Monday, June 28, 2010

New recipe! Kalen's healthy treats

Tonight I wanted something sweet, But I've been doing really well to not to eat refined sugars since I've cleaned up my diet. I do have some from time to time, and I won't deny that I like having a vegetarian whole foods buffet with a fab dessert section close to my new home! However, tonight I thought I'd try to make something myself.

At first I was going to make a raw food "brownie", but it seems the mini food processor my mom gave me is not up to doing dates. Instead, Kalen's healthy treats were born (and so named by said child).

Take a good handful of pitted dates, and a few tablespoons of almond butter. Mix them about so that the dates are well covered in the almond butter. Then, take a tablespoon or two of cocoa or carob powder, and mix that around. The proportions should be so that you have what appears to be a cocoa covered date at the end, one that can be picked up and eaten with the fingers within being gooey or powdery. Kalen loved these and while they are still high in sugars, they also pack some protein and healthy fats too. I will post pics tomorrow!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

My new juicer (have yet to buy Birkenstocks)

Troy really does think he may have married his mother by mistake. He did live on a commune for a while during his childhood, and she was somewhat of a traditional "hippy" by most standards. He remembers her growing her own sprouts, communal dinners and the like.

Last week was a happy week. I received my new juicer that I had ordered about a month ago. It is the "Hurom Slow Juicer". My middle child loves watching the Youtube and instructional videos.

But really, this totally beats the one I bought a decade ago from Canadian Tire. Wow, the juice is awesome. When I made apple/pear/blueberry juice on Wednesday, we didn't drink it all immediately. The portion that sat had so much pectin in it that it gelled! It's nice getting juice that is pulpy and full of fibre, and that uses almost all of the fruit. There is very little waste with this juicer. I'm in love!

So far we've done: apple/pear/blueberry; celery/pear/ginger; orange/grapefruit; and apple. I've also made soymilk, but need to cook them more to get a good consistency.

There you have it, further ramblings of me trying to become more healthy!

PS I ordered mine from Costco online, but had to wait 4 - 6 weeks to receive it. I've seen similar juicers at Rainbow Foods on Richmond Road. If you want to buy local (for Ottawa readers), you can pick a similar one up there.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


That link should have been Manotick Village Butcher. Note to self: check links especially when typing from memory!

shout out for local meat!

I've been waiting to do little happy dances on this blog until my friend's butchery was closer to its grand opening. I think they are almost there, so here it is. I don't have to hold back any longer.

As an intro: I have a friend who I knew was opening a butchery. I should have known it would be no ordinary butchery. I had posted to one of our forums in an online knitting group whether any one wanted to share a freezer order of beef from Dobson farms, which I wrote about earlier.

The friend in question emailed me and gently reminded me of their soon to be butchery and that their products would be mainly local, pasture raised, organic when feasible, ethically treated and prepared with care. It was one of those aha moments, where I also felt a little silly for not connecting the dots earlier.

So soon I will have access to all sorts of wonderful meat, and will be supporting a local business and a friend. I encourage you to try them out if you're from around Ottawa. I'll be making weekly or so trips out to pick up enough for a week or two, and for my downtown friends, I'll be happy to coordinate orders to be picked up from my now central not-so-log home.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Yummm! Homemade Granola Bar Recipe

Granola bars - I used almond butter and almonds and hazelnuts as the nuts, doubled the raisins and used no seeds. Subbed in rye flakes for the flax, olive oil margarine for butter. Very tastey (a little to sweet, so I'll cut down sugar next time). Also used a 9 x 11 pan and made thinner bars.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Very cool! Yoga on line

I've been wanting to get to the Yoga studio down the street from me (I'd also take a class at the location to the left). It's serendipitous that the one recommended by a friend just happens to be a 2 minute walk from my new house. However, scheduling and kids and a job don't often go well together. The Yoga as Medicine book I'm reading recommends trying to do Yoga every day, even for a short while. I have to agree that setting up a daily habit makes more sense for overall lifestyle change than sporadic once a week visits. I miss maternity leave where I could go to yoga/tai chi/pilates classes at the gym on a daily basis.

However, book pictures don't speak to me. Especially since I'm a super klutz for all things physical . Spending so much time in my head has weakened my ability to coordinate my movement skills...Trust me, you don't want to be my dance partner. I can run a mean logistic regression, though!

I found an online Yoga community, and tried a "class" tonight. It was great. Short, well described, and I liked the way I felt after it. I didn't have to adapt any poses to the wrist brace I am wearing right now (no downward dog for me!). It also has a workplace videos section, which I'm going to schedule into my day at work. I work for a very, very large employer, and I can only imagine what providing some sort of access to such videos on the desk top, and encouraging a culture of actually doing mid day "mini-fit" breaks, could do for our health (not to mention the possible decrease in strain and ergonomic issues). Finally, the company the put this together is Canadian. Pretty cool, eh?!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Food sensitivity testing

There, the blood is drawn, and now I wait on tenterhooks to see if my body does not like common foods. I dread losing coffee, cocoa (aka chocolate) and cow's milk yogurt. I have been told that sheep's yogurt is very nice. I hope so!

However, I'd be mad to put up with such sore joints and disability. I didn't do yoga this week on my rest and recovery day because it hurts to flex my wrist and it hurts to use my fingers.

Yes, coffee I will sacrifice you for the ability to cook a healthy stir fry without pain. That being said, I'd really appreciate it if I could keep coffee, so as small and petty as it seems, I hope the universe will grant me this one little indulgence!

On integrative medicine and Western medicine

Having spent a good long time in university (13 years, my gosh, that's a long time!), and being firmly entrenched in an evidence-based framework, I'm finding this foray into integrative medicine intellectually challenging. Even though I went into Health Psychology and focused my research on chronic stress and health when it was clear that the root causes of health and illness were not simply viruses, bacteria, and genes, there is an important intellectual jump to make. (In a very small voice I will admit there is also something attractive about IM, especially when one continues to feel ill even with the best of Western medical care. I think it arises from hopefulness that something has to work, and trying to gain a sense of control).

Often modern Western medicine is at a loss when it comes to many chronic diseases. At the same time, there is a lack of evidence about much of what integrative medicine (IM) has to offer. I'm having a running argument in my head about some of the proposed causes and treatments for chronic illness that are offered by IM, for example the food sensitivity testing I am going to subject myself to today.

At the same time, when I examine carefully what Western medicine offers, much of it is also lacking a clear evidence base and is based on assumptions from its own theory of what makes people sick or healthy. I also have to remind myself that sometimes we don't know why Western treatments work.

Take plaquenil for rheumatoid arthritis, a medication I was on that effectively treated my arthritis for years. Plaquenil is an anti-malarial, and they found that it also helped RA symptoms of people who took it as a treatment for malaria. I'm sure at some point the causal mechanism of why it works will be uncovered, but in the meantime Western medicine continues to use it in the absence of this understanding. It works, it has few side effects, and thus is an effective tool.

I note that I should have visited Africa before I switched medications!

The question is, should we then accept IM treatments as well, even if we don't understand the underlying mechanisms? I would argue that yes we should, but that it is important to conduct good research to bear out the effects promised by the treatments, as well as to ensure that they don't cause harm. Merging the best of IM with the best of Western medicine seems like a sensible approach where everyone will win.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

On an entirely different note: Junk Mail

Moving back into the city has its advantages. I walk to work now, and it takes 22 minutes at most. This sure beats the 40 minute drive which stressed me out, consumed gas, and had no positive associations except for time to listen to the CBC. Now I get to work, get 40 minutes of moderate physical activity per day, and get to explore my neighbor. I get to work feeling energized and relaxed (and only a little sweaty!). Hooray for active transportation.

Disadvantage: Junk Mail. My goodness do I get a lot here. My mailbox is full. My porch has been littered twice with rolls of flyers that I could use to do some weight lifting (second on my list of physical activities to include into my weekly routine, after a weekly Yoga class). In "the country," aka Honey Gables, apparently we weren't affluent enough to warrant flyers. It's too bad that now that I am in a two bedroom townhouse apparently I am...

So to stop this nonsense, I checked out the Canada Post website. Here's the answer, at least for my mail box: Put a note on my mail box asking them to stop. Easy peasy.

For the flyers on my porch, it may be a more difficult task. I'm going to see if putting a big red dot sticker on my door helps. We'll see!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Artificial sweeteners and health

So about a month ago now I dropped my diet cola habit. I was drinking 2-3 diet colas per day, partly due to a caffeine habit, partly due to the fact that I LOVED the taste (crazy, eh?). When I decided to overhaul my diet, I resolved that the diet drinks had to go. There really wasn't any argument for keeping them in.

Hydration? Water.

Caffeine? Coffee or tea, which both have other health benefits.

I used to get regular migraines. I take two different drugs to prevent them, as well as magnesium which has been shown to reduce their number. After I stopped the diet colas, my migraines reduced even more. I was amazed. I've only had two since, and they weren't that bad in comparison to past migraines.

The ND that I am seeing told me that aspartame is metabolized into formaldehyde which is neurotoxic, which can explain why getting rid of diet drinks (and other artificial sweeteners) may have helped. As a scientist, I of course needed to look in the literature.

I haven't done a comprehensive review yet, and you should never base your conclusions on single studies. I was able to verify that metabolites (the chemicals your body turns the aspartame into) of aspartame can include methanol (think cow farts!) and formaldehyde (think high school dissection projects). Some authors suggest that these metabolites can harm brain functioning, for example in this article: Direct and indirect cellular effect of aspartame on the brain.

I still need to do more research to get a better sense of how real these potential harms are. There seem to be many animal studies on lab mice, rats and cell cultures, however it is important to look at the effect on humans as well as we know that mouse models are not always directly translated into human effects.

Nonetheless, an interesting start.

And really, I can't see any good reason to continue drinking diet soft drinks anyways.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dinner tonight

Sorry for the break in posts -- we moved into town this past weekend, which has been great but busy! I still plan on coming out to Manotick to get my meat from the Manotick Butchery.

I went shopping at Rainbow Foods to get groceries, and lost myself for an hour. The same can be said for picking up new kitchen utensils at Kitchenalia. We've downsized, but I am investing money that would be spent on eating out and gas into making a healthy lifestyle the easy and enjoyable choice!

Tonight for dinner, a yummy, quick and healthy recipe that I created all by myself. I am beaming proud at how it turned out.

2 large organic sweet potatoes
1 lb organic spinach
1 package tofu burgers (La soyarie in this case)
1 tbsp fair trade curry powder

2 tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil

Saute spinach in 1 tsp olive oil. Set aside in a bowl.

Dice sweet potatoes and saute in 2 tbsp olive oil for a few minutes. Throw in 1/4 cup of water, cover with a lid and let steam until the sweet potatoes are soft. Dice tofu burgers, chop sauteed spinach, and mix into sweet potatoes with curry powder. Heat until all ingredients are warm, and adjust seasoning to taste.

2 cups of mixed brown rice prepared as you normally would.