Get your probiotic on with DIY sauerkraut!

One of my favourite times of the week is visiting the Evergreen Brickworks Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings with my friend Emily S.  It’s so fun, I can’t handle it!  We move from vendor to vendor picking up most of our weekly fresh produce and sampling the goodies on display.  This past week, I walked past the Pyramid Farm & Ferments table and sampled some dill and garlic sauerkraut.

Pyramid

Woah.  It was mind-blowing.  Delicious.

Mind Blowing

The only sauerkraut I had ever had up to this weekend was from a jar of Bicks and the taste doesn’t even come close to Pyramid Farms & Ferments.  Sauerkraut is made when shredded cabbage is massaged so that some of the juices come out of the shreds.  The shredded cabbage bits and the water that is pulled out via massaging is then stored in a container where it’s left to ferment.  The benefit of fermentation is that it makes nutrients more bioavailable.  Cabbage is high in Vitamin K, C, and Folate which become even more available to us once fermented.

Cabbage

Fermentation works when naturally occurring lactobacilli bacteria digest the sugar in cabbage which creates lactic acid.  The presence of the lactic acid makes the environment (ie: shredded cabbage sitting in a mason jar) too acidic so that it’s impossible for “bad” bacteria to overgrow and therefore the food doesn’t rot.  So you end up getting a lot of “good” lactobacilli bacteria without dealing with the pathogens that often result from spoiled food.

sauerkraut fermentation

What makes Pyramid Farms’ sauerkraut different is that not only is it fermented (like all store-bought versions) but it’s also unpasteurized which means that the lactobacilli bacteria, a strain of probiotic, are able to survive.  Having a gut that is populated with a healthy amount of probiotics  supports the health of our intestines and GI tract, improve digestion, and boosts the immune system.  Eating unpasteurized sauerkraut means that you’ll be getting a truckload of Vitamin C, K, Folate as well as a LOT of probiotics (30 x what you would get in a serving of yogurt!), fiber, and next to zero calories.

word_amazing

You can actually make sauerkraut at home, and yesterday, that’s exactly what Emily S and I did.  Check out this site by Fermentation Fanatic Mr. Sandor Katz and become a sauerkraut makin’ yahoo with a strong immune system, vitamin infused body, and enviable digestive system.

Toronto-20131022-00659

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“Fermentation is the exhalation of a substance through the admixture of a ferment which, by virtue of its spirit, penetrates the mass and transforms it into its own nature.”

– Andreas Libavius

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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_casserole

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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The Big Brown Elephant In the Room: CONSTIPATION!

I’m only a little bit embarrassed to admit that one of my favourite topics of conversation is in fact “moving of the bowels”.  My fascination with poop started way  before I became interested in nutrition, and long before I decided to become a Nutritionist.  Maybe it’s because for many years of my life, I simply couldn’t poop properly – it’s not like I never went but it was a once or twice a week deal.

Bieber

I remember my first nutrition teacher exclaiming to the class “can you imagine that some people only go once a week” and the class was dismayed to say the least.  People were shouting in disbelief “NO!  IMPOSSIBLE” to which I silently said “oh, it’s possible Sally and I’m living proof”.  Going once a week isn’t normal, and all joking aside is a major indicator that something isn’t quite right with the digestive and gastrointestinal system.  Since March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, I thought constipation was a good place to start in optimizing the health and balance of our colon and ultimately, entire body.

Constipation

The Mayo Clinic defines constipation as infrequent bowel movements or difficult passage of stools.  It feels unfomfortable and can leave people with bloating and gas and according to this BBC article, leads to “rabbit pellet” like bowel movements.  When one is constipated, the bowel movements are normally small and hard which can tear the anus causing further discomfort and pain – and often causes people to “hold it in” to avoid more pain which further exacerbates the issue.

Rabbit

The issue with constipation is that it allows waste to sit and stagnate in your colon for a longer period of time than it really should.  Imagine that the colon cell walls probably don’t like to have toxic waste touching them day in and day out.  Over time, this toxic environment causes intestinal cells to become weak.  In fact, not having a bowel movement daily increases your chances of getting colon cancer, heart attack, colitis, and IBS.  Stagnating toxic stool, when sitting in the colon longer than it should, causes inflammation and allows toxins to be reabsorbed into the body where they can cause cellular damage system wide.

Colon

So, you can see that having a poorly functioning colon can negatively impact your entire body and we can safey “poo poo” constipation.  Bowel movements are actually classified based on their appearance according to something called the Bristol Scale – constipation would be a 1 or 2 on the scale below.  What we are actually aiming for is something more like Type 4 “like a sausage or snake…smooth and soft”.

bristol-scale

Constipation is diagnosed as an infrequent bowel movement and so I think it would be helpful to quantify the term “infrequent”.  Conventionally, anything less than three bowel movements a week is considered constipated.  From in the holistic nutrition/naturopathic viewpoint a food should pass through your system between 18-24 hours after ingestion – so the long of the short is that you should be moving your bowels daily.  The time taken, by the way, from when you eat a food to when you excrete it is called Oral-Fecal Transit Time (OFTT) and you can test this at home with one simple ingredient – sesame seeds.  Swallow a tablespoon of sesame seeds in a 1/4 cup of water without chewing the seeds.  Then wait and prepared to  be amazed when you see those seeds again in your toilet – hopefully within 24 hours.

Oral-Fecal Transit Time

What if your OFTT is  more than 24 hours?  What is causing this?  It’s likely due to lack of hydration or not eating enough fiber.  Both of these elements are required to lubricate the intestine and bulk up stool so that it easily passes through your colon.  Other factors include lack of movement because not getting enough exercise keeps you both physically and mentally stagnant and perhaps even a change in your routine could throw off your bowel balance.  Another common culprit is stress and not taking the time to go to the washroom when nature calls.  Some medications and illnesses are known to factor into a slow transit time but really, if you want to avoid constipation here are four simple steps.

STEP 1:  drink lots of water.  Start you day off with two large glasses of water with fresh lemon (1/4th of a lemon should do).  Make sure that by bedtime you have had 10-12 glasses of water.

STEP 2:  you need fiber to have healthy bowels.  Aim for 50 grams a day.  Good sources of fiber include beans, raspberries, leafy greens, whole grains (barley, brown rice, oats), flax seeds (milled), beets, carrots, Brussels Sprouts, apples, oranges, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, bell peppers, cabbage, celery, avocado, buckwheat, sweet potato, prunes, onions, bananas.

STEP 3:  make time for going to the washroom.  Enough said.

STEP 4:  move your body and that will move your bowels.  You need to get daily physical activity.

Some supplements that may help support your colon and healthy gut flora include omega-3 fish oil and probiotics which can lubricate the stool/reduce inflammation and help provide “good” bacteria respectively.  If you have tried the above steps and are still experiencing less than ideal oral-fecal transit time, it could be related to a food allergy or sensitivity or a hormonal issue related to thyroid function – these are options which you can explore further with a Nutritionist (see the services page of this website) or a Naturopathic Doctor (click here for how to find an ND in Canada).

Stay tuned for more posts this month related to colorectal health and learn how you can keep your colon supported throughout the years to come.

* I would like to note that I no longer suffer from constipation…horray for water, fiber, and lots of veggies!

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“Sex is interesting, but it’s not totally important. I mean it’s not even
as important (physically) as excretion. A man can go seventy years without a
piece of ass, but he can die in a week without a bowel movement.”

–  Charles Bukowski

Green Smoothies 101 in 100 Words: A Veggietastic Breakfast Solution

What is the most important thing I’ve learned at school over the past 12 months?

what did you learn today

Drink more water and eat more greens.  Okay, that is technically two but lucky for you they’re both included in this next nutritional recommendation.  If you’re interested in learning about the benefits of adequate water consumption, click here and for information on why leafy greens are important, this will help explain things.

Green Smoothie

Green smoothies are the easiest way I can think of to get a huge dose of vegetables into your diet.  When starting your day of with one of these diddy’s you’re paving the way towards a full day of health eating.  The sugar content is extremely low because the only sweet ingredient included is fruit which is naturally occurring.  With a dash of complex carbohydrates and a whole lot of fiber, green smoothies will help stabilize your blood sugar levels and prevent ravenous cravings later in the day.  Green smoothies are alkanalizing and are busting with vitamins and minerals.  Here is a recipe to get you started but the beauty of green smoothies is that the combinations are endless…as are the health benefits.

The Health Junction Green Combustion

  • 2-3 cups of leafy greens.  I like mixing red leaf lettuce and kale.
  • handful of frozen blueberries
  • half a banana
  • stalk of celery
  • 1/4th avocado
  • 1 scoop of vega energizing smoothie powder (I like the Choc-a-Lot Flavour)
  • 2 tbsp oats
  • 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk + 1 cup of water
  • Cinnamon (optional)
  • A couple of tbsp’s of hemp, flax, or chia seeds (optional)

Throw ingredients in the blender – it’s best to layer the denser foods (frozen blueberries, celery) on the bottom and the lighter ingredients on the top.  Pour in water and almond milk last.  I usually start blending on the ice crushing setting of my blender but do whatever works best with your home blender.

Pour into a large glass and sprinkle with some cinnamon.  This contains 7-8 servings of fruits and vegetables!

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

 “Each of us has two “doctors”—the left and the right leg.”

– Vilcabamban philosophy on the importance of walking

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Got the Flu? Feeling Sick? Think twice before you reach for Orange Juice.

It’s pretty common practice to drink Orange Juice when feeling a little under the weather, right?

OJ

Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant, increases iron absorption, and is well-regarded for its role in supporting and protecting the immune system.  There are countless foods that are chalked full of Vitamin C (check here for a comprehensive list) and it’s true that Orange Juice is high up on the chart – so why should OJ actually be avoided when sick?

Sick Young Woman Lying in Bed

Vitamin C is absorbed into the blood stream via a receptor called GLUT-1 which is also a major receptor for glucose (sugar).  Since Orange Juice is quite high in sugar when you drink a glass of OJ, both the sugar and Vitamin C end up competing to be taken into the blood stream via the GLUT-1 receptor and therefore less will be received.  By removing the fiber from fruit, the sugar is quickly absorbed and causes the absorption of Vitamin C to be compromised.

Vitamin C Fruits

With the fiber in tact, the sugar absorption will be slow and steady making room for more Vitamin C to find its way into your blood stream through the GLUT-1 receptor.  If you’re looking to increase your intake of Vitamin C, try going for whole food based choices like bell peppers, kiwis, broccoli, strawberries, papaya, kale, cantaloupe, pineapple, and of course…oranges!

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools.” 

– Spanish Proverb

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Weekly Recipe Roundup: Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf, Chickpea Burgers, and Blueberry Banana Pancakes

It’s been a busy past few weeks and over here at The Health Junction, the kitchen has been in full swing making and testing new recipes.  Here are a few healthy takes on traditional recipes to kick off 2013!

PoppySeed Loaf

Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf

A while back, my friend Melissa made a delightful dinner and praised “The Looneyspoons Collection” by Janet and Greta Podleski for the array of delicious recipes she had created.  Luckily, Santa brought me this book for Christmas and I’m glad he did – it is a staple for any kitchen.  Here is my take on Poppy Love (page 305):

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup oat bran
  • 1/4 cup milled flax seeds
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup almond, soy, or rice milk (you could use regular milk too)
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut butter or regular butter.
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tsp grated lemon zest

Directions:  Mix flours, oat bran, milled flax seeds, poppy seeds, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  Combine the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and pour into a loaf pan.  Cook at 350 for 45 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes, remove from pan and let cool completely.

Chickpea-Burgers

Chickpea Burgers

I like this recipe so much because it’s a vegetarian recipe that is actually filling and satisfying….and it was approved by a picky non-vegetarian.  Chickpeas are an excellent source of insoluble fiber and for that reason is a great food for intestinal health.  They are also a good source of anti-oxidants, phytonutrients, and offer one of the best food combinations available – protein and fiber which means chickpeas are idea for blood sugar regulation…horray!

  • 1 x 19 oz can chickepeas
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/3 cup grated onion
  • 1/3 cup grated carrot
  • 3 tbsp fresh cilantro
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs

Directions:  drain chickpeas and put in a medium-sized bowl along with tahini and eggs.  Process it with a food processor or hand immersion blender.  Pulse till smooth but still a little bit coarse.  Add onions, carrots, cilantro, curry, salt and mix well.  Make 4 patties and coat with bread crumbs.  Place on parchment paper and put in fridge for 20 minutes.  Heat a non stick pan and bake 3-4 minutes per side.  Serve with a bun and side salad.  Serves 4.

blueberry-banana-pancakes

Blueberry-Banana Pancakes

Adapted from “The Looneyspoons Collection”, these are REALLY FILLING (and healthy)!

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup flax seeds
  • 2/3 cup oat bran
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk (or Almond, Rice, or Soy  Milk)*
  • 1/2 cup banana, mashed
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil melted (or butter)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp pure  maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup fresh berries (I used a mix of cherries, blueberries and blackberries)
  • 1 cup of vanilla yogurt or yogurt substitute (like So Delicious Coconut “Yogurt”)

*if using something other than buttermilk, you may need to put in a little less to get a thicker consistency.

Directions:  In a large bowl, combine flours, flax seeds, oat bran, baking powder, and baking soda.  In a medium-sized bowl, whisk buttermilk, banana, coconut oil/butter, egg, maple syrup, and vanilla.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well.  Add berries.  Heat a skillet over medium heat and scoop about 1/2 cup per pancake.  When you see bubbles start to appear in the middle of the pancake, flip and cook another 2-3 minutes.  Top pancakes with yogurt and a bit of syrup.  Makes 10 very filling pancakes.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

““Your body is a temple, but only if you treat it as one.”

– Astrid Alauda

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Myth Busting: Cholesterol-Hysteria & Eggs

The other day on the phone, my mum was talking about how she is thinking about reducing her daily cottage cheese and berry breakfast in an effort to cut down on diary.  When I suggested eggs for breakfast she sounded frightened and said “but I don’t want to risk getting high cholesterol” to which I replied “don’t worry momma, that’s a big old myth”.

Momma

Not really my momma

So, why do eggs get a bad wrap especially when it comes to cholesterol?

First up, let’s talk about cholesterol – start here for a prior post.  Cholesterol is part of a response to injury and the whole process starts with damage to the inner arterial wall.  Something nicks the artery usually as a result of viscous blood – or thick blood.  The cut to the arterial wall causes an inflammatory response and macrophages come to help repair the damage.  Macrophages attract LDL “bad” cholesterol where it forms a fatty streak or what we could describe as a sticky band-aide.  Smooth muscle then proliferates over the cholesterol and now we have plaque.  Plaque causes narrowing of the arteries, atherosclerosis, but you can see now that elevated cholesterol is actually a symptom & response to damage and not the cause of the damage itself.

What causes blood viscosity – or thickening of the blood?  There are several risk factors to having viscous blood; obesity (especially around the abdominal area), smoking, heavy drinking, diabetes, high blood pressure, family history, chronic kidney issues, being a man over the age of 40, being a woman over the age of 50.  Most of these risk factors are actually caused though by poor diet and a lack of physical activity.

Lack of physical activity

There are many key functions of cholesterol aside from acting as a “sticky band-aide”; it’s the precursor to hormones, bile, required for the production of Vitamin D and is part of what constitutes the outer layer of our cells.

LDL vs HDL Cholesterol

Have you every wondered what the difference is between LDL and HDL cholesterol?  We are looking at the ratio of lipid (fat) to protein.  So LDL cholesterol has less protein and more lipid and HDL has a higher ratio of protein to lipids.  LDL and HDL cholesterol function very differently too which is why it’s important to look at both types of cholesterol when reviewing blood results with your health care professional.

LDL VS HDL1

LDL cholesterol is “bad” because carries cholesterol from the liver to our cells and if there is too much, it’s deposited into the cells.  HDL is good because it carries cholesterol to the liver where it is broken down and excreted by the body.  Interestingly, exercise helps to increase HDL cholesterol and reduce LDL cholesterol.  HORRAY!

Sources of Cholesterol

What is probably a little known fact is that 70-80% of cholesterol is made in the body and the rest comes from food.  Removing high cholesterol foods from the diet will have an impact on total cholesterol levels, sure, but it’s only 20-30% of the larger picture.  The balance of cholesterol is produced internally in response to what is required – if there is a lot of inflammation going at the cellular level then more cholesterol is produced – especially LDL which as you’ll recall takes cholesterol from the liver to the cells to help with repair.

Eggs

The general recommendation regarding cholesterol intake from food is to keep it around 300 mg’s/day (or 200 mg’s if you have elevated cholesterol levels) – and one egg has about 100 – 200 mg which is in all fairness one of the highest dietary sources of cholesterol available.  What is often missing from the “egg story” is that eggs are one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet and contain every vitamin and mineral (minus Vitamin C), are high in good sources of fat, and are an excellent source of choline.  Choline helps to reduce inflammation is involved with methylation which reduces homocysteine levels – high levels of homocysteine are markers for cardiovascular disease risk and osteoporosis.  Choline is also one of the key ingredients mothers-to-be are encouraged to consume during pregnancy since it is known to be beneficial to overall brain health.

eggs2

Here is some other interesting research.  Eggs are a good source of protein (6 grams per egg) and help people feel fuller longer which is known to prevent over eating later in the day and is can contribute to the prevention of long-term weight gain.  A 2007 study published in The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (funded by the American Egg Board so take from it what you will) found that when subjects (n=160) were fed either two eggs for breakfast or the caloric equivalent in bagels for 8 weeks, the egg group lost twice as much weight and had an 83% decrease in waist circumference (as compared to the bagel group).  Another large scale study published by Harvard University in 1999 of 115,000 people found no connection between an egg a day and increase risk of cardiovascular disease (a co-factor for elevated cholesterol levels) except for those with pre-existing diabetes.

In summary, eggs are not what is causing high LDL cholesterol.  It’s a lack of physical activity and dietary choices which cause cellular damage such as refined sugars, alcohol, caffeine, and pop.  Inadequate consumption of fiber contributes to the inability to rid the body of excess fats.  Lifestyle choices such as a high degree of stress, lack of sleep, and perhaps most importantly failing to exercise daily are far greater contributors to hypercholesterolemia than the consumption of eggs a few times a week.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“The part can never be well unless the whole is well.”

– Plato

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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.

coco-yogurt-vanilla

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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The Health Junction’s 100th Post: A Year in Review

I can hardly believe it’s been a year since the inception of The Health Junction.  I started out with one faithful reader, Sophia P, and now there are over 400 loyal followers – I cannot tell you how thankful I am to have your support.  Not too sure how you ended up reading The Health Junction, but however you ended up here, THANK YOU!  It makes it much more enjoyable to write knowing there are people actually reading the material!

Sophia P (on the left) – my first and most loyal reader!

This time, a year ago I was working as a Marketing Project Manager in the media industry and though the job was a promotion for me, I felt disconnected from the work and uneasy with what I was putting out into the world (see this prior post) through my job.

Marketing Project Manager

It was a very troubling feeling for me to be doing a job that didn’t align with my personal values and it seems like it was fate that one day, while at work, I visited the continuing education site of a local community college to find something that piqued my interest – I randomly came across a course in wellness and nutrition.  I’ve never looked back!  After completing a community college certificate, I’m now pursuing school full-time working towards a designation as a registered nutritionist and it’s been such an amazing experience so far.  I quit my job and am now working as a part-time Nutritionist where I have the privilege of teaching nutrition and cooking to middle school kids – going to work everyday really does make me happy and when I leave…I still feel happy.

Watermelon Smoothie Demo @ The Coady Street Party (thanks Carly D!)

Health, wellness, and nutrition is something that I love because it’s something we have total control over and even a small change can significantly improve the way we feel.  The benefits of working towards a balanced approach to living healthily are quickly compounded; doing something small and realising that we feel better motivates us to keep it up and maybe try for further improvements.  So, in light of this huge milestone for The Health Junction, here are the top 10 things I learned about nutrition, health, and wellness over the past year.

1.)  Drinking Water Is The Bomb.  Drinking 10 glasses of water a day is probably the easiest and fastest thing you can do to immediately improve your health.  It gets things moving, helps us to eliminate toxic waste, and on and on.  Check out this post on water if you need a “refresher”.

2.)  Moving Every Day Is Also The Bomb.  If you want to be healthy, half the picture is moving your booty each and every day.  Even if it’s for a walk up and down stairs or a brisk jaunt around the neighbourhood your body needs to move in order to maintain health.

3.) Chew Your Food.  It improves digestion and makes you feel fuller longer.

4.) Your Mind & Body Are Connected.  It’s not some new age mumbo jumbo and though I would have balked at this notion in the past, I truly believe that the way we think and feel impacts our physical health.  Science has backed me up on this one time and time and time again.  If you want to be physically fit, it’s imperative to find ways of managing and eliminating stress and emotional distress.  Getting enough sleep will help you cope with stress better.

5.) Leafy Greens:  Suck It Up Sally.  Sorry to be a Drill Sergeant here, but you need to eat your leafy greens.  They provide a host of important minerals, vitamins, and fiber.  They help clean out our body and nourish us with the nutrients we need to thrive.  How can you do this?  Start by eating two cups with a side salad at lunch each day.  Believe the hype on this one and if you don’t like the taste, give it some time.  Your taste buds will adjust and before  you know it, you’ll be craving kale.

6.) The Sunshine Vitamin.  If you live in a colder climate you should be taking a Vitamin D supplement between the months of September and April – or all year if you want to simplify things.  Check out this prior post on why Vitamin D if you want more info, but in short, you would be wise to take 1000 IU of Vitamin D every day.

7.) You The Single Most Important influence On Your Kids Dietary/Health Habits.  Check out this study if this subject matter interests you, but here is a poem that best encapsulates why eating healthy helps your kids.

Roses Are Red

Violets Are Blue

Monkey See.  Monkey Do.

8.) Say “So Long” To Energy Suckers.  You can’t like or get along with everyone…well, the Dalai Lama might be able to, but for the rest of us, it’s not realistic.  Life is too short to continually expend efforts and energy on one way relationships or people who leave you feeling upset.  Clean house and concentrate on people who make you laugh, are fun, and are doing good things in the world.

9.) Choose unrefined whole foods.  Whole grain breads over white.  Brown rice over white.  Vegetables and fruit.  Nuts and seeds.  Organic high quality proteins.  Oatmeal instead of store-bought cereals.  Nut butters.  Beans.  You will feel fuller, get more nutrients, and live longer if you choose smarter whole foods more often.

10.) Slow and Steady Wins The Race.  This is a toughy…for me and probably many of you reading.  When I started out as a nutrition student, I wanted to make every change possible to improve my eating habits.  Trying to do too much too quickly resulted in doing none of it well.  I’ve come to realise that making real changes comes from small steps that over time add up and those are the changes that are longterm and sustainable.  If you’re not sure where to start, check out #5 🙂

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama):

“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” 

– Dalai Lama XIV

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Chia Seeds 101 in 100 Words

Chia Seeds (Salvia Hispanica) are grown in Mexico, Central America, and South America and could definitely be considered a “superfood”.  They come in a white or black variety..both are good for you.  Chia seeds are small and can be added to cereal, smoothies, salads…pretty much everything.  Amazingly, Chia Seeds are gluten-free, and high in fiber, protein, antioxidants, and phytonutrients.  They can actually be substituted in for eggs; just grind 1 tbsp of chia seeds and mix it with 3 tbsp of water – let it sit for 5 minutes and then add to your recipe.  Chia seeds also contain about 5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per 2 tbsp serving, however, the form of the omega-3 fatty acid is ALA.  ALA is good at reducing inflammation but doesn’t provide the benefits of DHA/EPA Fish Oil Omega-3’s which offer heart and brain health support.  I enjoy a brand called Organic Prana Chia.  And yes, they are the seeds from which Chia Pets come from…you really can’t go wrong!

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama):

“Choose to be optimistic, it feels better.”

– Dalai Lama XIV

**DISCLAIMER:  PLEASE NOTE THAT ANY ADVERTISEMENTS THAT APPEAR ON THIS PAGE DO NOT REFLECT THE VIEWS AND OPINIONS OF THE HEALTH JUNCTION**

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