April 1, 2015

What To Eat When Sick With A Cold

It is hard to believe that not long ago I was basking in the warmth and sunshine of Siesta Key Beach. The bad news is that I got sick while there with a tenacious bug.

Should you feed or starve your cold or flu?

Listen to your body and eat when you feel like it, but don't neglect to keep your intake of fluids up. You need lots of water and other liquids when you are ill.

With son #2 in Florida last week!
Here are a dozen ways to nourish yourself while nursing a miserable cold:

1. Soup - Any kind is good (miso, vegetable or homemade, animal-based bone broths) but studies have been done that validate the healing power of chicken stock. The heat and steam will help with sinus congestion and warm your body - just stay away from MSG infused cubes.

2. Juice - Freshly pressed juice is great for fighting a cold. I like mine to be mostly green vegetables (such as cucumber, celery, parsley, dill, asparagus or broccoli stems, etc.) with lemon or lime. I also throw in a little ginger and garlic. I use a single augur masticating juicer that is great for both hard and leafy vegetables (Omega 8004).

3. Tea - Green tea is particularly good for the immune system - just skip the milk and sugar if you have black tea. Sugar depresses our immune function. A little raw honey is antibacterial, antimicrobial and can help suppress coughs.

4. Garlic - The compound allicin in raw garlic is antiviral and will speed healing. I add it to juice, dips, salad dressings or even just on crackers!

5. Smoothies - These are easy to make, nutrient dense and soothing to a sore throat. Use a plant-based protein powder, hemp seeds, flax seeds, nut or coconut milk, some greens and a little fruit such as frozen berries. Even just fruit and greens blended with some ice and water is delicious and nutritious.

6. Eggs - Whether boiled, scrambled or poached, these provide high quality protein and are quick to prepare when you are not feeling well.

7. Citrus - Make sure to eat the white pith, which is rich in bioflavanoids. When making cold-pressed juice, remove just the zest (unless you don't mind the bitter taste) and leave the white part to run through the juicer. I like to make lemonade or limeade, sweetened with stevia, which is a natural, herbal sweetener that does not affect blood sugar or depress your immune system.

8. Culinary spices - Turmeric, cloves, cinnamon and ginger, added to tea or soups can help to sweat out a fever.

9. Avoid dairy - although studies are contradictory (some recommend yogurt), I find it increases mucous formation, so I feel better staying away while sick with a cold. Instead, purchase non-dairy milk or yogurt (coconut or almond are two choices) as a substitute.

10. Pineapple - This delicious, sweet, tropical fruit is packed with vitamins & minerals, including Vitamin C. Fresh pineapple has the additional benefit of the digestive enzyme, bromelain, which has anti-inflammatory properties and helps heal coughs and other cold symptoms.

11. Watermelon - This refreshing fruit is high in glutathione, the body's most abundant antioxidant. If watermelons are not in season, cabbage, broccoli, collards and kale are also good sources.

12. Spicy foods - These are natural decongestants that will thin mucous secretions. Avoid if you have an upset stomach and instead have some whole grain or gluten free crackers or a banana, which are easily digestible and bland.

In addition to eating well and staying hydrated, keep warm and get lots of rest. Catch up on your backlog of reading (or Netflix) if you feel up to it and before you know it you will be up and around!

March 14, 2015

Skip Breakfast To Radically Transform Your Health With Intermittent Fasting!

It is simple, but perhaps not so easy, to radically change your health for the better - just eat less!

Studies (in both animals and people) have shown that those who eat the least amount of food enjoy the longest healthy lifespan.

This very interesting video shows how you can reverse or prevent disease by changing what and how you eat. A marathon runner (age 110) shared that he only eats half or child's portions. The main subject of the film greatly improved his blood work after participating in two different approaches to fasting.

Food restriction or dieting is difficult to sustain in the long run for most people. The film explores several ways (some easier than others) to fast for increased longevity and better health. Interestingly, there are easier ways to get good results than just ceasing to eat for several days at a time, a few times per year.

Personally, I have been experimenting with intermittent fasting on a daily basis (16:8 which involves no eating for 16 hours, after an early dinner, and then skipping breakfast while confining food intake to 8 hours between noon and 6 pm).  Skipping breakfast comes naturally to me and I honestly do not find it a hardship to wait until around noon to start eating. Since I started Intermittent Fasting, I have seen a sudden improvement in a chronic hip injury I have been trying to fix with physiotherapy and exercise for a very long time!

There has been some evidence that fasting is not for everyone - for instance, some women may find it does not work for them, perhaps due to hormonal imbalances. I believe it is worth experimenting with fasting to see how your body reacts. Of course, you should check with your doctor to make sure it is safe for you to try any kind of fasting. You may improve your blood work, lose a few pounds and even get off or minimize your need for medications!

March 10, 2015

How To Build Your Own Cheap, Easy DIY Standing Desk!I

I have since improved this setup by attaching the power bar to the upper table leg with small bungie cords
Stand up desks are a great idea to improve our health, since sitting is literally killing us all! A Canadian meta-analysis of 47 studies has revealed that our risk of disease (including the most prevalent killers such as heart disease and cancer) increases greatly with every hour spent on our behinds. In addition to getting up regularly from out work stations, regular exercise is highly recommended. However, here is another idea - stand up to work for at least part of the day!

In researching different options for a standing desk, I found that they are very pricey, costing hundreds of dollars. Then, I stumbled on this idea - a very inexpensive solution requiring little know-how and using components from Ikea. I think you could utilize a small end table from Goodwill or something you already have as an alternative and then just buy a shelf and brackets from a hardware store if you do not have convenient access to an Ikea store (although they do sell online).

Standing all day may not be for everyone - for instance, if you suffer from varicose veins you may not wish to stand too much in one spot. I also put a shallow footstool under the desk so I can put one or the other foot up to ease tension on the lower spine. I also tend to fidget a lot! The table I put my standing desk on has a flip up shelf to which I can move my laptop if I want to sit for awhile. Alternatively, since I work from home, I can go to another room in the house for a change of scenery.

I am just using my laptop keyboard at the moment (so I can easily change to sitting when I get tired of standing) but it is easy to plug in a keyboard (you can see mine in the photo) and mouse. I also plan to get a long, cushioned mat to stand on.

If you want more information on the ins and outs of deciding whether this is right for you, go here to read more. I am 5'6" tall and this setup works well for me - if you are a significantly shorter or taller than that, you may want to tweak the height of the shelf by using a different bracket. For taller people, you can place your large screen on a big book to increase the height.

This is so easy to do anyone can accomplish it - all you need is a drill and a screwdriver! Have fun creating your own standup desk - I would love to hear from you about your setup!

February 25, 2015

Ditch The Toxic Skin Care - Try Exotic Plant Oils!

In the past year, I have tried using plant oils for my skin, in place of moisturizers. I love how my skin has responded, looking smooth and radiant, while using these oils. I do have normal/dry skin but even oily skin can benefit.

Sample Set of Exotic Oils
What is better about plant oils? Well, for one thing, without water in the mix, chemicals and preservatives are unnecessary. The oils are certified organic and cold-pressed. They are nutrient-rich, containing essential fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants.

I would highly recommend going to EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database to see whether the products you are using (or contemplating purchasing) are acceptable when it comes to toxicity. I try and stick to cosmetics and body care that rate a 2 or below. They don't have every single product being produced there, but you will be surprised to see how toxic many commonly used items are. Our skin absorbs whatever we apply to it, so it makes sense for your long-term health to avoid carcinogenic or allergenic ingredients.

Full selection of New Roots exotic skin care oils
I regularly alternate Baobab oil (non-greasy yet moisturizing), Rosehip Seed and Argan oils after cleansing my face. It works best to rub a few drops between your palms and apply to still damp skin. The oils leave a slight glow/sheen and make a great base for other products you might apply to your skin for day, such as a natural, non-chemical sunblock or mineral makeup.

Most of the time, using oil rather than formulated products is the way to go for body care as well. Coconut or olive oil make great body moisturizers and are really cost effective when purchased in a large container - and you can eat them too! Ideally, anything you put on your skin, you should be able to consume.

New Roots has a reasonably priced line of exotic plant oils you can try, including a handy boxed set of several favourites. The packaging is changing though, so keep an eye out for the new version, pictured below.

New Packaging - I inadvertently photographed the French side, there is English on back
I am really looking forward to trying more of these oils. They all have unique properties - benefits include anti-aging, increased elasticity/hydration, wrinkle prevention, healing stretch marks/scars, fading sunspots/hyperpigmentation and improving dull, dry skin.

Go here to get more information about the individual New Roots oils so you can choose the best one(s) for your skin. The Tamanu Oil is particularly healing (great for cuts or rashes), the Goji Seed Oil is great for anti-aging, Seabuckthorn Seed Oil has natural sunscreen properties and Baobab is non-greasy and easily absorbed, yet relieves dry/damaged skin. If you can't decide, try the Skin Lovers Oil, which is a blend of several of the most popular choices!

Excited to try this one at bedtime - it has anti-aging properties!

February 18, 2015

How to Survive a Deep Freeze Winter!

North of Toronto - LOTS of snow!!
It has been freezing cold in Southern Ontario! This harsh weather is hard to take after awhile, so here are a few tips to survive and thrive in snowy conditions:

1. Layer up: In this weather, you cannot have too many layers! I don't think I have left the house with less than three layers of clothing in the past few weeks and usually more. Start with a thin pair of silk long johns or tights. I also usually have a turtleneck on, as a base layer. Then add sweaters and leggings or jeans that can tuck into boots. I have the softest men's cashmere turtleneck I found at Goodwill for $14 that I have been wearing nonstop this winter, as it is so cozy and warm. Always have some cushioned wool socks (I like hiking socks) on your feet (plus slippers in the house) and tall boots when you venture outside. Top off with a hat and a warm coat, preferably with a hood you can flip up for extra protection and something on your hands - mittens are the warmest choice!

2. Exercise: When you have on enough clothing to guard against the elements, you can then venture outside to get a little outdoor exercise, fresh air and the rare rays of sunshine when they appear. Doing this will elevate your mood! Embrace the weather and go skating or skiing. If you just can't face the outdoors, due to extremely inclement weather, do what you can inside at home - squats, pushups and other calisthenics are easy to do anywhere. If you have a treadmill or other exercise equipment, hop on there and get your heart pumping. Do some stretching or follow some exercise videos found online. If you belong to a gym or other exercise studio, make sure to make appointments to get there whenever you can as well. As a last resort, if you cannot navigate the sidewalks due to snow and ice, go to the biggest mall you can find and walk. Bring along your portable device and listen to something interesting, music or a book on tape you can download from the library. Just don't be distracted and actually go into the stores or you will won't get your heart pumping and will end up spending more money you might have intended. If you have access to an exercise class held in a heated room, that would be a bonus, I just got back from a "hot stretch" class that was heavenly. I feel so much more relaxed!

3. Cocoon: Sit by the fire or under a comforter with a steamy cup of fragrant tea and a good book - surrender to winter and just enjoy being warm and comfortable inside. This is my personal favourite way to cope. Travel brochures to exotic, warm locations are also kind of fun to peruse when it is frightful outside. Browse healthy cookbooks and make some delicious, nutritious foods! Take a hot bath and watch a movie with popcorn. Saunas and steam rooms are also really awesome.

5. Get away if you can: This is even better if planned well in advance, since you can book things at the best price and have something to look for all winter long. Knowing that you are going to be able to escape winter during March break with your family can be the lifeline you keep in mind whenever you feel like you just can't take it any more!

6. For commuting, always have on hand: your cell phone, a snow brush/scraper, a cover for your windshield (or park in a garage), a hot beverage and snacks just in case you have problems, touchscreen gloves are handy, a charging cable to plug into your cigarette lighter for your phone and good tires! Drive carefully, avoid storms and rush hour! Take transit if you can and avoid the stress of driving yourself.

If you live in a sunny climate, be grateful! We look forward to joining you and stripping off the extra clothing in a few months.

December 15, 2014

How to Pick the Best Teas at DAVIDsTEA!

Taking time to brew a delicious, steaming hot cup of tea is a comforting ritual - especially when the weather outside is frightful! Tea is full of beneficial properties for our health and is a great way to wean yourself away from coffee if you would like to reduce your intake of caffeine.

DAVIDsTEA is a beautiful shop, full of good-for-you treats, whether for yourself or someone else. Tea makes a great gift. The shop carries related accessories (such as tea strainers, mugs and even tea-scented candles!) as well as a huge assortment of loose leaf teas. You do need to be picky though, since some of the teas contain less desirable ingredients, but there are still a great diversity of good choices.

In addition to a plethora of black, green and white teas in a multitude of flavours, DAVIDsTEA also carries many herbal and caffeine-free options. Rooibos, a slightly sweet and antioxidant rich leaf, is one of my favourites, especially the one I picked up from DAVIDsTEA recently, Creme Brulée - caramel flavoured heaven in a cup!

One of the delicious Maté blends at DAVIDsTEA
When it comes to choosing from the many options, keep in mind that many of the teas at DAVIDsTEA are organic and flavoured naturally so I would tend to pick those. If you look at the brochure listing of teas, you can find the organic choices by looking for a tiny leaf to the right of the tea name.

Ask your server which teas are free of artificial colours and flavours. The choices that fit that description for Rooibos teas at DAVIDsTEA include Cinnaberry, Creme Brulée, Earl Grey Rooibos, Green Rooibos, Pure Vanilla, Rooibos and Super Ginger. 

I hope you wander into this delightful store some time soon and treat yourself or someone you love!

December 3, 2014

Are You An Introvert or an Extrovert?

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? It has nothing to do with being shy or outgoing. Yes, the person quietly sitting in the corner and not saying much is most likely an introvert, but the person who is the "life of the party" could be one too. The difference is that the latter will have to go home and take some time alone to recover from their exertions.

You can be a shy extrovert or an outgoing introvert! Many public speakers (something most people fear more than death) are actually introverts who find it easier to be on stage than engaging in small talk afterward.

I have been interested in this subject for years, so when I heard this podcast by Chalene Johnson, a motivational coach, I was happy to find one of the best explanations I have come across regarding how to figure out whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. The episode aired on Wednesday, November 26, 2014.

I have read pretty much everything I could find on personality type, especially the Myers-Briggs version of assessment. I am pretty close to the line between introvert and extrovert, so could never figure out exactly where I fit in, but now I am certain - I am a sometimes outgoing introvert who looks very much like an extrovert in social situations. This would explain how I can have a lot of fun at a party but also spend extended periods of time on my own and be completely content - a good thing when your work involves a lot of research, thinking and creating.

Discovering your personality type can be healing, especially if it turns our you are quite different from those in your family of origin. We all have strengths and weaknesses, so knowing what yours are can help you make better choices when it comes to the big decisions in life.

If you are intrigued by trying to understand yourself (and those around you), here is a free online personality typing test (based on the Myers-Briggs method) so you can get an idea of where you fit in.

November 26, 2014

Coping with Special Occasions on a Restricted Diet (Gluten-Free, Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian)

This past weekend I attended my nephew's wedding, which was a very exciting event for our family, especially since he is the first grandchild to get married.

Attending a special occasion when you are on a particular diet can be a challenge. Whether you are gluten-free, paleo, vegetarian, vegan or on any other restricted diet, you may need to plan ahead to ensure your blood sugar stays stable. Otherwise, you may end up paying the price with a massive headache and subsequent inability to fully enjoy yourself!

Make sure to have a snack that includes protein and some good fat before you go to the ceremony. There may be a long delay before you get to eat again! A smoothie that incorporates protein is a good choice that is quick and easy to prepare. Pack some nuts, seeds, a hard-boiled egg or a protein bar in your purse, just in case there is nothing suitable to consume at the reception.

For those on a gluten-free diet, if there is a buffet, you can probably find at least a few things that are okay to eat - raw vegetables and fruit are a couple of examples. For a sit down meal, if you eat meat, you likely will not have a problem (unless the meat is doused in mystery sauces). However, if you are vegetarian or vegan, you are going to have a more difficult time, since pasta seems to be the ubiquitous veg dining choice of caterers everywhere!

If you don't want to draw attention to your dining predilections, have a few bites, if you are not allergic or intolerant, and then just push things around on your plate. No one will be monitoring your intake (unless you draw attention to it yourself) so just eat what you can and don't make a production of it! You can always refuse bread or desert. Special diets are so prevalent these days that most people will not raise an eyebrow in any case.

If you are close to the bride or groom, you might wish to inform them ahead of time of your predicament (since if you don't plan to eat at all, they can save the expense of your plate), but another option is to call the caterers at the event yourself (to see if they can accommodate your special diet) - that way you know what you are going to be dealing with ahead of time.  I like that idea since you can avoid burdening the busy couple with your problems! Another idea is to skip the dinner and turn up afterward for the party.

Due to our Irish heritage (celiac disease is much more prevalent in that population), many of our family have discovered an intolerance to gluten, so there were gluten-free options at the reception. My main problem was trying to not scarf down too many of the gluten-free sweet treats available!

October 31, 2014

More Nutritionist-Approved Costco Finds!

If you have been searching for almond flour to do some gluten-free baking, you can now find a big bag at Costco!

Organic Extra-Virgin Olive Oil is essential to have on hand for delicious salads.

Organic Green Tea is super high in antioxidants. Take a break and sip a cup of green tea instead of that chemical infused Pumpkin Spice Latte you had in mind!

Yummy Medjool Dates, plump and delicious - great in raw brownies.

Asparagus is a "clean 15" vegetable, so safe to buy in conventional form due to low pesticide residue.

It was exciting to find this organic, cultured butter at the Etobicoke location of Costco in Toronto. Butter is not so bad for our cardiovascular system as we previously thought (recent studies have exonerated saturated fats while implicating refined carbohydrates and sugars) so unless you are vegan, you can indulge a little. I still would exercise extreme moderation! It is important, however, that you use organic butter since pesticides, antibiotics and growth hormones are concentrated in the fat of conventional dairy. If you are vegan, coconut oil makes an acceptable substitute.

Costco has a great selection of organic, pre-washed greens including baby spinach, baby romaine and baby kale. These are very handy to throw into a smoothie, salad or soup.

Organic eggs are also available at the Etobicoke location. Make sure you eat the whole egg, since a great deal of the nutrition is in the yolk.

Lemons and limes are alkalizing and useful in all kinds of recipes! I add a whole lemon or lime to my green juice (instead of apple or other fruit) to keep the drink low in sugar but still tasty.

Pom Pomegranate juice is another antioxidant-packed drink. Mix this half and half with some Perrier or San Pellegrino then sit back, relax and enjoy a refreshing, fizzy treat.

Every store seems to have different stuff, so peruse the aisles at your local Costco - there are all kinds of great deals to be found on foods that are really good for you!

October 6, 2014

Low Carb Grain-Free Vegan Pasta!

Who doesn't love a big bowl of pasta on a chilly fall day? What is great about this version is the noodles are actually made of zucchini, so it is super nutritious!

I love my spiralizer, which quickly turns zucchini into thin strands of "spaghetti", but you could also use a less expensive/bulky julienne vegetable peeler to create the strands. The spiralizer I have works well with sweet potato as well, and can create things like "curly fries" from white potatoes.

The zucchini pasta is delicious raw or you can cook it slightly in the sauce (as I did here) for a texture that is very close to al dente pasta.

The sauce pictured above combines cooked tomato sauce (I had a jar of roasted garlic sauce kicking around) with a raw pesto made of fresh basil (from a pot I grew this summer), garlic, walnuts, hemp seed, lemon juice, salt & freshly ground pepper plus olive oil.


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