3 Things I Loved Last Week…

In no particular order of importance, here are some items that rocked my healthy junction boat last week.


1.  From an amazing whole foods based cookbook authored by one of my favourite nutrition teachers at The Canadian School of Natural Nutrition, Caroline Dupont’s The New Enlightened Eating cookbook provided me with some seriously enlightened meals.  From her Lemon Date Squares, Spiced Chia Pudding, and Applesauce Muffins, to more savory dishes like Indian Spinach and Broccoli Puree and  Roasted New Potatoes W/ Tarragon Vinaigrette – Caroline’s book has quickly become one of my “go-to” favourites for weekly meal planning.  If you like cooking with whole foods but don’t enjoy hunting for obscure ingredients, check out this book.


2.  I’ve especially enjoyed cycling to work these past few weeks with all the beautiful fall foliage on display.  The view from The Bloor-Danforth Viaduct is my favourite, especially because I know the Evergreen Brickworks (the most wonderful place in all of Toronto) is nestled in the trees below.

Don Valley Parkway Fall


3.  A friend and colleague of mine suggested a website called My Yoga Online for times when an aspiring yogi just doesn’t feel like leaving the house to hit up a scheduled class.


You pay a monthly subscription fee (I think it’s about $9/month) and get unlimited access to hundreds if not thousands of online yoga videos that are professional and diverse.  For instance, you can choose from different types of yoga (hatha, restorative, vinyasa, etc) as well as the class length which can range between 5 minutes and 1 hour and 30 minutes.  There are even meditation videos!  It’s a convenient and inexpensive method of practicing yoga daily and I find I’m able to get to my mat more often.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama):

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”   

– Albert Camus


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Eat and Swim Your Arthritis Away

Once thought to be a disease that affects only elderly people, arthritis is becoming an issue for those of all ages.  According to the Canadian Community Health Survey conducted by Stats Canada, 16% of Canadians struggle with arthritis and 3 out of 5 are under the age of 65.


So, what exactly is arthritis?

There are two main types of arthritis; osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.  Osteoarthritis is considered to be a degenerative joint disease, caused by wear and tear, and usually affects larger weight baring joints like the hips and knees.  Osteoarthritis normally does affect elderly people and the type of pain experienced resembles an achy burn that hurts during movement but doesn’t really go away when inactive.


Rheumatoid arthritis on the other hand is actually an inflammatory disease that typically attacks more than three synovial joints (most often in the hands and feet).  People with rheumatoid arthritis can, and often do experience swelling, fatigue, rashes, and weight loss.


Luckily, there are dietary and lifestyle modifications that can support and reverse the progress of both types of arthritis.

Cherry red summer apple isolated on white

Weight Loss.  The link between the development of osteoarthritis and obesity is inarguable.  Since the joints in both types of arthritis have compromised capabilities, the best thing you can do is give them a break by reducing their load.  The lower our weight, the easier it is for joints to perform.


Avoid Inflammatory Foods.  The name of the game with rheumatoid arthritis is to eliminate or reduce foods that cause an inflammatory response.  Some common offenders include wheat, dairy, and animal sources of protein.  Try eliminating wheat, dairy, and red meat for at least two weeks and then introduce them back into your diet one at a time to see how your body responds.


Eat Antioxidant Rich Foods.   Antioxidants (think vitamins A, C, E, and selenium), and omega-3 fish oil can work wonders at reducing inflammation.  Try to include citrus fruits, kiwis, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, walnuts, brazil nuts, berries, and whole grains into your diet.


Remove Nightshade Vegetables.  These are foods that contain a compound called alkaloids which are thought to prevent collagen from repairing joints.  Aside from inhibiting the repair of joints via collagen, alkaloids may actually cause inflammation so it’s best to avoid eating these in excess for both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.  Nightshades include; potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers (habaneros, bell peppers, cayenne peppers, jalapenos, serranos, etc).


Exercise.  In order to maintain range of motion, strength, endurance, and mobility it’s best to keep moving.  A good way of incorporating exercise is to simply stretch and tense up your joints.  Once you’re comfortable with that, try very easy exercises like walking and then building up to dancing or swimming which has been particularly popular with arthritics because the water absorbs your body weight and can be quite soothing when the temperature is warm.  Exercises to avoid include jogging, running, skiing, jumping, and heavy weight lifting as they can strain your joints.

Check out the following Toronto based masters swim clubs that will help you lose weight and soothe those inflamed joints – just remember to start slowly and build up!

Downtown Swim Club

North Toronto Masters Swim Club

Toronto Masters of the Universe

Trillium Y Masters Swim Club

Alderwood Teddy Bares

Etobicoke Masters Swimming

North York  Gators

Clarington  Swim Club

Pickering Master Splashers

Burlington Masters

University of Toronto – Mississauga

Oakville Masters Swim Club

Aurora Ducks Swim Club

Markham Masters

Thornhill Masters Aquatic Club

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“Irony of the day: arthritis medication with a cap that old people can’t get off, because of their arthritis.” 

– Kelli Jae Baeli


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When you just don’t feel like it…

There are times where, if you’re like me, you just really don’t feel like it.  What is ‘it’?  ANYTHING!


Working, socializing, cleaning, cooking, and all the stuff in between.

For me, it happens when I’m either really stressed out or when I’m not being challenged (mind and body).  These days, it’s more a stress related response as I busily prepare to complete and test for my designation to become a Registered Holistic Nutritionist.


Stress and anxiety have such a profound impact on the digestive system and in case it hasn’t been emphasised in prior posts, I wanted to touch upon this again.  When we are stressed, our body shuts down systems that are not vital for survival.  The two systems of the body that are commonly impacted by stress and emotional distress are the reproductive and digestive systems.


Our digestion becomes compromised and leads to malabsorption of nutrients which cascades into a ripple effect because we need the right nutrients, in the right proportions to thrive.  For example, not absorbing enough Vitamin B12 will have a negative impact on our entire nervous system which is already likely weakened due to feeling stressed in the first place.  Aside from digestion and reproduction, stress and anxiety negatively impact the endocrine, cardiovascular, nervous, immune, and respiratory systems so you can see how your entire balance can be thrown off.

Stress and Body Systems

Once of my teachers likened feeling anxious, stressed, or even depressed to having a blockage that simply needs to be released.  She said that the stagnating energy needs to be moved and actually suggested simply jumping up and down on the bed.  By the way, if you just google “Jumping on Bed” you’ll get a good laugh which should cheer you up!

Jumping on bed

I’m not into jumping up and down on a bed (what would my cats think!?) but it’s helpful to simply move when you feel emotional distress.  Do some yoga (click here for my favourite FREE online yoga resource), go for a walk, move around your kitchen (cook!), or dance (I just found this gem…you can thank me later because I’m busy getting my moves on), cycle, swim…whatever it takes.  While petting cats is the number one stress relieving mechanism (so says The Health Junction) moving is a close second in stress reduction.  So close this post down and get moving!

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“I was a little excited but mostly blorft. “Blorft” is an adjective I just made up that means ‘Completely overwhelmed but proceeding as if everything is fine and reacting to the stress with the torpor of a possum.’ I have been blorft every day for the past seven years.” 
– Tina Fey


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Monday Morning Roundup: Why the Danes are cool and cats are too fat.

The best in health and nutrition news from around the globe…enjoy!

I LOVED LOVED LOVED this article by Heather  Mallick in Saturday’s Toronto Star (Lessons From Copenhagen) about why the Danes have it figured out when it comes to just being so cool.  There were so many interesting tidbits about why certain components of Danish culture ought to be studied – they are after all the happiest people on earth.  But, what I especially enjoyed about her piece was an examination on cycling culture and why it works so well as an integrated part of their lives.  According to Mallick, “cars move cautiously, bikers are law-abiding and pedestrians are safe”.  Here is a little spoiler:  Danes don’t commute by cycling competitively but instead leisurely and with stylish pants and leather boots.  Sign me up scotty!

Bike Parking Lot in Copengagen.  AMAZING!

And I’m still so tickled by Heather Mallick’s article Lessons From Copenhagen that I want to suggest a site that was listed in her story.  Copenhaganzine.com is a great site if you’re interested in city planning as it applies to cycling infrastructure.  There is also a neat counter at the top of the site that indicated that by only 8:44 am, Copenhageners had already cycled 439,000 km’s.

Anywhere between 35 and 55 percent of house pets are overweight according to a new report published by the Canadian veterinary Medical Association.  Why?  Back in the day when pets were at a healthy weight they were outdoors playing and running around.  Now, they’re indoors most of the day.  The other day I looked at my cat Cleo and realised she looks bloated and fat – time to get her on a diet.  And by diet I mean just not overfeeding her.

Check out Slashfood.com for a great printable resource called “Periodic Table of Produce” which details how long you can store food before it goes bad.

And finally.  Hallelujah!  Twinkies maker Hostess may be going out of business.  They’re looking at selling off their 30 brands to other food manufacturers but lets hope Twinkies and Ding Dongs don’t survive…it’s time to lay those awful “snacks” to rest.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama):

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” 

– Dalai Lama XIV


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Vitamin D and Living Above The 37th Parallel

It’s COLD!

For those of you reading from warmer climates, perhaps this post will make you feel even BETTER about having the sense to set up shop somewhere hot.  For the rest of us living in places that require a winter jacket, at least we have an excuse to drink hot chocolate and sit by a warm fire.  Two days ago, I had to get off my bike and get on the subway because it was so cold.  That was a signal that maybe riding in below 0 degree weather is a dumb move, but also it’s time to get in the habit of taking my Vitamin D supplement.

So, here is how Vitamin D works.  We have a cholesterol like substance called 7-dehydrocholesterol in our skin and once this substance comes into contact with sunlight it is converted into cholecalciferol.  The cholecalciferol moves to the liver and then kidney’s where it goes through two more conversion and eventually ends up as 125-dihydroxycholecalciferol or what we consider to be Vitamin D.

The original substance in our skin can never start the process of becoming Vitamin D without sunlight and if you live above the 37th parallel you’re likely lacking the rays required especially between the months of September to April.  Draw a line from San Fransisco to Philly, and Athens to Beijing –  anything north of this is above the 37th parallel.

You might be wondering, “why do I need Vitamin D in the first place“?  The primary use of Vit D is that it’s used in the gut to help absorb calcium and also works hard at maintaining adequate levels of phosphorus – both are needed for healthy teeth and bones.  It actually functions like a hormone in our body, works in close conjunction with parathyroid hormone and is structurally is very close to both estrogen and cortisone.

There is a strong correlation between colder climates and those with low levels of Vitamin D and the development of Multiple Sclerosis.  Furthermore, there is a belief that low levels of Vitamin D slow down our immune response – is it a coincidence that most colds and flu’s come on in the winter when our exposure to sunlight is at its lowest?  Finally, Vitamin D is involved in muscle and heart support, the prevention of certain types of cancer (ovarian, prostate, colon, bladder, rectal), and mood/cognitive support in the older population.

Food sources of Vitamin D include: salmon, sardines, fortified milk, eggs, and shiitake mushrooms.

Since it’s sometimes (often) hard to get enough Vitamin D from food, Health Canada and most natural health practitioners suggest that Canadians supplement as follows:

Age group Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) per day Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) per day
Infants 0-6 months 400 IU  (10 mcg) * 1000 IU (25 mcg)
Infants 7-12 months 400 IU  (10 mcg) * 1500 IU (38 mcg)
Children 1-3 years 600 IU (15 mcg) 2500 IU (63 mcg)
Children 4-8 years 600 IU (15 mcg) 3000 IU (75 mcg)
Children and Adults                      9-70 years 600 IU (15 mcg) 4000 IU (100 mcg)
Adults > 70 years 800 IU (20 mcg) 4000 IU (100 mcg)
Pregnancy & Lactation 600 IU (15 mcg) 4000 IU (100 mcg)

A note on “Upper Limits” – this means, just don’t take more that the amount indicated in the right hand column without consulting with a healthcare practitioner.

If you are breastfeeding or pregnant, the Canadian Pediatric Society has a comprehensive position statement on Vitamin D supplementation here, but it’s long so to summarize:  if you are pregnant and or nursing, supplementing at 4000 IU is thought to be beneficial for both you and your in utero and/or nursing baby.  Please check with your health care provider if you have any concerns about how much Vitamin D you should be taking.

Other special populations who might need to pay extra attention to Vitamin D supplementation include those who have issues with fat digestion and absorption (those who have had their gallbladder removed, Crohn’s Disease, partial stomach or pancreas removal) since Vitamin D is a fat soluble – it needs fat to be absorbed.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama):

“Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.” 

– Dalai Lama XIV


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Monday Morning Roundup: State Funded IVF, Your Brain on High Blood Pressure, and Cycling Dumb Dumbs

Nutrition and Health related news from the past week – enjoy!

I had heard of this but wasn’t quite sure it was true so when it popped up on my search engine, I was fascinated to learn that the province of Quebec publicly funds In Vitro Fertilization.  In 2011, Quebec paid $32 million dollars for an estimated 3500 rounds of IVF for couples who were not able to conceive naturally – a single round of IVF runs anywhere between $7000 and $15,000 per cycle.  The argument in support of public funding comes from statistics that show couples who opt for privately funded IVF ended up costing the health care system a pretty penny when premature babies (multiple premature babies in many cases due to ovary stimulation) were born and then needed lengthy medical observation and treatment.  Critics of publicly funded IVF claim that more stringent measures should be put into place to prevent multiple embryos from being implanted (think of the Octomom and Jon and Kate Plus 8) and that in no way should tax dollars fund a couples personal decision to start a family.  The real story is far more complex but this article from The Globe and Mail is pretty informative.  What do you think about publicly funded IVF?

Do you want to maintain your youthful glow ?  An interesting new study conducted at Johns Hopkins University found that when blood pressure is outside the healthy range, early signs of aging are visible.  The white matter of our brain responsible for learning and inter-brain communication appeared “frayed” while the grey matter that manages emotions and cognition was smaller (than subjects of the same age with a healthy BP).  Having a high blood pressure literally ages your brain and the changes are consistent with patients who have Alzheimer’s or dementia.

This is a funny little tidbit written by Josh Levin from Slate on cyclists who peddle around town with headphones on.

Have you ever looked at your compost and thought “what can I do with all these peels and nut shells“?  I have and so LOVED this article on Tip Hero called Little Known Uses for Fruit Peels, Shells and Seeds.

And finally, it’s that time of year when it starts to get cold and dark (at least here in Canada!) and to help boost your mood, check out this article on Divine Caroline called Ten Foods That Will Improve Your Mood.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama):

“Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” 

– Dalai Lama XIV


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Chakrama Series: Personal Power is Necessary for Health

Having just finished a module on mental health and nutrition, I’ve been thinking a lot about perspective.  With regards to the connection between emotional health and physical health, the crux of the teachings of this class could be summarized in a line from the booked Anatomy of the Spirit bt Carolyn Myss – that line is:  personal power is necessary for health.

This could be interpreted many ways, but I believe it comes back to the notion that when we give up power to other people or things we effectively resolve ourselves of any responsibility into our own wellbeing.  For example, having a job that sucks up all your time is often the excuse used by people when they aren’t able to exercise or eat well.

This may result in longterm health complications but it all started with the idea that at that time, we felt powerless to our job.  This common example showcases that we always have the power to influence both the situational and emotional outcome.

Taking it back to my own life, I had a not so great day earlier this week when I had to pay out $110 for a ticket I got on my bicycle.

I felt like the situation wasn’t fair…”why me”, there is no justice in the world, why don’t cars who go speeding down residential streets get tickets.  And on and on I went.  In fact, the night of my court date, I was speaking to a friend about my day – well, ranting is more accurate.  He listened quietly without interrupting and at the end asked me why I didn’t consider volunteering for a police watch dog organization.  I thought it was so interesting that his suggestion on how to deal with my frustration was to look at ways of giving myself power over the situation.

There are many things I love about this friend; he’s generous and giving, kind and compassionate.  He’s humble and always sees the best in other people (but not to a fault…like if someone is being a doofus, he’ll acknowledge it).  He’s also very accepting of people and situations.  Actually, I would describe him as “zen”.  I learn a lot from watching this guy deal with problems.

I asked him how he does it and he said “I enjoy going through life more when I’m not angry” and proceeded to tell me that earlier that day the ferry he was taking to Toronto Island left the dock 4 minutes which resulted in him waiting around for 30 minutes.  He was originally frustrated but explained that he walked through all the possible reasons why the ferry had left early.

Maybe they looked out to the waiting area and didn’t see anyone.

Maybe the clock on the boat was fast.

Maybe it was weather related.  They have to move thousands of people across the water everyday in all kinds of weather conditions.

He went on to tell me that he had been rushing too much lately anyway and decided to relax and do some work while he waited for the next ferry.  My friend was able to take some control back (did some work and relaxed) while realizing it wasn’t really about him but instead a whole host of other factors.

As a result he felt happier and less stressed than the alternative; getting ticked off and stewing over the early ferry departure…much like I had been stewing over the bicycle ticket.  It’s really freeing to know that no matter what situation we are in, we always have decision-making power on how we respond and react to a challenge.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama):

“We need to learn how to want what we have NOT to have what we want in order to get steady and stable Happiness

– Dalai Lama XIV


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Jamaican Patties, Barber Shops and Synagogues: Cycling Eglinton East

Cycling is single-handedly my favourite way of keeping fit – it’s like working out without actually working out because it’s so damn enjoyable.  I love it so much that I can’t image not having my wheels.  When I see rain in the forecast, I actually feel sad that it might be too rainy to cycle.  You get the drift…I live my bike.

Where did this love affair start?  I still remember my first “adult” bike.  It was a purple 10 speed road bike much like the one featured below.  At the time, my family lived in the suburbs of Toronto and I biked to middle school each day – I can still visualize the path I took.

No matter where I’ve lived or traveled, I normally get my hiney on a bicycle pretty quickly.  In 2006 I moved back to Japan and was placed in a super remote town – see this prior post for more on that.  Within a week of arriving in Japan, I went out to the local grocery store and bought myself what they call a “mamachari” – the type functional bike that enables Japanese people to use it as a method of transportation for doing chores like groceries and carting children around (see the photo below taken in Tokyo outside a Starbucks).

I’ve cycled in Korea, India, Vietnam, India, Argentina, England The United States, and Uruguay.  It literally takes you off the beaten and gives the rider a very unique opportunity to see each region with enhanced lenses.  Peddling through back alleys in India I got to see how they get their water:

In Vietnam, I putted along dirt roads and found some amazing beaches that weren’t outlined in my Lonely Planet:

In Uruguay, I stumbled upon a movie being filmed:

But what about here, right at home in Toronto?  I’ve surprised myself over the past few months by forgetting that you don’t need to go far to see, hear, taste, and smell new cultures.

When I commute from work to school I get to travel along the densely populated street of Eglinton for a stretch of about 7 km’s.  I start off in Eglinton West, also referred to as Little Jamaica (the star of our journey!) where it’s bustling with activity and amazing smells from all the Carribean restaurants – some are cooking right out on the sidewalk.

It’s not just food you’ll be treated to…regae music is pumping and there are hair salons galore along with a ton of beauty supply stores.  Check out little Jamaica by cycling up to Eglinton anywhere between Keele and Dufferin.

If you’re heading West to East along Eglinton, once you hit Dufferin you’ve moved from Little Jamaica to Fairbanks Village.  It’s a small little village with lots of amenities like Shoppers Drug Mart and Dollarama, but also a melee of cool Portuguese, Italian, Caribbean, and Filipino restaurants.

Continuing East, there is a bit of a no-mans land between Oakwood and just past the Allen Expressway until you reach The Upper Village which spans between the Allen and Bathurst.  The Upper Village is the North part of one of Toronto’s most posh areas (notice the number of Mercedes and Jags driving around), Forrest Hill but is also largely Jewish and you’ll notice several synagogues which are architecturally quite beautiful.  There are lots of nice clothing stores, coffee shops, bagel stores (check out St. Urbaine), and restaurants.

Once you’ve passed Bathurst you’re entering The Eglinton Way which runs basically from Bathurst to Yonge.  There are a boat load of clothing stores, bakeries, and posh hair salons!  There is nothing really all that special about this stretch but if you’re on a bike, enjoy the long downhill stretch that takes you all the way to Yonge Street.

No matter where you live, hop on your bike and explore your neighbourhood and city.  Just remember to go SLOW and be safe!


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