What do vitamin G, the music mineral, sleeping, gratitude, and hugs all have in common? (I know, I know, vitamin G is not a “real” vitamin, but I’ll get to that in a minute.) They’re all lifestyle habits that, according to Joy McCarthy, help to promote overall wellness. In her new book, Joyous Health: Eat and Live Well Without Dieting, Joy, a holistic nutritionist, shares her approach to health and well-being. Through topics like gut health, detoxification, and foods, superfoods, supplements, and habits for joyous health, she encourages us to work our way through the book at a comfortable pace, making lifestyle adjustments for better health as we go. Sprinkled in amongst Joy’s light-hearted chapters are her joyous tips for health and real-life stories from her clients.
As someone who has a background in nutrition and food, I am most often drawn to these sections of books. In Joyous Health, however, it was this section on lifestyle habits, that fuelled some healthy inspiration in me. It wasn’t that the information that I learned was new, but rather that it reinforced beliefs that I already have and motivated me to continue on with some of the healthy habits I’ve developed. I want to share with you a summary of Joy’s 5 Lifestyle Habits for Joyous Health:
Back to Vitamin G (G for greenspace). Vitamin G is the term used by the authors of “Your Brain on Nature” who advocate that a daily dose of nature helps us feel more relaxed, grounded, and rejuvenated. Joy elaborates on this concept and the idea of “forest bathing” (which, for the record, really just means spending time in a forest) and how it can decrease cortisol, blood pressure, and pulse rate and increase immune function. The idea of being connected to nature for more optimal health is certainly something that was discussed at-length in naturopathic school and it’s something that I can say, from lived experience, has tremendous benefits.Get the music mineral! According to researchers, the brain is a very musical organ. As Joy says, “listening to music releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain linked to tangible, reward-related pleasures such as food, drugs, and sex.” To be honest, I’m just happy to have another reason to continue on with my solo-dance parties.
Make sleep a priority. According to Joy, and much of the research I’ve also come across, “sleep-deprived people eat more carbs, sugars, and unhealthy foods.” The recipe for weight-loss and weight-maintenance, therefore, is not just diet and exercise as we’ve long been told; it’s diet, exercise, and sleep. This combination leads to a myriad of other influential factors including reduced stress and increased energy and drive.
Practice gratitude. I’ve talked about this a little bit before, but Joy elaborates more on Dr. Robert Emmons research which highlights that “people who acquire an attitude of gratitude experience multiple advantages, including improved emotional and physical health and strengthened relationships.
Hug! That’s the advice, straight up. You probably don’t need a lot of persuasion to up the snuggling in your life, but just so you know: 20-second hugs release oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone. Oxytocin is the same hormone that a mother releases after giving birth to her baby, helping to facilitate mother-baby bonding and mother’s milk production. But the benefits extend far beyond that dynamic. Oxytocin also creates feelings of calm, reduces stress, cravings, and addictions, and eases depression. Yet another reason to cuddle.One thing that didn’t resonate with me about the book is that Joy recommends supplements for particular conditions (e.g., Irritable Bowel Syndrome). While these are only suggestions, it is the naturopathic student in me that believes that every body is different and treating conditions with the same approach may not work. For example, symptoms of IBS will have different root causes depending on the person, so general solutions may not work in either the short or long-term, leaving you out of money and frustrated with alternative health products. Getting the correct and best quality product at the right dose for your specific condition, in my opinion, is most important for your health. For that I’d suggest making an appointment to see a naturopath or holistic nutritionist to discuss your specific concerns.
That issue aside, Joy’s book offers a light-hearted approach to overall well-being. My favourite health-related book is still (and will continue to be for a very long time) Winnie Abramson’s One Simple Change (it’s SO good), but this is the kind of book that I would pick up on a down day to lift my mood and help me to get refocussed. If you’re looking for an uncomplicated read that might help to move you in a healthier direction, this book is worth a look. Other sections worth checking out are: Suggestions for well-balanced snacks, food and your mood, and how to create a joyous kitchen. In the meantime, make this Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf. Healthier than anything you’ll find at your local coffee shop, you’ll be glad you did.
- Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf
- 2 cups gluten-free flour
- ½ cup coconut sugar
- ¼ cup poppy seeds
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp sea salt
- Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- ½ cup almond milk
- 2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
- Coconut Icing
- ½ cup coconut butter, at room temperature (See instructions for how to make your own below)
- 2 tbsp of coconut sugar, or more to taste
- Optional grated lemon zest
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease a 9x5" loaf pan.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, and lemon zest.
- In a separate bowl mix together the coconut oil, almond milk, lemon juice and eggs. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients in. Stir to combine and no dry parts are left.
- Pour the batter into the loaf pan.
- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the
- loaf comes out clean.
- Cool completely before applying icing. *I like to add icing on individual pieces.
- Coconut Icing
- To make your own coconut butter, place 2 cups of unsweetened, shredded coconut in a high speed blender or food processor. In a high-speed blender, you'll follow the manufacturers instructions and use the tamper to push the coconut down. It will blend in about 1-2 minutes.
- In a food processor, add the coconut and blend continuously until it becomes puréed. This will take about 15 minutes or longer, depending on your processor. Meanwhile, scrape down the sides occasionally and give your processor a break if it seems to get hot. It will work though. Trust.
- For the icing, combine all ingredients in a small bowl; stir until well-combined.
- Enjoy the bread immediately or refrigerate for a up to a week.