“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”

The Hippocrates quote above is perfectly illustrated in this comic by Bizarro!












So what have you eaten today that qualifies as medicine?

Today, I prepared a green smoothie consisting of:

1 banana (well known as a good source of potassium, but even better of Vit B6 and C)
1 plum
1 kiwi
1 pear
1 small piece of ginger (very anti-inflammatory)
large handful of kale (very nutrient dense, high levels of Vit A, C, K and so much more!)
1 heaping tbsp. each of:

brown sesame seeds (good source of copper, calcium and other minerals)
flax seeds (omega 3, richest source of anti cancer lignans)
chia seeds (omega 3, calcium, fiber, antioxidants and more)
enough water in the Vitamix container to reach the 4 cup mark

This made about 2 1/2 glasses which I sipped throughout the morning.


Juice Fast Update

After staying with my sister for a week this spring and participating in a juice fast while her overweight husband looked on, my brother-in-law decided he would like to give it a try. So, 2 weeks ago I packed up my bags, brought along my Green Star juicer and Excalibur dehydrator (there is a lot of pulp to make crackers with) and the three of us participated in a modified juice fast. For simplicity and ease, we decided to have green smoothies for breakfast and juice for lunch and dinner.
Even though this repeat juice fast was my brother-in-laws idea, I decided that we should all sit down and view the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead for motivation and inspiration at the beginning of the week. This chronicles the journey of an overweight, sick 40 something year man who travels across the U.S. inspiring people along the way.
My brother-in-law has come a long way in the past 6 months. After coming back from a holistic health cruise, he made the decision to become vegan. While this was quite a shock to everyone, he did not lose the weight that he anticipated. Therein lies a lesson for all. Going vegan (or even raw) does not guarantee anyone health or weight loss. There is a right way and a wrong way of eating a plant based diet. One of his problems is over consumption of bread. He has been eating bread for at least 2 meals a day!
On about day 5, my brother-in-law stated that he was feeling very good and on day 6 that he has never felt so good in all his life!!! He attributed this to a levelling of his blood sugars.  I don’t think he regularly checks his blood sugars, but he has experienced bouts of pre-diabetes in the past. Wow, What tremendous results in one week! He is also down about 12 pounds and visibly slimmer.
He was so happy with his results he continued for another week with green smoothies for 2 meals a day and a reasonable meal for dinner.
This is more than anyone expected, but it goes to show you the power of good nutrition.

Sugar and sugar substitutes

Nutrasweet, Sweet and Low, Splenda, white sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sucanat, evaporated cane juice, date powder, coconut sugar, xylitol, agave, maple syrup, corn syrup, honey and stevia.  Whew, that’s a lot of sweetener!  Where to turn, what to use????

For someone consuming white or brown sugar, the first step would be to eliminate that from your diet. Why should you do that? There are many reasons but let’s just consider two.

1.  White sugar is devoid of any nutrients, in fact it is an anti-nutrient. That means it robs your body of nutrients in order to metabolize it – calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, chromium, zinc and B Vitamins.  Your body will draw on either it’s own reserves of these nutrients or take them from other foods in the same meal. Brown sugar has had some molasses added back to it, but in such low amounts as to generally not be considered of any health benefit.

2.  It also suppresses immune function for up to 5 hours by reducing the activity of certain white blood cells and competing with Vitamin C for entry into some of our cells. Many people, especially children, are consuming sugar all day long – from their breakfast cereals, bread (yes, there is sugar added to many breads!), granola bars, sweetened yogurts, cookies, salad dressings, condiments and more. When you consume sugar all day long, your immune system never has a chance to recoup, leading to chronically depressed levels. White blood cell function constitutes a major portion of our defense mechanism against infection and constant impairment can lead to immune-compromised states. This immune suppression is dose dependent – the more sugar you consume the greater the negative impact on immune function! Bear in mind this suppression can also happen from other carbohydrates in the form of glucose, fructose and sucrose. This means even so called healthier sweeteners like honey or agave can have negative effects.

The addition of high fructose corn syrup is many processed foods is also very detrimental to our health. Mercury has been found in 50% of samples tested! What is this neurotoxin doing to our brains and bodies? This is a cheap sweetener derived from genetically modified corn and the farthest thing away from a natural food. Stay as far away from this “frankenfood” as possible. It is adding to the obesity problem, taxes our livers and most likely contributing to a whole host of other medical conditions as well.

Ideally, we would get all our sugars in their natural form – from fruits, but most of our taste buds aren’t ready for that, so what can we do to start heading in the right direction? I do not recommend unnatural sugar substitutes – aspartame being the big one. For an eye opening 11 minute video on this see – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvFRLIjOLOU

As a starting point, you can use stevia (available at health stores or you can grow your own plant) to enable you to reduce the amount of sweetener in a recipe, sometimes by half. It requires some experimenting in order to do this though. Use Sucanat (evaporated cane juice), unpasteurized or raw honey or maple syrup to replace white or brown sugar in most recipes. They have not had nutrients stripped from them and still contain vitamins and minerals. For optimal nutrition, use a local raw honey and do not cook with it. There are unscrupulous vendors selling fake honey with no trace of bee pollen in it. It has been estimated that up to 75% of grocery store honey has been ultra filtered to remove any trace of goodness in it (pollen) or to hide the original source of some ingredients.
See http://www.naturalnews.com/034102_honey_consumer_alert.html for more information on this.

If your budget can afford it, date sugar would be considered one of the healthiest sugars as it is dried and powdered dates. Medjool dates are very sweet and you can cut them up and add them to oatmeal as it is cooking on the stove or you can soak them (removing pits first) in water and blend to make a paste or syrup. Raisins (should be organic as grapes are heavily sprayed) are also delicious in oatmeal and can reduce or eliminate the need for additional sweeteners in baking. Getting creative in the kitchen with dried fruits can result in much healthier treats.

One of my “go to” quick treats when I have a sweet tooth is to take a medjool date, remove the pit and dip it into peanut or almond butter. The combination of a nut butter (fat) with the sweetness is usually enough to satisfy me. Pop one or two of these into your mouth and forget about snacking on less wholesome foods like cakes, donuts or other baked goods usually made with white flour and sugar.

If you would like to make a healthier lemonade, try this:

Into a pitcher of filtered water, add 2 droppers of lemon flavoured stevia (available in health stores), 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice and 1 tbsp. of maple syrup.
For a short cut version, use Santa Cruz bottled lemon juice, not from concentrate. The addition of maple syrup takes away any trace of bitterness from the stevia.

Juice Fasting

Have you seen the documentary, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead? (http://www.fatsickandnearlydead.com/). I watched it last year and was amazed that a man who came from eating a Standard American Diet (SAD), or in the case of the main figure in the film, a Standard Australian Diet, could leap so successfully  into the world of juicing. As a budding nutritionist, I often come across people and clients who balk at making too many changes too quickly to their diet. I fully realize that for most people, making small incremental changes over time is more likely to result in permanent changes. A juice fast of 60 days as featured in the film has the potential to backfire if major dietary changes do not follow when the juice fast is over. It is necessary of course to retrain your taste buds and learn to prepare meals that you can eat long term. I was familiar with juice feasting as outlined at http://www.juicefeasting.com/ which I assumed would not have mainstream followers, but those who were already “out there” in respect to their diets (you know, those wacky vegans and raw foodists!) Anyway, even though I am one of those who may be considered more extreme when it comes to my diet, I never thought I would have the will power to do something so extreme as a juice fast. My dilemma was that it could be very healing for many and I may want to suggest it to some, either to jumpstart them to better health or as a adjunct to a healthy, whole foods diet. What would it be like to drink only juice for a period of time? The best motivator for me is company, so, in comes my sister Patti, who is always game for dietary challenges and is just as interested as I am in doing everything she can to better her health. We decided on a 7 day juice fast/feast and started with our first meal/drink as dinner. It took us almost 2 hours to get everything washed, sorted, cut and juiced the first night, but we also made enough for 2 days. Although the produce varied somewhat from day to day, we juiced the following: kale, collards, chard, bok choy, parsley, carrots, beets, cabbage, sunflower sprouts, cucumber, celery, ginger, apples, lemons, limes. We each drank 2 litres of juice a day. I didn’t drink much water on top of that, or I would have spent too much time in the bathroom!

The first 2 days, I had strong hunger pains that I may have soothed with solid food, if I wasn’t staying with my sister. That is the beauty of doing this with a partner! My sister continued to work and I continued to go to school (and study for a final Herbal exam!) during our week long juice fast. The strong hunger pains subsided to a somewhat milder hunger and we did cheat a little by tasting a few crackers that we made every day with the left over pulp.

There is a lot of pulp left when you juice the amount of vegetables and fruits that we did, so we combined it with an assortment of other foods – ground and whole flax seeds, ground sunflower seeds, onions, apples, almonds, sun-dried tomatoes and herbs to make crackers in the dehydrator. The combination of ingredients varied every day. Nothing was thrown into the compost bin, other than some apple cores, celery butts and ginger skins.

I was glad when it was over, but would do it again for the jolt of nutrients received. Seems like my brother in law (who watched us make and drink our juice every day) is now interested in joining us for another round of juicing! I promised we would do it again soon.

By the third day, I was in need of a different kind of jolt – fibre! I decided to use 1/3 cup each day of NutraCleanse – http://nutracleanse.biz/ which is a combination of ground flax, psyllium, dandelion, burdock and fenugreek powders in a large glass of water.

On day 6, I had the smallest tinge of a headache, when I was out and drank my lunch late. The strong hunger pains had returned! I haven’t had a headache in years and it left almost as abruptly as it started. As soon as I was able to drink some juice, the hunger pains subsided. My diet is pretty clean as it is, so I didn’t really experience anything drastic on this cleansing week, but others may have major detoxing symptoms.

Here are some photos of the produce juiced and what our juice and pulp looked like.

One days produce to juice

Dry pulp as it comes out of juicer

4 litres of juice

Patti and Cathy

Cracker batter ready for dehydrator

Grow Your Own Food!

I would like to encourage everyone to start growing some of their own food. Please don’t stop reading if you do not have a large backyard though. Growing your own food can take on many different forms – from planting a vegetable garden in your yard or a community garden, planting containers on a balcony or a window ledge or a deck or sprouting in your kitchen. The benefits are many, from increased taste and nutrition to teaching children where their food comes from and of course getting them interested in eating a greater variety of food. The environmental benefits are great when you consider that eating as local as your backyard or within a short drive or walk to a community garden reduces transportation costs and all the fossil fuels required for mass industrial farming practices.

Overall, the cost of growing your own food is cheaper than buying it from a grocery store or farmers market. When you grow your own food, you no longer need to fear about contamination that may occur at the farm, manufacturing plant, during transportation or at the retail store. If you grow your food organically, you will reduce the burden of pesticides and herbicides on our planet.  Last, but not least, is the great personal satisfaction that most derive from growing and eating your own food.

Lets look at some of these benefits one by one:

  • Increased taste – if you have ever eaten a cherry tomato right off the stem, an apple directly from the tree, or a strawberry that you picked yourself, you know what I am talking about.  It is especially important to share these experiences with children and get them excited about real food.
  • Increased nutrition – the nutrients in most fruits and vegetables starts to diminish as soon as they’re picked. This means that picking your food from your garden and eating it within minutes or hours translates to receiving the maximum nutrition that food has to offer. When ripe and delicious fruits and vegetables are right out your backyard and ready for picking, eating these whole natural foods is more apt to become second nature. Who couldn’t benefit from more whole foods? With increased nutrition comes increased health!
  • Savings – the savings can be substantial depending on what you are growing and if you grow extra and, can, freeze or dehydrate for out of season storage, the savings increase. Just think how cheap you can grow organic food!
  • Only by growing your own food can you be certain that your food is top quality. You know what kind of soil you used and what kind of nutrients your soil received. You choose your seeds or plants, the kind of soil and or food you give those seeds, which all goes into determining the quality of your food. Gardening gives you complete control of the food that you eat. Did you know that much of the organic produce that is purchased from stores – including health stores is crisped/soaked in city water with it’s fluoride and chlorine?
  • Organic gardening reduces the amount of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides released into the air.
  • Your food will be grown without the massive quantities of fossil fuels needed for machinery, transportation or storage of conventional farms. You may even save time and money, if you can walk out to your yard and pick something to add to a salad, or even better, get most of the ingredients for a salad. If you are like me, I have found myself on more than one occasion, where I needed parsley or just a bit of mint or a zucchini or cucumber – you get the point. It is the best feeling in the world to walk out to the garden, rather than jump in the car and drive to the grocery store to get a single ingredient (which I have done more than I care to admit!)
  • Gardening naturally lends itself to composting. Returning nutrients to the soil is the best that we can do in regards to disposal of our food wastes. Compost acts a buffer to the soil’s pH modifying and stabilizing it and provides micro and macro nutrients.
  • Every rooftop, balcony, window ledge and lawn can be a garden. Gardens can be arranged vertically as well as horizontally. Indoor gardens can grow all year round.
  • You can sprout on your kitchen counter top. You can grow herbs in a sunny window. You can grow a tomato plant in a container on a balcony or you can do even more with grow lights in the house.
  • Starting a vegetable garden can be extremely satisfying and rewarding to an individual and if you choose to get children involved, you could be getting them off to a good start in life as to knowing how food grows, taking an interest in deciding what food they like, want to grow and are willing to experiment with and try. Children are more apt to try foods that they see growing in the garden, perhaps even right from the stalk to their mouth!
  • A garden in place of a lawn makes even more environmental sense when you consider that this is less grass that will be cut, and possibly sprayed and fertilized.
  • Gardening gets you outside engaging in light to heavy exercise – depending on the task you are attempting. Obviously making a garden where grass once was is physical work to remove the grass and turn over the soil. Going out to do weekly weeding is much lighter exercise – but both should set you up for receiving vitamin D from the sun, fresh air and put you in touch with nature, which is good for the soul, mind and body, reducing stress levels.
  • Home gardening leads us closer to self sufficiency. Many people are taking this a step further and even keeping chickens in the backyard. For many, the act of gardening turns a light on inside and from that light they take extra steps that allow them to keep the food they grow themselves for longer periods by canning, freezing or drying. You don’t need to do this of course, but it is a natural progression for many – the act of returning to simpler times, when we didn’t have to worry about the BPA in tin linings, mass quantities of pesticides and genetically modified foods.
  • Gardening can make available heirloom varieties no longer commercially farmed.
  • Gardening teaches us the art of patience. There are no instant rewards in the world of gardening. We must nurture all but the heartiest of plants with some TLC and then we are rewarded for our efforts.

One of the easiest things that you can do right on your kitchen counter is to learn to sprout mung beans. Talk about easy peasy! Soak them in water overnight and rinse and drain the next morning and for the next 2 days morning and night. Soon you will have mung bean sprouts, which are wonderful to add to salads or munch on by themselves. Mung beans provide enzymes, protein, minerals, phytonutrients and are SO healthy for you. The point is to start somewhere.  Soon you will feel the immense reward that comes from growing quality food that will nourish your body.

Start your day with lemon or lime water

On your quest to better health, one of the small changes you can make is to start your day with a glass of filtered warm (not boiling), water with a tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice. Some of the benefits are:

  • Firstly, most of us do not consume enough water throughout the day and adding more clean, pure, filtered water is vital to good health. Our bodies are more water than anything else! It is required to transport nutrients and oxygen to our cells and our kidneys depend on a constant supply of water to function optimally. Those are just two of many reasons to drink more water during the day!
  • Lemon and lime juice are very alkalizing to the body. Note that by themselves they are acidic, but the effect on the body is alkalizing due to their mineral content. Since the majority of the population is acidic (due to diet and stress), drinking lemon or lime water is one step to bringing about a more alkaline pH. Why should you care about being alkaline? Many forms of disease thrive in an acidic body, cancer being one of the biggest threats. An acidic body, is constantly trying to buffer those acids by leaching minerals (i.e. calcium) from your bones leading to degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis.
  • Citrus fruits contain the phytochemical hesperidin, with lemons and limes dominating (vs. grapefruit). Hesperidin is an antioxidant, that is anti-inflammatory and believed to have anti-cancer activity. The white part of the peel has the highest concentration of hesperidin so include the zest of these fruits in salad dressings or other dishes when ever you can, but their is still a significant level in the juice of these fruits. Dr. Oz recently spoke with Dr. William W. Li who is President of the Angiogenesis Foundation and Dr. Li’s recommendation was to drink 1/2 cup of lime juice every day for it’s cancer fighting ability against squamous lung cancer. While that much may be beneficial, my caution would be to watch your teeth enamel carefully. Your dentist may tell you that you are harming your enamel with that much acidity coming in contact with it. While I am not a doctor or researcher, my common sense tells me that including the zest of lemon or limes (organic please!) in your water or recipes would be better than that much juice.
  • Lemon and lime juice are one of your liver’s best friends! It kickstarts your liver into action for the day. Our livers are one of the hardest working organs in the body with digestion and detoxification being only two of the very important functions it performs. Lemon/lime juice supports that liver function by assisting in the production of liver enzymes and bile. The natural antiseptic qualities can kill bacteria.
  • Drinking lemon or lime water before a meal can help with digestive issues such as heartburn/acid refux (which are more often a symptom of low stomach acid vs. too much acid).
  • Adding juice to warm water is best for digestion. Cold water is very hard on digestion and tends to hinder it. Too hot water will kill the enzymes in freshly squeezed juice. Their are benefits to drinking lemon or lime water 30 minutes before all of your meals.

Organic lemons seem to be much more plentiful than limes. I don’t know why, but that seems to be the case where I live. Either use conventional limes for their juice (skipping the zest) or purchase bottled organic lime juice – not from concentrate, which is available in health stores.

Live saving videos

This post has nothing to do with nutrition, but everything to do with life and death.  What good does it do, to have great health, only to fall through ice into frigid waters and drown? I am providing a link to 3 short clips that could save someone’s life – if it is you that falls in or if you come across someone in that situation.  Dr. Ben Kim has great newsletters and articles on his website and it is worth reading.  Here is the link to the videos he has posted about what to do if you fall through ice – please watch them!  This is especially pertinent to snowmobilers and cross country skiers if you are ever on frozen water (or you think it is frozen!)