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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Weekly Recipe Roundup: Spring Breakfast Smoothie, Slow Cooker Veggie Casserole, and Fruity Cookies

It’s been a while, thanks for sticking with me. The past few months have been busier than usual over here at The Health Junction while I finish up with school (send me good vibes on April 19th when I write my final board exam), starting my dream job working at Glycemic Index Laboratories, and switching to teaching nutrition and cooking at a new school where I’ll be continuing my work with middle school kids.

When I get super busy, it becomes easy to stop eating well by grabbing food on-the-go or resorting to relatively processed choices.  I never feel good when I don’t infuse my diet with healthy ingredients so during particularly hectic periods my I like to focus on recipes that:

  • don’t require more than 15-20 minutes prep time
  • make a lot and freeze well for storing away some leftovers
  • have diversity; I want to get as many nutrients as possible
  • taste good
  • are focused on lean, quality, non-animal protein sources
  • are low in dairy content

The following recipes satisfied the above criteria and I hope that you’ll enjoy them during busy times as much as I did.  Enjoy!

Spring Breakfast Smoothie

Spring Breakfast Smoothie  (serves 2)

  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup any type of berry
  • 1/2 cup carrot
  • 2 cups any type of leafy green.  If you are new to adding greens to your smoothie, start with a standard red leaf or romaine lettuce.
  • 1 scoop of protein powder (I like Vega Energizing Smoothie…the tropical mango, vanilla-almond, berry, or choc-a-lot flavours are nice)
  • 2-3 tbsp oats
  • 1.5 cups almond milk (or rice, or soy)
  • 1.5 cup water

Blend to your heart’s content.  Sip.  Enjoy knowing this breakfast is literally chalked full of Vitamin A, B6, B12, Folate, C, Magnesium, Potassium, Flavonoids, and Fiber.  The oats add a complex carbohydrate for increased energy and balances blood sugar.  Finally, the protein powder is totally vegan, has 10 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and just enough calories to keep you going without feeling bloated or full.


Vegetable Slow Cooker Casserole

  • 2  19-oz. cans cannellini beans
  • 1  19-oz. can garbanzo or fava beans
  • 1/4  cup purchased basil pesto
  • 1  medium onion, chopped
  • 4  cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2  tsp. dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1  16-oz. pkg. refrigerated cooked plain polenta cut in 1/2-inch-thick slices (looks like a tube…found in the international isle or  near the pasta section in your grocery store)
  • 1  large tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1  8-oz. pkg. finely shredded Italian cheese blend (2 cups)
  • 2  cups fresh spinach
  • 1  cup torn radicchio

Rinse and drain beans.  In large bowl combine beans, 2 tablespoons of pesto, onion, garlic, and Italian seasoning.  In 4- to 5-quart slow cooker layer half of bean mixture, half of polenta, and half of cheese. Add remaining beans and polenta.  Cover; cook on low heat setting for 4 to 6 hours (or on high heat setting 2 to 2-1/2 hours).  Add tomato, remaining cheese, spinach, and radicchio.  Combine remaining pesto and 1 tablespoon water. Drizzle pesto mixture on casserole.  Let stand, uncovered, 5 minutes.

Fruity Chocolate Chip Cookies

Fruity Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 cups oats (I use old-fashioned rolled oats)
  • 1 1/4 cup flour (whole wheat or brown rice work nice)
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup dried fruit (I like strawberries, cherries, raisins, apricots, cranberries or apple)
  • 3/4 cup milled flax seeds
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cup honey (I only use 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup coconut butter/oil (mash it well before adding it to recipe)
Pre-heat oven to 350.  Add all the dry ingredients up to an including the salt in a bowl.  Mix well.  Add the bananas, honey, and coconut butter in another bowl…mix well.  Combine wet ingredients into the dry ingredients…and mix well.  I use the kitchenaide mixer for a few minutes to make sure it’s well combined.  Drop cookies 1 tbsp at a time onto a cookie sheet…cook 10 minutes or until brown.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“I don’t like food that’s too carefully arranged; it makes me think that the chef  is spending too much time arranging and not enough time cooking. If I wanted a  picture I’d buy a painting.”
– Andy Rooney


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Aging Joyfully: A Lesson from the Oldsters

I recently completed a course on geriatric nutrition and before my first class I have to admit, I was not excited.  Studying nutrition specifically geared at the elderly population is so far off the nutritional topics I am typically drawn to and so, I went to my first class with very low expectations.

What I anticipated to be my least favourite course in the program ended up being truly life changing and my perspective on aging, the elderly population, and the general concept of happiness were challenged and reformed.  The instructor, Japanese Naturopathic Doctor Mami Ishii, brought a unique perspective into a population that is generally considered unglamorous and a life stage that most of us are not looking forward to all that much.

Aging Population

Dr. Ishii had the class read Healthy at 100 by John Robbins which has literally, even after studying nutrition for over 2 years, revolutionized the way I view what constitutes vitality and healthy living.  In his book, Robbins starts by outlining the dietary and lifestyle habits of four of the world’s longest-living societies; Abkhasians (South Russia), Vilcabambans (Equador), Hunzans (Central Asia), and the Okinawans (Japan).  Each of these four places has an extraordinarily high number of people who live until and beyond 100 years and they share the same approach to diet and lifestyle.  In fact, the commonalities are staggering.


Okinawa, Japan

 What Robbins outlined in Healthy at 100 is that each of these groups eats a plant-based, whole foods diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.  They eat very little processed foods and sugar and opt for whole grain carbohydrates.  The concept of retirement is null and void and “oldsters” in these areas are active and live purposefully throughout their lives.  Culturally, the older you are, the more esteem you’re given.  They are very active, yet their caloric intake is less than 2000/day.  They limit animal based products to 1% (Hunzans, Vilcabambans), 3% (Okinawa), and 10% (Abkasian).

Healthy at 100

Robbins goes into describing the changes China has undergone in the past few decades and nicely summarizes findings from one of the largest epidemiological studies ever conducted all of which you can read in a book called The China Study by Dr. Colin Campbell.  The China Study had researchers collected blood, urine, and diet journals from 50 people in each 65 counties and 130 villages selected throughout China.  Researchers analyzed the data with respect to over 50 diseases and though the results are plentiful, findings can be summarized as follows.


In areas of China that are still developing, people are dying from diseases related to nutritional deficiencies and hygiene inadequacies which includes ailments like tuberculosis, respiratory illnesses, measles, and diarrhea.  Conversely, in areas of China that have been developed the diseases have shifted dramatically to deaths from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and obesity related illnesses such as complications from Type II Diabetes.  Dr. Campbell coins this shift as death from “nutritional extravagance” because it has been directly linked to an increase in refined foods and a much higher intake of saturated fats stemming from animal foods (meat and dairy) and hydrogenated foods.  In short, the one of the largest indicators of wealth in China is the level of ones cholesterol levels.  You can bet that high levels of HDL cholesterol are not found in the developing areas of China, but instead larger more prosperous cities.


What does all this have to do with geriatric nutrition?  We should expect to live into old age and this part of the life-cycle is natural, beautiful, and meant to be experienced.  The idea that we are all going to die from a chronic illness is rubbish and believing in dying from disease is something worth reconsidering.  Reading Healthy at 100 made me reconsider my dietary choices and the overwhelming evidence that supports the longevity associated with a whole foods, plant-based diet that is low in animal based foods is undeniable.  It’s a hard revelation to come to for those us use to eating meat each day…or even several times a week.  The idea of aging joyfully and experiencing life to its fullest is definitely something I am striving for and the advice in Healthy to 100 makes it seem possible, if not expected.


Healthy at 100 is a positive and encouraging read that will inspire you to look at your diet, connect with your community, and move intentionally each and every day.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr


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Kitchen Pantry: The Health Junction Approved Hot Products

Let me start by saying, that these products are simply ones that I’ve tried and enjoyed so much that it would be a shame not to share them with The Health Junction readers. As a future nutritionist and current food enthusiast, I make it my duty to research, select, and try foods that I believe would be beneficial for potential clients to start incorporating into their diet. The following products surprised me – and I hope they pleasantly surprise you too!

Romano Bean Bread

Queen Street Gluten Free Romano Bean Bread:  I don’t have a wheat insensitivity but one of the key new lines of thinking I’ve learned at school this year is that it is helpful to diversify the diet.  In our Westernized culture, we tend to focus very heavily on wheat – a crop which is genetically modified and highly allergic to many people.  If you’ve tried gluten-free bread and wanted to spit it out because it’s dry and lacklustre, let me introduce you to Romano Bean Bread by Queen Street Bakery.  It’s 3rd party gluten-free certified, has 2 grams of fiber per 2 slice serving, and only 110 calories for those who want a lighter  bread.  The ingredient list is simple:  potato starch, tapioca starch, whole bean flour, water, sorghum flour, eggs, honey, sunflower oil, xanthan gum, yeast, and salt.  It’s light and fluffy…and actually tastes good.  Look no further for a gluten-free bread that doesn’t taste like a lifeless brick.  This bread can be found at many health food stores (in the frozen bread section) in the Toronto area or you can visit Yoshi’s Sweets in the Beaches at 2359 Queen Street East.


So Delicious Dairy Free Cultured Coconut Milk:  Yes, yes, yes!  This is the stuff I’ve been waiting for because like wheat, dairy is our next leading allergy and food sensitivity.  If you’re looking to try a yogurt substitute that has 30% of you daily requirements of calcium and 8 grams of fiber in one serving, and 25% of your daily requirements of B12 (I’m talking you vegetarian lady) try out this delicious coconut based yogurt alternative.  Their product description is dead on “Thick and creamy coconut milk “yogurt” exploding with sweet vanilla flavor”.  It’s dairy free, soy free, and gluten-free, non GMO, totally vegan – and 100% amazing.  Try topping this with cereal or throw some in a smoothie for a nice dairy-free start to the day.  I tried the vanilla but there are a bunch of other flavours available.  Found in the yogurt section of your local grocery store.

Vega Energizing Smoothie

Vega Energizing Smoothie:  you may have heard of me talk about this product before so you’ll have to forgive me for the repeat mention but this is a staple for any busy individual who wants to keep their blood sugar levels at bay and health in check.  A scoop of this product will provide you with around 100 calories, 11 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber, and 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids (it’s also totally vegan and has 300 mg’s of digestive enzymes in each serving).  High quality fats, protein, and 2 servings of veggies in each scoop – Vega Energizing Smoothie mixed with a cup of water or milk (I use almond milk) is a fast and easy way of snacking on the go.  My favourite is the Choc-A-Lot flavour.  Available at your local health food or grocery store.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.”

– Thomas Edison, American Inventor


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Getting Jiggy With Kale

Kale is delightful.  Its deep, dark, and earthy green colour is complemented by varying textures.  The stems are strong and as the leaves move outwards they turn from supportive and firm to curly and playful.  Just as versatile as its colour and texture is the taste of kale which ranges from bitter and tart when prepared raw to subtle and gentle when steamed.

Before I started studying nutrition I always though kale was an exotic intangible vegetable that only hippies ate.  I’ve come to realise it’s really a vegetable for the masses because there isn’t one of us out there that wouldn’t benefit from a serving or two of kale each day.


I’m not kidding around about kale.  These days, I eat two cups of this beautiful leafy green most days of the week.  What’s the big deal?  The nutritional profile of kale is quite remarkable:


NOTE: try steaming your kale instead of boiling it to retain more nutrients

  • 1 cup of kale will give you over 1300% percent of your daily Vitamin K requirements.  Vitamin K is involved in blood clotting and helps protect against post-menopausal bone deterioration.
  • 1 cup of kale has over 350% of your daily Vitamin A requirements.  Vitamin A is needed for healthy eyes, reduces inflammation, boosts the immune system, and is necessary for your cells to grow in a healthy and productive manner.
  • Kale has a compound called glucosinolates which forms isothiocyanates (ICTs).  The presence of ICTs has been linked to a reduction in risk for 5 types of cancers; ovarian, prostate, colon, breast, and bladder.
  • Kale has 45 different kinds of flavanoids.  Check out this past post for the benefits of flavanoids.
  • 1 cup of kale also provides 88% of your daily Vitamin C requirements.  So, in one cup of kale you have basically done all the work you need to get your Vitamin C, K, and A.

You’re impressed, admit it.

How can you invite kale into your home?  If you’re a morning smoothie person, why not throw in a cup of kale?  For lunch, a  side salad with a couple of cups of lightly steamed kale mixed with other veggies and tasty dressing might be nice.  It’s possible to steam kale, puree it, and then add it into pasta sauces, chili’s or other casserole type dishes (even Mac and Cheese for the mums out there reading).

Here are a couple of delicious recipes to get your started from a book called “The Book of Kale” by Sharon Hana which was kindly lent to me by my classmate Lisa V.  Enjoy!

Savoury Kale & Pumpkin Scones

Kale Scones

Ingredients:  2 cups kale leaves, loosely packed 2 cups unbleached flour 1/2 tsp salt 1 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp baking powder 1 tbsp sugar 1/3 cup cold butter 1 egg 3/4 cup buttermilk 1/4 cup cooked squash or pumpkin in small dice 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Instructions: Preheat oven to 375°F. Set oven rack in the middle.  Steam kale for a minute and then chop finely – try to squeeze out as much water as possible.  Blend flour, salt, soda, baking powder and sugar together. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or your fingers.  In a small bowl, beat the egg, then add the buttermilk, continuing to beat until well combined. Add egg/buttermilk mixture, along with squash, kale and cheese to dry ingredients, mixing with a fork just enough to combine.  Drop by spoonfuls onto parchment-paper-covered cookie sheet. Bake about 20 minutes until lightly browned.
Kale Cottage Cheese Muffins
Kale Cottage Cheese Muffins

Ingredients:  2 eggs, 1 cup low fat cottage cheese, 2 tsp dried dillweed, 3 Tbsp minced onion or chives, 3 cups kale leaves, loosely packed, 1 ½ cups flour (I used quinoa flour), 1 tsp baking powder, ½ tsp sea salt.

Instructions:  In a medium bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Add cottage cheese, dillweed, and onion, mixing only to combine.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place kale in a food processor. Pulse a few times until finely chopped. Squeeze excess moisture from the kale and add to cheese mixture.  In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. Add wet mixture to dry ingredients and stir only enough to blend – a few lumps are acceptable.  Spoon mixture into greased non-stick muffin pan.  Bake about 20 minutes or until tops are lightly browned.  Makes 12 muffins.


Breakfast Kale Okonomiyaki


Ingredients:  1 large egg, 1/3 cups water, pinch of salt, dash of tamari, 2 tbsp flour (I used brown rice flour), 1/4 tsp baking powder, black pepper, heaping cup of kale, 1/2 cup bell peppers, 2 tsp olive oil.

Instructions:  Beat eggs and water and then add salt, tamari, flour, baking powder and black pepper.  Toss in kale and bell peppers and coat.  Heat skillet at medium heat and add the olive oil.  Pour in mixture make a flat circle.  Cook for 4 minutes on each side.  You may want to cover the skillet for the last few minutes if you like your peppers soft.  Serves 1.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

 “He that takes medicine and neglects diet wastes the skills of the physician.”

– Chinese proverb


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Weekly Recipe Bulletin: Chicken Tetrazzini, Cocoa Banana Blueberry Pancakes, and Cold Fighting Tea

This week’s recipes are not only delicious, but they were really easy to make and of course…healthy!  Enjoy.

Last Sunday, it was a very cold sort of gloomy day.  Just the sort of day that called for something hearty, warm, and filling.  The hearty and filling descriptors can be tough do do when attempting a healthier meal – but I believe this recipe will surprise you.  Everyone in the household enjoyed this meal…even the cat(s) who we found illegally eating from the casserole dish on the counter – totally against the rules!  Adapted from Clean Eating Magazine, here Chicken Tetrazzini has everything;  veggies, protein, and healthy carbs.


  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 cup dried rice pasta
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 oz cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup finely diced sweet onion
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled, halved length-wise and thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 cups low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated (about 1/3 cup), divided
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 5 oz roasted chicken breast, torn into bite-size pieces (about 1 cup)
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped raw almonds, optional

Directions (serves 6)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cook pasta until al dente and then rinse under cold water and set aside.  In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat and add mushrooms, onion and carrot and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add salt and continue to cook, stirring, until mushrooms are golden brown and carrot has softened, about 4 minutes. Add broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer gently until carrot is tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer three-quarters of broth and half of vegetable mixture to a blender and purée until smooth.  Add sour cream, parsley, half of Parmigiano-Reggiano, tarragon, lemon zest and juice and pulse blender until mixed. Return puréed mixture to skillet and toss with pasta, chicken and peas. Transfer mixture to prepared casserole dish, and sprinkle remaining half of Parmigiano-Reggiano and almonds, if desired, over top. Bake until sauce is bubbling and top is golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Sweet glory, these were good.  I made them twice this week – once at home and once with the kids at school.  Both times, they were a hit.  Cocoa Banana Blueberry Pancakes were a surprise because they have no added sugar and are packed with nutrient dense, antioxidant rich ingredients.  Adapted from Meghan Telpner’s recipe, this is sure to become a staple.


  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot or tapioca powder (can be found at any health food store)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 2 bananas
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil (now available at most No Frills grocery stores!)
  • 1 cup blueberries or raspberries…or strawberries


In a large mixing bowl, blend all dry ingredients together including brown rice flour, raw cocoa powder, arrowroot starch, baking powder, and baking soda.  In a blender or with an immersion blender, blend together ground chia seeds, warm water, bananas, honey and coconut oil.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir in berries.  Heat your skillet to medium heat and add coconut oil – add 1/4th cup of batter for each pancake.  Cook till bubbles appear in the middle of the pancake and then flip.  Serve with honey or maple syrup.

It’s that time of year…cold and flu season is a comin’.  I felt a little itchy in the throat and had the chills this past weekend but a few cups of this Ginger Lemon Honey Tea concoction really helped.  Ginger is an anti-inflammatory agent and helps improve circulation while lemon is a source of immune boosting Vitamin C (it’s also an anti-oxidant).  Finally, honey is super soothing on the throat and acts as a natural anti-bacterial – you can see why the three ingredients in this tea really do help fight colds and the flu.

Ingredients (makes 2 cups)


1 x lemon




Cut off about a thumb sized block of ginger – peel it and throw it into a pot with 2 cups of water.  Bring the water to a boil and then reduce and simmer for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, squeeze 1/2 a lemon into a large mug and add 1 tbsp of honey.  Remove the block of ginger from the water after 20 minutes and add water to the mug.  Stir.  Sip.  Sleep.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama):

“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” 

– Dalai Lama XIV


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Hemp Hearts 101 in 100 Words

The Health Junction received and overwhelming response to Chia Seeds 101 in 100 Words – thank you!  Since you seem to enjoy reading about seeds so much, here is a another 100 word post on Hemp Seeds – another goodie you might want to consider stocking in your cupboards.

If you like flax seeds and chia seeds, hemp hearts will also appeal to you.  Hemp Hearts come from inside the shell of a hemp seed and they are high in essential fatty acids (EFA’s).  About 35% of their EFA comes from ALA Omega-3 which is the vegetarian derived omega-3 source responsible for reducing inflammation.  Aside from their anti-inflammatory properties, they’re also high in Vitamin E (antioxidant), Magnesium (good for your muscles and relaxation  – 2 tbsp provides 55% of your daily Mg requirements), and contain a full spectrum of the all important B Vitamins.

In my mind, what differentiates hemp hearts from other seeds is that they are a complete protein which means they contain all 10 essential amino acids – one serving of 2 tbsp provides 7 grams of protein.  In short, 2 tbsp of hemp hearts sprinkled in cereal, on a salad, or in a smoothie offers an excellent  nutritional bang for your buck.  I enjoy a brand called Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts.  And yes, they come from hemp plant but no, they won’t make you feel loopy:)

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama):

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

– Dalai Lama XIV


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Weekly Recipe Roundup: Banana Almond Butter Smoothie, Jamaican Spinach Soup, and Pumpkin Spice Muffins

This Weekly Roundup is dedicated to my awesome friend Jenn D who gave me my very first cookbook almost 6 years ago (she realised I needed H-E-L-P!).  Jenn is the person introduced me to the gift of creative cooking…and more importantly, she always makes me smile with genuine affection!


I’ve been working on meal plans for some of my case studies and smoothies is something I often slot in for breakfast – but finding a smoothie that provides healthy fats, quality protein, and that all necessary carbohydrate fuel is hard to come by.  Here is one that I tested out and really enjoyed – it’s creamy and just sweet enough to be enticing.  It filled me up for a good three hours.  For those of you who haven’t tried chia or hemp seeds, they are super seeds that can be found at any health food store.  I like them because they’re high in fiber and omega-3 fats but also a good source of protein.

Banana Almond Butter Smoothie

  • 1 cup almond milk (or soy, or regular milk if you want)09
  • 1 banana, chopped
  • 1 heaping tbsp almond butter
  • 1 tbsp milled flax seeds
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds or hemp seeds
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Blend and enjoy!  Serves 1.

This is the kind of weather that makes me want to hibernate and eat warm foods – hence lots of soups over the past week  but my favourite was this spicy Jamaican Spinach Soup.  The kids at school liked making this but enjoyed eating it even more!  This recipe was adapted from Fresh at Home: Everyday Vegetarian Cookingby Ruth Tal Brown and Jennifer  Houston.

Jamaican Spinach Soup

3 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp minced fresh ginger

1 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp tumeric

1/2 tsp all spice

1/4 tsp nutmeg

2 potatoes, peeled and diced (one sweet potato and one regular)

4 cups chopped zucchini

6 cups veggie stock

Pinch cayenne pepper

1 cup fresh spinach

1 red pepper, minced

Instructions:  heat oil in a large pot and add onion, garlic, celery, garlic, ginger and sugar and cook for 5 minutes.  Add salt, turmeric, allspice and nutmeg and cook another few minutes.  Add potatoes, zucchini and veggie stock – bring to a boil and then reduce heat and summer for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and add cayenne pepper and spinach.  Using a hand blender or regular blender, puree.  garnish with minced red pepper.  Serves 6.

Pumpkin anything usually tastes good…pumpkin seeds, pumpkin lattes, and pumpkin spiced muffins.  In the spirit of Halloween, we made these at school this past week and they were a hit – and all without any butter or icing.   This recipe was adapted from Canadian Living.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

1-3/4 cups(425 mL) whole wheat flour

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1-1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp nutmeg

2 eggs

3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla

Instructions:  Pre-heat oven to 375.  In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients (flour all the way to nutmeg).  In a medium bowl, beat eggs and combine with pumpkin puree, veg oil, and vanilla.  Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined.  Spoon into prepared muffin liners/tins and bake 20-25 minutes.  Makes 12 delicious servings!

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama):

“A genuine, affectionate smile is very important in our day-to-day lives.” 

– Dalai Lama XIV


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Weekly Recipe Bulletin: Tokyo Oatmeal, Chocolate Mousse a la Sante, Apple Sunday Sweetness

I can’t believe it’s been this long, but about 8 years ago I moved back to Japan to teach English and after a year in the middle of nowhere I was relocated to West Tokyo.  The area I lived in was like a village in a huge city and luckily, my friend Stephen lived a hop skip and a jump from my apartment.  Together we explored Sengawa – there was this one main drag that had everything; a video store, pachinko parlours, phone shops, bakeries, shoe shops, flower stores, and a little fruit shop.

Sengawa’s Main Drag

Every Monday on my day off work, I went grocery shopping for the week and stopped off at the fruit shop where I got literally two bags of fruit – in it were 7 asian pears (called nashi in Japanese).

Asian pears are delectable.


Well, they look like an apple and taste like a  mix of apple and a perfectly ripened pear.  They’re sweet but not overbearing.  Each morning, I made oatmeal with a nashi and when I moved back to Canada I kind of forgot about nashi’s until the other day when I happened upon one at No Frills.  Here is the recipe:

Tokyo Oatmeal

– 1 nashi, diced

– 1/3 cup of quick oats

– 2 tbsp goji berries

– 1/2 tsp cinnamon

– 1/2 tsp nutmeg

– 1 tbsp maple syrup or brown sugar

– almond, rice, or soy milk

– 1 tbsp flax seeds, milled (optional)

Directions:  cut up a nashi and put the chunks into a small pot.  Add almond milk until the nashi is just covered and over medium heat, bring to a gentle boil.  Add 2 tbsp goji berries and 1/3 cup of oats.  Cook for 3 minutes.  Add spices and flax-seed.  Stir in maple syrup and enjoy!  Serves 1.

Dairy and gluten-free.

I was reading Meghan Telpner’s weekly newsletter and she had a recipe for Chocolate Black Bean Pudding – it looked so interesting so I had to five it a whirl.  Sure glad I did!  With a few tweaks of my own it turned from a pudding to a delicatble mousse.  What I like about this recipe is that it is a nice dessert but the black bean component slows down digestion and will therefore help control your blood sugar.  It’s rich and flavourful, satisfying and yet also a “healthier” option for connecting with your sweet tooth.  Bon Appetite!

  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 cups black beans
  • 1/2 cup pureed sweet potato
  • 2 Tbs coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds, ground + 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 banana’s, diced

Instructions:  in a small pot on low heat, melt the chocolate.  Place all ingredients including the melted chocolate in a bowl and either process it using a food processor or even easier, an immersion hand blender.  Blend until smooth and place in the fridge for 1 hour and serve with a bit of chopped up banana on top.  Serves 8.

Dairy and gluten-free.

Apple Sunday

I saw this recipe in my weekly WHFoods newsletter and thought it sounded like a treat and a half…and I was right.  It’s divine.  Like the recipe above, it’ll satisfy your sweet tooth but the protein included somewhat keeps your blood sugar from spiking into oblivion.  It’s full of whole and natural foods and something you can feel good eating – 1 serving contains 100% of your daily manganese and 30% of your DV vitamin E requirements.  I found the almond extract a little over powering so reduced the amount in my version below.

  • 2 apples (one granny smith green apple and a red apple of any kind)
  • 2 TBS almond butter
  • ¼ cup maple syrup (the real kind, not the Auntie J variety)
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2 TBS grated coconut

Instructions:  cut up the apples into little cubes and place them into two dishes.  In a small mixing bowl, combine the maple syrup, almond butter, and almond extract and mix until well combined.  Drizzle the mixture onto the apples.  Top with each  bowl with 1 tbsp unsweetened coconut.  Serves 2.

Dairy and gluten-free.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama):

“Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.” 

– Dalai Lama XIV


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