffeinated coffee has a lot less caffeine; but, it still contains some.
Let's look at caffeine metabolism, its effects on the mind and body, and whether coffee drinkers have higher or lower risks of disease. We'll also look at some studies on the effects on the voice. Then I’ll give you some things to consider when deciding if coffee is for you or not.
Not all people metabolize caffeine at the same speed. How fast you metabolize caffeine will impact how you’re affected by the caffeine. In fact, caffeine metabolism can be up to 40x faster in some people than others.
About half of us are “slow” metabolizers of caffeine. We can get jitters, heart palpitations, and feel "wired" for up to 9 hours after having a coffee. The other half is "fast" metabolizers of caffeine. They get energy and increased alertness and are back to normal a few hours later.
This is part of the reason those headlines contradict each other so much - because we’re all different!
The effects of coffee (and caffeine) on the mind and body
NOTE: Most studies look at caffeinated coffee, not decaf.
The effects of coffee (and caffeine) on the mind and body also differ between people; this is partly from the metabolism I mentioned. But it also has to do with your body’s amazing ability to adapt (read: become more tolerant) to long-term caffeine use. Many people who start drinking coffee feel the effects a lot more than people who have coffee every day.
Here’s a list of these effects (that usually decrease with long-term use):
So, while some of these effects are good and some aren’t, you need to see how they affect you and decide if it’s worth it or not.
Coffee and health risks
There are a ton of studies on the health effects of coffee, and whether coffee drinkers are more or less likely to get certain conditions.
Here’s a quick summary of what coffee can lead to:
Many of the health benefits exist even for decaf coffee (except the caffeine addiction and sleep issues).
NOTE: What’s super-important to note here is that coffee intake is just one of many, many factors that can affect your risks for these diseases. Please never think regular coffee intake is the one thing that can help you overcome these risks. You are health-conscious and know that eating a nutrient-rich whole foods diet, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep and exercise are all critical things to consider for your disease risk. It’s not just about the coffee.
Caffeine and the Singer
So what does it mean to you as a singer?
An initial pilot study from 1999 showed that there was an effect on vocal production in all participants after consuming 250 mg of caffeine, though the variability was quite great. This study had only 8 participants, so it was to small a sampling to make a definite conclusion.
A subsequent study from 2011 with a group of 16 subjects compared them in two sessions, one at which they consumed 480 mg caffeine and one at which they consumed a sham beverage containing only 24 mg. There was no discernible difference in voice measurements between the two sessions.
Another study from 2013 took 58 females between the ages of 18 and 35. They were split into two groups, one being given 100 mg of caffeine and the other control group being given a placebo. Tests administered to both groups did not identify any differences between them in the measurements of vocal acoustic and aerodynamics.
All these studies have small samplings and many limitations, so no firm conclusion can yet be reached on the effect of caffeine on the voice.
The best advice is "better safe than sorry". Follow conventional vocal wisdom by restricting caffeine use and for every cup of coffee, drink 2 cups of water.
Vocal issues aside, should you drink coffee or not?
There are a few things to consider when deciding whether you should drink coffee. No one food or drink will make or break your long-term health.
Caffeinated coffee is not recommended for:
If none of these apply, then monitor how your body reacts when you have coffee. Does it:
Depending on how your body reacts, decide whether these reactions are worth it to you. If you’re not sure, I recommend eliminating it for a while and see the difference.
Recipe (Latte): Pumpkin Spice Latte
3 tbsp coconut milk or other non-dairy milk
1 ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon)
¼ tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp pumpkin puree
½ tsp maple syrup (optional)
1 cup coffee (decaf if preferred)
Add all ingredients to blender and blend until creamy.
Serve & enjoy!
Last week marked the launch of my new healthy eating group - The Vibrant Body Vibrant Voice 5- Day Cleanse. This went far beyond the clean eating groups I've hosted before. We had a much more comprehensive meal plan and recipes all contained in an ebook, which I poured hours into creating. Everyone was sent a daily video with tips on eating health and how these choices can affect your voice.
All the guess work was taken out with a grocery list of all the ingredients you would need and daily prep guides so that you could time your preparations and make many things ahead of time. Time management is one of the key elements that keep people from maintaining a healthy diet. This made it all super simple and the recipes were very easy and quick to prepare.
I had people from around the world joining us, as far abroad as Sweden and Australia. This was truly an exciting experience. Many people are just getting their feet wet with eating better, so didn't necessarily use all the recipes in the book during the cleanse and just tried to cut back on processed foods and making healthier choices. But the feedback was great!
One of the participants did it with her husband, who is addicted to spice packets. You know, the ones with tons of salt and flavour enhancers like mono-sodium glutamate, which are not good for your health. His comment was: I didn't know food could taste so good without those packets! High praise indeed. Healthy eating does not mean sacrificing flavour. In fact, it can open up a whole new world of flavours.
Along the way I posted pics of many of the recipes on social media. One of the recipes that elicited the most interested was the Sweet Potato Crust Pizza. Of course it did! We all love our comfort food and if we can make it healthier and guilt free so much the better!!!
The crust will never be the same as a true bread-type crust, but it holds together well and is tasty. So, by popular demand here is the recipe for the Sweet Potato Crust Pizza.
Sweet Potato Crust Pizza:
Sweet Potato Pizza Crust:
5½ cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes (about 2 large organic sweet potatoes)
1 tablespoon chia seeds
3 tablespoons water
1¼ cup gluten-free oat flour
¼ cup coconut flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1¼ teaspoons garlic powder
½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
pinch of chili flakes
Organic pizza or tomato sauce
Veggies of choice (I used spinach and cremini mushrooms)
Steam the sweet potato cubes until fork-tender.
Add the chia seeds and water to a small bowl, whisk with a fork, and let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes to create a chia egg.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Add the steamed sweet potatoes to a large mixing bowl and mash them.
Add in the chia egg, oat flour, coconut flour, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, basil, oregano, garlic powder, sea salt, and chili flakes. Stir together until combined.
Line a round pizza pan with parchment paper. Scoop the sweet potato mixture onto the parchment paper and use a spatula to spread it into a large circle on the pizza pan. You should have a ½-inch thick pizza crust.
Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the crust is set and the edges are golden brown.
Remove the crust from the oven and let cool.
Add desired toppings, return the pan to the oven and broil for 5 minutes.
Slice, serve, and refrigerate leftovers.
*Note: I had some leftover homemade cheez sauce, which I used. You can use other nut-based cheez as a topping as well. I would avoid Daiya or other processed vegan cheez.
If you would like to get your free ebook, the next Vibrant Body Vibrant Voice 5 Day Cleanse will take place July 18 - 22, 2016 after I return from presenting at the 53rd National Conference of the National Association of Teachers of Singing in Chicago, July 7-12th. My session is Good Morning Kick Start where I will be sharing PiYo and Zumba workouts and connecting with over 1,000 of my singing colleagues.
If you would like to join the next cleanse click here.
I've always enjoyed cooking and baking. It goes back to my childhood. My dad was quite the chef and loved food, unfortunately to the detriment of his health. He grew up in France with all the rich foods of that culture.
It wasn't long after my first home economics class at age 12 that I wasn't satisfied with the recipes they provided and started delving into my dad's vast tome of Larousse Gastronomique (a French food bible) and whipping up many of the decadent treats. Let's just say I went through a lot of whipped cream and butter.
As time wore on I started to have health issues and had to clean up my diet. That has lead me to my current plant-based lifestyle. I read many food blogs in the process, but today brings me to a first - MY first food blog.
One of the reasons for this is that the ladies in my current Boot Camp are getting fabulous results, but are seeking inspiration for tasty meals. So I came up with a whole week's worth of dinners that not only are clean, but also give us taste sensations from around the world including Indian, Moroccan, Asian and Mexican. Best thing - none of them take more than 20 minutes to prepare.
Today, I've decided I would share one of these recipes, which are usually only available exclusively in the Boot Camp. Are you ready for it?
Easy Chickpea Curry:
(makes two servings)
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp Extra virgin olive oil
1 19 oz. can Cooked Chickpeas (Garbonzo Beans), canned are fine
1 14 oz. can Coconut Milk
2 tsp Curry Powder (I used Madras)
1/4 tsp Tumeric
1/2 tsp Sea salt
Cayenne pepper to taste (a pinch for me)
In a small skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until transparent. To the onion add chickpeas, coconut milk and spices. Bring to a boil and simmer a few minutes until slightly thickened (about 3 minutes).
Serve with a brown rice and salad.
As you can see when you get it all on a plate it really makes for a filling satisfying dinner (I didn't center it very well on the plate).
If you are interested in learning more about future Boot Camps feel free to contact me. I may no longer delve into that Larousse, but I will still say - Bon apetit!
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