Interview: Nutritionist Joy McCarthy

Plagued with hair loss, dull skin and digestive problems, nutritionist Joy McCarthy’s aha moment came from turning her diet around. This Canadian nutrition guru has appeared on Global’s Morning Show and Steven and Chris to tout her philosophy on honouring our relationship with food and our bodies. The recipes and advice in her new book Joyous Health: Eat & Live Well without Dieting shifts perspectives from deprivation to embracing natural, nutritious food, along with easy lifestyle changes that impact long-term health.

House & Home: Joyous Health is based on a holistic approach to health that includes mental well-being. What’s one easy lifestyle habit people can adopt right now for a positive mindset?

Joy McCarthy: Eat probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut or kefir (fermented yogurt). Your gut health is directly related to your mental health and well-being. If you have healthy gut bacteria and healthy digestion it can actually impact your mood significantly.

HH: What key change do you encourage others to take so they can gain control of their health?

JM: I encourage others to listen to their body, I mean really listen. Your body will always provide you with signs and symptoms when something is out of balance. The key is to listen and then do something about it. 

HH: Can you tell us about the ANTI-diet you talk about in your book?

JM: I suggest that everyone ditch the diet mentality because, let’s face it, diets don’t work. Diets promote deprivation and they’re always time-limited. You can’t sustain them, whether it’s low calorie or low fat, it’s not a lifestyle change. That’s why my clients are so successful, because they just focus on living and eating well and feeling great.

HH: The word “detox” sometimes gets a bad rap. How do you detox in a healthy way that’s gentle on your body?

JM: What I suggest is just eating more detoxifying foods on a regular basis.  There’s so many local foods that have naturally detoxifying properties, everything from cauliflower and beets — beet roots and greens are incredibly detoxifying for your liver — to broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale and cabbage. Rather than doing two weeks of cutting everything out or only eating one thing and then going back to your regular diet, it’s better to just eat more detoxifying foods on a daily basis. It’s a simpler way.

HH: What is one thing people can eat or drink every day to help rid the body of toxins?

JM: Drink water with lemon first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Lemon helps to stimulate the liver’s detoxifying pathways. It really improves digestion. You’ll see clearer, more vibrant skin, too.

HH: What is one health myth you would like to debunk?

JM: That butter and eggs are bad for you! A lot of people think that eating the whole egg is not healthy but 50 per cent of the protein is contained within the yolk of the egg, along with all the good fats that are important to eat for satiation. Butter is a whole food and actually has compounds in it that boost your immune system. All in moderation, of course!

HH: What’s your go-to dish to combat the winter blahs? 

JM: Baked salmon is my go-to because it’s an excellent source of vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids, which are essential for beating seasonal affective disorder in the winter and keeping my skin moisturized from the inside out! Good fats are essential during the winter: avocado, nuts and seeds are also good sources. Hydration of course, that’s a basic one. I also love any kind of soup in the winter.  

HH: What’s an ingredient that you are loving right now? 

JM: I love raw coconut butter. This is different than coconut oil because it’s the whole flesh of the coconut, not just the extracted oil. It is sweet, fibre-dense and wonderful to spread on pancakes. 

HH: You talk about mindful eating in your book, what’s your number one mindful eating tip? 

JM: Choose a peaceful environment to eat in without distraction. Avoid eating while watching TV or working in front of the computer. This will allow you to fully indulge all your senses in the act of eating and create awareness of your eating habits.  It prevents overeating because you eat slower and give your body time to process when it’s full.

HH: Fill in the blank: if there is one thing people should eat every day it’s…

JM: Leafy greens. Even though kale is queen of the leafy greens, variety is key! Leafy greens are a rich source of antioxidants, fibre and even contain protein. They are one of the most nutrient-dense veggies. 

HH: If there is one food people should consider cutting out of their diet it’s…

JM: The dreaded sugar, but more specifically refined sugar. The key is to read your labels to ensure there are no hidden sugars. The average person consumes up to 150 lbs of sugar per year and most of this is hidden in packaged foods like salad dressings, bottled pasta sauce, granola bars and cereal. 

HH: For someone with a sweet tooth, what is the best way to satiate cravings?

JM: Don’t feel like you have to totally cut something out, it’s just a matter of choosing better sweets. Eating something like a piece of dark chocolate — at least 75 per cent cocoa or higher — with some raw almonds is good because you get the protein and fat from the almonds and then chocolate provides you with that sweet fix.  I like to make smoothies in the morning — there’s one in my book that tastes like a cinnamon bun — and make a big batch so I can save half for the afternoon for a little sweet hit.

Joy at a recent book signing at The Detox Market in Toronto.

Try Joy’s Turkey Burgers with Guac Salsa and two other delicious recipes from Joyous Health.

Photo sources:
1. Nicholas Collister
2. Chloe Berge