Thursday, 18 December 2014

December Superfood of the Month is.....

December Superfood of the Month is……..Medjool Dates!

As a student, the holidays aren’t all merry and bright. Until December 20th they are a dark, gloomy, terrifying and frenzied mess, with 8 final exams including two practicals (an OSCE and acupuncture) I find it hard to sit back and relax this time of year. Nonetheless, I have been busy attending several Christmas parties with wonderful family and friends, where the food and drink have been delicious and plenty. One of my favourite items to incorporate in party appetizers and desserts this time of year is medjool dates. Crowned the “King of Dates”, these sweet, simple dried fruits are extremely versatile. I’ve found myself craving sweets more than usual lately with all the exam stress, a classic pattern of Spleen Qi Deficiency in Asian Medicine. Instead of reaching for sugary processed treats, I prefer to make my own homemade treats containing natural sugar and real ingredients to satisfy this sweet tooth.

So what makes Dates a Superfood anyways?
Naturally sweet, this high-energy snack is a good source of potassium, manganese, copper and magnesium. Dates are filled with fiber, promoting regular bowel movements; this is why they are often touted as a natural prescription for constipation. They can be used in several recipes as a substitute for refined sugars, and also have a distinct flavor that makes a great vegan or paleo substitute for caramel sauce. Interestingly enough, when I was researching the health benefits of dates for this post, I came across a research article that pointed out the benefits of eating dates during the last 4 weeks of pregnancy to reduce the need for induction and augmentation of labour!

Two of my favourite party dishes using dates are listed below. The first is a super simple and crowd-pleasing appetizer. I can’t take any merit for this idea, they simply had samples out of it at Sobey’s one day, which I happily chewed down on. The second recipe I created while procrastinating when studying for my last exams. They were a huge hits in our household and something I looked forward to enjoying as exam treats all week! Note: If you are following a low FODMAP diet for gastrointestinal concerns, dates, like other dried fruits, are considered at high FODMAPS and should be avoided.

Simple Prosciutto-Wrapped Dates

200 grams thinly sliced prosciutto (I got mine from the Deli Section at Longo’s)
16-20 organic medjool dates (also purchased at Longo’s)

1.     Remove pits from dates, I find it easiest to squeeze the date slightly and then pull the pit out from one end.
2.     Wrap each slice of prosciutto around 1 date and secure in place with a toothpick
3.     Shove into mouth and enjoy!

Chocolate Brazil Nut Date Cups

1 cup brazil nuts (I purchase mine in bulk from Whole Foods)
1 cup pitted organic medjool dates
100g extra dark chocolate (the equivalent of one Lindt 85% chocolate bar, or 1 President’s choice extra dark chocolate bar)

1.     In food processor or high powered blender, combine nuts and dates until a sticky paste forms. Mush into bottom of 12 muffin tins lined with paper or silicone baking cups
2.     Melt chocolate in microwave, stirring every 30-45 seconds.
3.     Pour melted chocolate over top of date nut mixture, and sprinkle with sea salt. Freeze until solid.
4.     Store in freezer and remove 10 minutes before serving.

Do you have a favourite holiday dish? I love the sweet potato casserole my mom makes with pecans, cranberries, pineapple and carrots, it a nice GF and allergy friendly substitute for stuffing.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

What's in your shopping cart?

I have a dirty secret. I am obsessed with looking at other people's shopping carts at the grocery check-out. I find it absolutely fascinating to see what people buy, or don’t buy for that matter, when shopping for food. I honestly believe some people have no idea what they are buying, and what damage this ‘food’ is doing to their bodies.  To help demystify the shopping process and give you a snapshot of my shopping experience, below if a list of foods I bought at Fiesta Farms this weekend. One of my favourite grocery stores in Toronot, this independent store has a huge selection of organic and non-organic produce, and also stocks several specialty items. Think of it like the No Frills of Whole Foods, and parking is free!

This will give you a quick run down of what I tend to buy on a weekly basis and what some of my staples are. 

If you're wondering why certain fruits and vegetables are organic and others are not, I base decision on clean fifteen and the dirty dozen list

Organic Apples
Organic bananas
Organic lemon
Organic grapes

I tend to avoid citrus fruits because they don’t sit well with my stomach and I rotate which fruits I buy depending on what is on sale

Organic boxed spinach
Organic mushrooms
Organic cucumbers
Organic kale
Sweet potatoes
Butternut and acorn squash

Meat department
Whole organic chicken
Antibiotic- and Hormone-free ground beef
Wild salmon

Unsweetened almond milk
Free-range eggs

Pantry staples
organic coconut oil
almond flour
chia seeds
flax seeds
hemp hearts
dried figs
raw cacao powder
canned organic black beans
canned organic pumpkin
canned organic tomatoes
organic unsweetened applesauce
gluten-free rolled oats

So what did I do with all this food?
For a yummy and high energy treat, I made some fig cacao protein fudge using the following recipe and a warming butternut squash and pear soup, perfect for a chilly Toronto day! The pear adds a touch of sweetness, allowing this recipes to be made without any processed sugars.

Curried Butternut Squash and Pear Soup (vegan, gluten-free, paleo friendly)

1 (2 pound) butternut squash cut into 1 inch cubes
1 onion, cut into halves
1 tsp himaylayn pink sea salt

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon curry powder
4 cups organic chicken or vegetable broth
1-2 organic barlett pears, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 can organic coconut milk
¼ chopped cilantro (optional)

1.  Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F 

2.  Peel and cut squash into 1 inch cubes. Place squash and onion halves on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and sea salt. Roast in preheated oven until very soft, about 25-30 minutes, tossing halfway through. Let cool.
3.  Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, ginger and curry powder cooking for a few minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Stir in the pear(s) and the squash and onions, and simmer until pears are very soft, about 30 minutes. Stir in coconut milk.
4.  Pour the soup into a a high-powered blender (read: Vita-mix) and carefully blend in small batches until smooth-the blender shouldn’t be more than half way full for each batch.  Top with cilantro and enjoy!

Do you feel lost when shopping at the grocery store? Don't know how to read food labels? Send me a message and I'd be happy to help 

Monday, 1 September 2014

Wrap-up: Summer Eats and Treats

Writing this post is bitter-sweet because it means admitting that summer is over and school season has officially begun. I had an INCREDIBLE summer, but was EXTREMELY busy working over 50 hours a week at work, which left very little time or effort for blog writing in the evenings. Now that I have a day to relax and regroup before the craziness that is second year med school begins, I wanted to write a post on some of my favourite summer eats and treats I enjoyed in the kitchen or in Toronto this summer!


This is by far my favourite meal of the day! Thanks to my amazing friends who spoiled me on my birthday (the first day of summer) I had lots of fun experimenting in the kitchen this summer using the Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon. In the photo below, this is me enjoying a hefy serving of chia seed jam I made using frozen raspberries and rhubarb, on top of my favourite paleo banana bread recipe.

I also made a huge batch of these monster batch cookies. This recipe originally comes from the Children’s Cottage Cookbook and is by no means a healthy snack. My beautiful and talented aunt has modified and re-tested the recipe over years, and her new and improved recipe makes a for a great high-energy snack. Feel free to halve the recipe as it makes a huge batch, I usually make the entire recipe then freeze half the dough to bake at a later date.

½ cup coconut butter
½ cup applesauce
3 cups nut butter of choice (or use a combination)
2 cups coconut sugar or sucanat
6 eggs or 4 eggs and 2 chia/flax eggs
1 tsp vanilla
4 tsp baking soda
5 cups gluten-free rolled oats
5 cups crispy rice cereal. (I used nature’s path gluten-free whole grain brown rice cereal)
1 ½ cups dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs

Oven 350
CREAM butter, PB, sugar
BEAT in eggs, vanilla, bs
STIR in oats, cereal, choc chips
FORM dough into balls
Place on ungreased cookie sheet,
BAKE 8 min

If you’re in a rush, try making a purple power smoothie taking advantage of fresh organic grapes from your local grocery or health food store. I combined frozen grapes with almond milk, vanilla protein powder, hemp hearts, greek yogurt, maca powder and ice for a cool and quick breakfast option

My lunches were pretty boring all summer because I had to pack something lightweight to bring in my backpack to work (I bike 35 minutes uphill to get there everyday), nut-free and fast to eat, I basically lived off hard cooked eggs, celery sticks, nut-free trail mix and diced fruit all summer, can’t wait to pack my usual snack of almonds to school this week

For Dinner, one of my favourite things to make this summer was zucchini noodles. They are quick, tasty and a great low-carb, nutritious alternative to any gluten-free pasta available on the market. I used a small serrated vegetable peeler, but a spiralizer would be the ideal choice for people who have real kitchens and more than two cupboards to store stuff. I combined mine with organic tomato basil pasta sauce, shrimp, onion and spices.

Another winner was this BBQ wild sockeye salmon with a homemade green mango salad. I combined 1 chopped green organic mango, ¼ cup roasted organic cashews, cilantro and onion with the juice of ½ lime, 1 tbsp each siracha and fish sauce and a pinch of stevia for a delicious and filling dinner for two

When eating out, my favourite restaurant Khao San Road, makes a killer veggies and tofu pad thai. WARNING: they do not mess around with spice here, do not try to be a ‘man’ and order the extremely thai spicy (level 8), or you and whoever you share a bathroom with will regret it tomorrow, you will also be throwing out whatever shirt you wore to dinner due to extreme sweating.

Who doesn’t love ice cream and other cool treats in the summer? My ice cream maker attachment got lots of use this summer, as I prefer making my own dairy-free ice cream at home and control the amount of sugar I add, which is usually in the form of organic raw honey or pitted dates. This paleo chocolateice cream recipe from the spunky coconut was by far my favourite of the summer, I hope this warm weather continues into September so I have an excuse to keep making it!

After a delicious dinner of blue goose whole organic roasted chicken and veggies last night, my special guy and I devoured (read: no time for photo taking) these paleo Almond Joy bars from Elanas Pantry. I cut down on the sugar and used light coconut milk and the finished product still was dense, moist and dreamy. For the chocolate chunks, I cut up half a chocolate bar of President’s Choice Extra dark 85% Organic Dark chocolate, which is extremely well-priced for the quality of the product.

Do you have any favourite summer eats and treats you want to share?

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Summer Workout Basics

It’s summertime, which means bikinis, tank tops and miniskirts. This also means many friends have been coming to me for questions on how to become fit and toned for these warmer months. Reminder: you cannot ‘spot train’ certain body parts. Doing 100 crunches a day won’t give you a six pack if it’s covered in a layer of excessive belly fat. Instead, a combination of cardio and strength training, and healthy eating can lead to a fit and toned body. Although everyone’s bodies are different, if you are noticing that you are gaining weight in one particular area (arms, belly, hips etc) for no apparent reason, talk to a Naturopath about doing a hormonal salivary test as imbalances can cause you to gain weight in specific areas.

Now let’s talk fitness. In terms of workouts, I prefer alternating strength-training days with cardio days, Some people prefer splitting their workouts (strength in the morning, cardio in the afternoon) but this is not always feasible. I find it better to do a cardio (30-60 minutes) one day, alternating with strength exercises, and always giving myself one rest day per week. I vary my strength workouts, never doing two workouts back to back to allow muscle groups to rest

Here are some good articles on different arm workouts that you can do easily from home. Remember you want to feel a ‘burn’ but not pain when lifting weights, never ever lift weights to exhaustion and always rest between sets. Here are some helpful videos and pictures of good exercises.

For legs, I rarely use machines (I find them restrictive, heavy and clunky), relying on a combination of squats and lunges as these have been proven to be extremely effective and can be done anywhere. These videos show proper form;  always start with the most basic and you can work your way up to harder variations. I usually do three sets of 10, of either lunges or squats at each workout.

I end my workout with 10-15 minutes of abs, sometimes I do Swiss ball tucks, mountain climbers, and variations of the plank. In this great Jillian Michael's video, you need to fast forward a bit to the abs part.

The important thing is always a proper warm up and cool down. For strength training, do at least 5-7 minutes of light biking, elliptical or cardio, and also do a few dynamic (read: not static) stretches to really wake my muscles up. Here is a video of good dynamic stretches.

For cool down, try some of the following poses with deep breathing.

And…..if you need some encouragement to hit the beach, check out the following post ;)

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Oh She Glows and Slimming Meals that Heal: A Double Coobook Review

First off, I want to give a shout out to all my wonderful family and friends for their lovely birthday wishes last weekend. I was so fortunate to have my entire family be in Toronto with me, where we shared many laughs, love and way too much good food (if you've never had brunch at Le Select Bistro on Wellington, run there now!) To top it all off, we had the most perfect weather on Saturday. The only downside to my birthday? Realizing I am now 25 and halfway to 50!

To celebrate this milestone, I thought I would try something new on my blog and provide my personal reviews on two new cookbooks, Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon and Slimming Meals that Health by Julie Daniluk. DISCLAIMER: I was not sent a free copy or asked to provide these reviews, and this post is based solely on my own opinion.

Let’s start with Oh She Glows.
I attended one of my best friend’s birthday parties at the beginning of June and was extremely jealous when I saw her unwrap a copy of Canadian Food Blogger Angela Liddon’s new vegan cookbook, Oh She Glows. Being the frugal student I am, I began taking pictures of some of the recipes using my iPhone. Luckily, my amazing friends took note of this and bought me my own copy for my birthday last weekend!

Don’t let the vegan word fool you into thinking this is some weird hippie, tasteless cookbook full of strange ingredients you will have to search every health food store in Toronto to find all the ingredients. Instead, the recipes are simply, easy to follow and chockfull of healthy ingredients. Plus you can always sub the vegan substitutions for non-vegan substitutions (i.e. real eggs for flax eggs) if you don’t have all the ingredients on hand.

The thing I like the most about this cookbook is the layout. The pictures are beautiful, the text easy to read and she takes you on a journey through her kitchen from start to finish. I’ve already made several of her dessert recipes, granola bars and vinaigrettes, and everything was easy to prepare, cook, and turned out exactly like the photos, something that doesn’t always happen! N.B. this book is not 100% gluten-free, but Angela offers lots of gluten-free substitutions, and I have already used organic unsweetened, sunflower seed butter in place of almond butter in several of her recipes as I manage a fantastic kid’s bike camp called Pedalheads during the summer and we have a strict nut-free policy. I definitely recommend picking up a copy in store or online as this will be a great go-to cookbook for years to come. Next up, I plan to buy some green lentils and make some of her lentil-walnut meatloaf and taco meat for some delicious Meatless Monday meals! Below is a picture of her beat the heat dessert pizza, I made this for Father's day and it was a big hit.

Slimming Meals that Heal
I had the opportunity to meet holistic nutritionist Julie Daniluk earlier this year at a food show. She is truly an amazing woman, extremely successful and passionate about sharing her knowledge of food and healing with those around her. I bought her new cookbook, Slimming Meals that Heal online after reading several outstanding reviews on amazon. This cookbook is touted for those looking to lose weight, but I was personally interested in adopting an anti-inflammatory diet to help heal my gut and continue on my journey towards better health. The thing I like most aobut this book is the amount of sound, scientific nutritional advice and information she provides in the first half. This is really more of a textbook on how to heal inflammation, with recipes that support this process and aid in weightloss along the way. I’ve made several of her salads dressing, which all turned out delicious and were easy to make in my mini food processor. I plan of making more of her recipes in the Fall, as many focus on nourishing soups and stews that look delicious, but don’t currently sound appetizing as it’s supposed to be 38 degrees with the humidity next week! If you’re looking to eat better, reduce inflammation or lose weight, this is a great resource to have on hand. If you’re more interested in cooking great food, I would recommend Angela’s cookbook as it focuses more on the recipes than the science. OR if you’re like me, buy both and enjoy the benefits of both worlds.

If you have any more questions about either cookbooks or the recipes I’ve tried, send me a PM and I’d be happy to assist.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Is Gluten Sensitivity All In Your Head? Think Again.

After a recent study by Dr. Peter Gibson at Monash University in Australia was published claiming that non-celiac gluten sensitivity doesn’t exist, I received several requests from friends to comment on the findings and the validity of the study. I am by no means trying to de-bunk the study with this post, and only wish to better educate people about this health issue and what the results mean.

I will begin with a disclosure that I am someone who suffers from non-celiac gluten sensitivity. All gluten containing grains were extremely high on my IGG testing, and any ingestion of gluten causes severe stomach pain and bloating after eating, headaches, brain fog, and inevitable trips to the bathroom the next morning. Since I tested negative for celiac, trace amounts (a bit of soy sauce, a small bite etc.) don't bother me, but a full sandwich or slice of pizza means I’m out of commission for several days. It was my naturopathic doctor who recommended removing several commons allergens, including gluten, and food additives from my diet, allowing me to finally regain control of my life.
Hence, you can see my frustration, anger and embarrassment when people assume I am gluten-free because ‘I’m on a diet’, or ‘I’m a picky eater’, or ‘I’m high maintenance’ or 'I’m only gluten-free because my best friend is'.  These are all lines people have said to my face in the past, and the strange looks and judgmental stares when I asked for a gluten-free menu can make ordering out or dinner parties excruciating to sit though.  Nonetheless, there are many  people who are gluten-free for no real reason, and don’t even know that gluten is! Check out the Jimmy Kimmel Video for a good laugh

If you want more information on what gluten is, the Wikipedia page, like any good researcher, is a good place to start.

Let’s breakdown the findings of this study using this article posted on the Huffington Post

37 subjects, a relatively small sample, with self-declared gluten sensitivity and irritable bowel syndrome were placed on different diets including a high-gluten, low-gluten and control diet, consisting of 16 grams of whey protein isolate per day.
No matter which diet they ate, all reported feeling worse, even when consuming the gluten-free diet. BUT I personally don’t like how they used whey protein isolate as a control. Cow’s dairy is highly inflammatory and even isolate (which contains very little lactose) can cause bloating and stomach pain in people who are sensitive.  The scientists explained these results by a “nocebo” effect, “where people basically convince themselves that they feel worse and thus, they begin to experience real symptoms, but it’s all in their heads.” I slightly agree with researcher because if I’m eating out and skeptical of whether or not the server got my order right (i.e. the pizza crust or bun is in fact gluten-free), I do feel somewhat nauseous in anticipation of the pain and GI upset to come.

Thus, the researchers concluded that FODMAPS (Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols) are a far more likely cause of the gastrointestinal problems attributed to gluten intolerance. When participated consumed a low-FODMAP diet, almost all reported that their symptoms improved!
However, it should be noted that major dietary sources of FODMAPs include glutinous grains such as rye and wheat. Other potential triggers that are part of the FODMAPS family include HFCS, lactose, and certain fruits and veggies. In case you’re wondering, I do try to avoid large portions of foods high in FODMAPS as they are a trigger for my IBS. 

So what does this all mean? I will admit that gluten-free is extremely trendy these days and a great marketing tool, and I’m sure there are a good percentage of people on a gluten-free diet who don’t need to be and only feel better because they’re eating more whole, fresh food. On the other hand, I do greatly enjoy this current trend because it makes grocery shopping and dining out a much easier and less stressful experience for celiacs and those who are gluten intolerant alike and need to avoid gluten for medical reasons.

If you think going gluten-free will lead to weight loss, think again. Maybe in the past because going gluten-free meant cutting out cake, cookies, breads, pasta, pizza and other starchy, high calorie items from your diet. These days, there is gluten-free everything, including donuts, but this does not make them healthy or calorie free. In fact many gluten-free breads are FAR WORSE nutritionally, contain much more sugar, and are WAY MORE expensive than their gluten containing counterparts.

If going gluten-free makes you feel better mentally and physically, then I don’t think it’s truly all in your head. I do not recommend buying store bought gluten-free breads, pastas or cookies however, because they are often highly processed and full of white rice, potato starch and white sugar, which will cause a huge spike in blood sugar and a crash later on leaving you hungry and irritable. Instead try substituting with healthier ingredients; think zucchini or carrot noodles, cauliflower pizza crusts, Swiss chard wraps, and almond or coconut flour for homemade bread and desserts. If you have more questions about going gluten-free or think you may have other food sensitivities feel free to send me a private message or better yet, book an appointment with an accredited naturopathic doctor who can help you create an optimal diet for your gut.

Happy Eating 

Sunday, 25 May 2014

May SuperFood of the Month is .......Teff!!!

I first learned about the nutritional benefits of Teff from the lovely Kathy Smart at The Gluten-Free Expo in Toronto a few weeks ago. She is an amazing women with a wonderful, allergen-friendly cookbook full of great ideas  and recipe for cooking in the kitchen. I highly recommend following her on twitter @Smart_Kitchen for more health tips.

Teff is traditionally used to make injera bread, a staple item in Ethiopian cuisine; injera bread is a spongy crepe that functions as a utensil to scoop up meats and sauces. Teff is high an iron, something many women, and celiacs, are deficient in, and also a good source of calcium, magnesium,
iron, B1, B2, B3 and zinc. Teff can easily be ground into flour and ¼ cup has 4 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber. Use teff in place of regular flour as a thickening agent in soups, stews or gravies and as Kathy Smart says "It's delicious with chocolate. Teff flour and chocolate go together like peanut butter and honey.” Inspired by this quote, I was excited to come across the recipe below by one of my favourite food bloggers for a brownie recipe using teff and almond meal as the base.

I didn’t have any bananas so I added 1 egg instead but you could always keep the recipe vegan without this modification. I love all the added nutrition in this recipe from the nuts and fruit, and also reduced the maple syrup to 1/3 cup and it still tasted great! I have my eye on her new cookbook and am looking to add it to my collection soon.

I love my job as a manager for Pedalheads bike camps in the summer, but a strict nut/peanut free policy leaves me craving a big scoop of almond butter when I get home from work. To help get my fix before camp starts, I made a giant batch of these peanut butter teff cookies.
My current work schedule is pretty hectic and I needed a quick, high-energy  snack that would fit into my backpack and travel well. I replaced the oil with applesauce and cut down on the maple syrup in the following recipe for a delicious and chewy cookie

Next on my list is to try making my own homemade injera bread. I ate this weekly when living in Rwanda at my favorite restaurant called Lalibela. They put on a fabulous Friday night buffet dinner wit the most delicious spongy and tangy injera. NOTE: some restaurants add white flour to their injera recipe since teff is expensive, meaning the end product is no longer gluten-free. Ask the restaurant if they have an injera that is 100% teff or a mixture of rice flour and teff to make sure you don’t end up with major digestive upset the next day. Side not: this is VERY possible even if you tested negative for celiac. I firmly believe there is such a thing as non-celiac gluten sensitivity contrary to the latest study and Internet craze (more on that to come in the next post!)

Thursday, 1 May 2014

What the Heck is Naturopathy Anyways?

A funny thing happened to me at a party a few weeks ago. I ran into an old colleague from Western and started chatting about how I had a great school year and was ready to be finished studying for exams. He commented to me “oh that must be great to be done school forever now and start working” when I gave him a rather confused look, he replied “well naturopath school is only a year right?” I sighed, once again at the lack of understanding of what our profession is. This post has been long coming and I felt it was time to dispel some of the myths and misinformation surrounding our profession and what we do.

According to the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine website, naturopathy is a system of primary health care that promote wellness and prevention of illness or disease. We are highly-educated primary care providers and play an important role in integrative health care. Naturopathic Doctors must undergo rigorous four years of postgraduate training. Several science pre-requisites (physiology, biology, organic chemistry etc.), an interview, essay, reference letters and strong application are needed for entry into the program.

Let’s start with what we do. Instead of relying on drugs that only suppress, rather than treat the condition, our focus is on finding the root cause and restoring health within our patients. Naturopathic doctors are unique in that we have several different tools in our toolbox and can use a wide range of modalities including homeopathy, Asian medicine, botanical medicine, physical medicine, clinical nutrition and lifestyle counseling to treat our patients. Let’s break these modalities down a little.

Homeopathy works, admittedly we don’t know exactly how it works, but it treats a wide range of ailments and can have profound effects on the patient. Whenever you read bad press about naturopathy, 99.9% of the time its talking about homeopathy and how its nothing more than a bunch of sugar pills dissolved in water, an expensive placebo. The funny thing is that homeopathy is only one of SIX modalities we learn at CCNM, and some practitioners don’t even use homeopathy in their practice, whereas others use it almost exclusively. So telling us we aren’t science based because of homeopathy is like telling doctors they aren’t science based when they prescribe drugs where the mechanism of action isn’t known (which is more common than you think) or a placebo sugar pill to make their patients symptoms go away.  I’ve learned to accept that I have no idea what’s going on, but to be comfortable with the unknown. I plan to experiment with homeopathy in the future as I learn more about it.

Asian medicine is based on patterns of diagnosis and it’s pretty amazing to think that thousands of years ago they figured all this stuff out without any real diagnostic tools. For example, Heart blood stagnation= heart attack, and acupuncture points correspond well with sympathetic chain ganglia on the back and other pressure and reflexive points on the body. I am a huge fan of acupuncture for a variety of ailments, and learning to think in a different way, and see patterns of disease in your patients can be a very powerful tool.

Botanical medicine is also huge, many drugs come from herbs, but since you can’t patent a herb, companies must manipulate the herb in order to patent it and make money. However, many herbs are extremely powerful and can have profound effects with very little side effects. I love that there are so many herbs and tincture combinations available that can provide prevention and treatment relief to patients without any of the nasty side effects or simply suppressing symptoms (i.e. hydrocortisone cream for skin rashes). Think d-mannose from cranberries for prevention of UTI, horse chestnut for varicose veins, mullein for cough, slippery elm for acid reflux, the list goes on and on!

Why did I choose to become a naturopath?
Mid-way through my master’s I began suffering from terrible skin and digestive issues, there were days I didn’t want to leave my apartment because both were so bad. I went to an allergist who prescribed me an extremely strong skin cream containing an active ingredient used in cancer patients (scary) and told me my digestive issues were because I ate too much fiber. When I said I was interested in naturopathic medicine, he laughed and told me I was too smart for that….

From here I visited my naturopath, where a huge clean up of my diet, ruling out food sensitivities, supplementing with quality probiotics, digestive enzymes and fish oil completely changed my life, giving me back control over my body. I can’t thank my naturopath enough for listening to me and giving me the courage to change and the power to listen to my body.

Not surprisingly, nutrition is a huge component of our program, I don’t think there’s a one size fits all diet, however I think everyone at some point in their lives could benefit from doing a detox and elimination diet to determine what foods they are sensitive too. Even the healthiest foods (certain nightshade vegetables and fruits) can be detrimental in select individuals.

Naturopaths also use physical medicine, and lifestyle counseling. I love the fact I get to spend an hour with my patients, listening to their problems and helping guide them to solutions for both physical and mental well-being. We are so privileged to get to know our patients on such a personal level, and use different counseling techniques to help them heal  themselves.

Okay I realize this post was long and bordered on a rant, but does this help explain exactly what I am doing and learning for the next 3 years of my life?

And if you think it’s a walk in the park, think again. For instance, Tuesday morning we have an Asian medicine practical where are exam includes: learning over 40 different points, and anatomy of concern for those organ channels, have to describe their actions in TCM theory (i.e. clear heat, resolves dampness), and oh yah, stick needles in our classmates and try not to hurt anyone while doing so. Then we go to immunology, where we learn about every B and T cell side chain, along with all the autoimmune diseases and hypersensitivity that ever existed and will soon have to learn all their drugs in second year pharmacology. Sometimes I think naturopathy is harder than allopathic medicine because we have to learn all the regular stuff, then on top of that, all the naturopathic philosophy and values that make us who we are.

What can a naturopath help you with? There are many different disorders and issues naturopaths treat. Digestive concerns, complementary cancer care, sports medicine, fertility concerns, pediatrics, mental health issues, autoimmune diseases, chronic conditions, the list goes on. Although we cannot call ourselves a ‘specialist’ many naturopaths will specialize in a certain area (cancer, digestion, family medicine etc) and it’s a good idea to check out a clinic website ahead of time to get a feel of whether or not a certain ND will be a good fit for your and is familiar with your health concern. There’s not point speaking to a ND who specializes in musculoskeletal health and athletic performance if you’re main concern is infertility.

If you’re thinking about making a change in your life for the better, and want to get healthy for real, give me a shout and I would be happy to recommend some good ND’s in the GTA to get you started!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Five Store-bought Foods You’ll Never Buy Again

These days, its possible to eat three meals a day without ever entering a kitchen and doing any sort of food prep. Unfortunately, our society’s obsession with fast, cheap and convenient is wrecking havoc on our health. I’ve never preached Canada’s Food Guide, but instead think we should be focusing on eating real food (Amen, Michael Pollan) and pushing for a ‘back to the kitchen’ movement where we prepare, cook, and enjoy our own foods. As a busy student, there are days I don’t feel like cooking, especially when I’m pressed for time during exam periods. Having said that, a little preparation, less time on Facebook Snapchat, Twitter, what have you, and an appreciation for real food can mean lots of healthy choices you can feel proud about serving yourself and others. Below I have listed five items that are readily available in all grocery stores, but I encourage you to try making on your own and tasting the difference real food makes.

Roast chicken- ah the roast chicken, so easy and convenient, sitting there next to the check-out at Sobey’s, calling at you to pick up along with some other premade sides for a quick and easy dinner. I don’t disagree that roast chicken is convenient, but it’s way healthier and cheaper to make your own at home. I wait for Blue Goose Organic chickens to go on sale, and will buy at least two at once and freeze one right away. It takes about 1-1 ½ hours to cook a whole chicken, so set aside time on a day when you’re home early enough or great for Sunday night and then have leftovers all week long. I season my own chicken with chopped garlic, sea salt, and cilantro, roast it whole with a lemon quarter which I drizzle over with some of the pan drippings at the end. The result is a crispy, delicious chicken that has much more flavour than store-bought, and way less sodium, preservatives and other scary ingredients.

Almond butter- almond butter is expensive! Especially if you buy the good organic stuff by the jar and use in baking, you can easily go through a few jars on one month. I like using almond butter in grain-free muffin and brownie recipes, and discovered that its easy to make your own using a good quality food processor. I followed directions for making homemade almond butter posted here, and made my own delicious creamy almond butter in 15 minutes. I lightly toast my almonds in the oven first for a little extra flavour, and feel free to add some spices (sea salt, vanilla cinnamon) or a little bit of natural sweetener (honey, maple syrup) and other seeds (ground flax, sesame, pumpkin seeds etc.) for an extra rich and indulgent treat. If you prefer crunchy, add a few chopped almonds at the end. Next on my list is homemade cashew butter, I bought a giant 1Kg bag of raw organic cashews by Prana at Winner’s the other day, another great foodie find! I did some number crunching and the price of the bag was comparable to buying cashew at Bulk Barn.

Ice cream
Admittedly, you need to have an ice cream maker or stand mixer attachment for this one, but seriously, once you try homemade ice cream you will never buy store-bought again. I love making dairy free ice cream using a combination of canned coconut milk and almond milk, and the best part is I can adjust the sweetness to taste with organic unpasteurized honey, making it taste way better and substantially reducing the sugar content of store-bought brands. Especially if you buy low-fat or fat-free ice cream, all you are doing is consuming roughly the same calories, but more empty calories in the form of extra sugar to make up for the flavor lost in fat. This peanut butter vegan ice cream was made in my kitchen stand mixer ice cream maker attachment, and poured over a date-almond-cocoa crust for a friend’s birthday party, it was a big hit!

Overpriced  & dry GF bakery items and desserts
The price difference is ridiculous between regular and GF bakery items. If you look at the ingredient list, the first few items listed are often white rice flour, potato starch and sugar, all of which have zero nutritional value and will send your blood sugar soaring. Instead make your own baked goods and desserts at home. It will be cheaper, healthier and taste 100% better I promise. Here are two of my favourite dessert and muffin recipes. For ingredients below, I used PC organics unsweetened applesauce that comes in a pack of 6 individual containers.

Almond butter Banana Muffins with Cacao nibs

1 cup creamy homemade almond butter
1 mashed ripe banana and 1 individual container unsweetened applesauce (or two bananas)
2 eggs and 1 flax eggs or 3 eggs total
1/4 honey (optional, I didn't use because I don't like things sweet)
1tsp cinnamon and vanilla
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup optional mix-ins (cacao nibs, raisins, craisins, walnuts etc.)

combine all ingredients very well in stand mixer or use hand mixer. Stir in optional mix-ins, I only added cacao nibs because I am a chocolate addict!
pour into prepared muffins tins with paper liners
back at 350 for 15 minutes.
cool and eat, so good!
Makes 10-12 muffins depending on size. Freeze leftovers immediately as these muffins contain no preservatives and will spoil fast on your kitchen counter

Banana Cashew fudge squares
1 cup soaked pitted dates
1 cup raw walnuts or almonds
3 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
1 small ripe banana, mashed and 1 container unsweetened applesauce (or two bananas total)
¼ cup cocoa powder
¼ cup cashew butter or other nut butter
2-4 tbsp honey (depending on desired sweetness)
1tsp each vanilla and cinnamon

Combine dates and walnuts in a food processor until a ball forms. Add coconut and press into bottom of 8x5 loaf pan.

For the topping, combine banana, applesauce, cocoa powder, cashew butter, cinnamon vanilla and honey in bowl, mixing well. Pour over crust and place in freezer until firm, about ½ hour. Cut into squares and serve or store in freezer. Now get your bum in the get and start cooking!